Tempters of fate got lots of aid in ’17 lists
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.
OH, PAGE OF PRESIDENTS
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.