Tempters of fate got lots of aid in ’17 lists

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - CELIA STOREY

A cen­tury ago, the Arkansas Gazette and other news­pa­pers pub­lished a syn­di­cated col­umn that pur­ported to list pop­u­lar su­per­sti­tions. Its ti­tle was, oddly enough, “Pop­u­lar Su­per­sti­tions.”

Here are high­lights taken from about 10 of the columns pub­lished in 1917. Are any of these odd teach­ings of yore fa­mil­iar from your fam­ily lore?

■ Those who never shut the door af­ter them will never own a house.

■ Do not wear an­other per­son’s clothes un­less you want to take their trou­bles upon your­self.

■ For a base­ball team to meet a fu­neral on the way to the game means that they will win; if they meet a load of bar­rels they will lose.

■ It is con­sid­ered a sign of bad luck if a dog crosses the di­a­mond be­fore the first ball is pitched.

■ New uni­forms are looked upon as hoodoos (pow­er­ful things that can draw ill luck).

■ The su­per­sti­tious girl does not watch her sweet­heart out of sight, as this por­tends that the meet­ing will be the last one.

■ If you repair a gar­ment while wear­ing it you will al­ways be poor. The old rhyme says:

Mend your clothes upon your back, Poverty you’ll never lack.

■ The find­ing of a spi­der on the wed­ding gown is con­sid­ered a sure sign of hap­pi­ness to come.

■ Marry Mon­day for wealth, Tues­day for health, Wed­nes­day the best day of all; Thurs­day for crosses, Fri­day for losses, Satur­day no luck at all.

■ Walk­ing across the room with one shoe off will bring bad luck.

■ It is un­lucky to sit on a ta­ble.

■ When a new coat or dress is first put on, money should be placed in the right hand pocket to en­sure it al­ways be­ing full. If, by mis­take, money should be put in the left hand pocket, it means bad luck of money un­til the gar­ment is worn out.

■ Two per­sons who dry their hands on the same towel at the same time will quar­rel.

■ It is also un­lucky to look into a mir­ror over an­other per­son’s shoulder.

■ Dirt must never be swept out of the house af­ter night­fall or bad luck will re­sult.

■ It is sup­posed to be bad luck to serve a red-haired man more than twice at the same meal.

■ To en­ter a house by one door and leave by an­other is to in­vite bad luck.

■ The be­lief, which is not con­fined to the stage, that the pass­ing of two per­sons on a stair­case is a sure sign of “dead bad luck” pre­vails through­out the act­ing pro­fes­sion gen­er­ally and among cho­rus girls par­tic­u­larly. ■ It is be­lieved to be un­lucky to whistle in the dress­ing room — for the per­son who chances to be near­est the door when the crime is com­mit­ted will re­ceive his dis­missal be­fore he is many hours older.

■ It is very bad luck to meet a cross-eyed man on the way to the races. … To meet a fu­neral is ex­tremely bad luck, al­though the meet­ing of an empty hearse is a sign of suc­cess.

■ Thun­der for­merly was con­sid­ered:

On Mon­day, a sign of death of a great man; on Tues­day, plenty of rain; on Wed­nes­day, blood-shed; on Thurs­day, abun­dance of sheep and corn; on Fri­day, mur­der of a great man or other calamity; on Satur­day, gen­eral pesti­lence and great mor­tal­ity.

■ The pres­ence of a child [on board ship] is thought to be a good omen, while women are be­lieved to bring bad luck. Min­is­ters are re­puted to bring mis­for­tune to any ship that sails out of sight of land, al­though the pres­ence of a priest is not con­sid­ered un­lucky by Catholic sailors. Lawyers are looked upon with great­est dis­like, for they are con­sid­ered par­tic­u­larly

un­lucky. The name “sea-lawyer” is the worst term one sailor can use to­ward an­other.

[Re­minder: These are not my words but words pub­lished in 1917 by the Gazette.]

■ An omen of good luck is for a ser­vant with a baby car­riage to see a dog fight. This in­di­cates good luck for days to come.

■ To meet a sow with a lit­ter of pigs is lucky, but it is un­lucky if a sow crosses a trav­eler’s path. ■ A cat on board ship is sup­posed to cause the ves­sel to meet gales. The old say­ing is “a cat car­ries a gale in her tail,” and the av­er­age sailor be­lieves that when a cat frisks about the deck she is rais­ing a storm. Pigs also have a bad rep­u­ta­tion on ship­board.

■ It is a sign of good luck to have a black cat come to you. ■ To put old but­tons on a new gar­ment is un­lucky.

■ A spi­der run­ning across a gar­ment means that the wearer will get a new gar­ment.

■ Shoes or hat placed on the ta­ble or a hat placed on the bed will bring bad luck.

■ To wear a hat in the house will cause one to be­come bald­headed.

■ But­ton the dress, coat or other gar­ment wrong and mat­ters will go badly all day un­less the gar­ment is worn un­even un­til af­ter sunset.

■ In dress­mak­ing circles it is con­sid­ered un­lucky to use black pins for fit­ting. To baste with green thread is also con­sid­ered un­lucky.

■ When fit­ting a dress, if a pair of scis­sors should ac­ci­den­tally fall point down­ward and stick

in the floor, it is a sign that the per­son be­ing fit­ted will or­der mourn­ing [clothes] within six months.

■ An­other be­lief among dress­mak­ers is that a hair ac­ci­den­tally worked into a gar­ment is a sign that more work is com­ing from the same cus­tomer.

■ A ves­sel painted blue is sup­posed to be a hoodoo and bring bad weather.

■ If a shark is seen fol­low­ing a ship for days it is thought that some­one on board is doomed to die shortly.

■ It is un­lucky to kill a cricket or a spi­der.

■ For rats to gnaw the cloth­ing is a sign of bad luck. [I’ll say!]

Search News­pa­pers.com and you can see the same items in the Belvidere, Ill., Belvidere Daily Repub­li­can, the Lo­gans­port Pharos-Tri­bune of Lo­gans­port, Ind.; The Marsh­field News and Wis­con­sin Hub of Marsh­field, Wis.; the Win­nipeg Tri­bune in Man­i­toba, Canada; the Roo­sevelt Stan­dard out of Roo­sevelt, Utah …. None of­fers a clue as to which syn­di­cate mar­keted the col­umn, and it would be bad luck to guess.


Congratulations to reader Steve Heye and ev­ery­one else who spot­ted the bonus goofs in the June 26 Page of Pres­i­dents box.

There were two wrong verbs from the orig­i­nal 1917 ad (“loaves is” and “Cole­man’s don’t have it”), and also — yes! — a wrong draw­ing.

The line-cut im­age was not Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Henry Har- ri­son but his grand­son, Ben­jamin Harrison. How did Heye no­tice that? “Un­for­tu­nately I re­tain use­less stuff like no pres­i­dents had beards be­fore Lin­coln,” he says.

Sadly, no, the draw­ing mis­take was not taken from the orig­i­nal 1917 Page of Pres­i­dents fea­ture. It was a mis­take of our own man­u­fac­ture.

What other won­der­ful goofs will we make in to­day’s pres­i­dents box? Be sure to let us know the very minute that you spot them.

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