Pease’s hoarhound candy⁠—​the Dorr rebellion⁠—The Philadelphia aldermen.

In the year 1842, a new style of advertising appeared in the newspapers and in handbills which arrested public attention at once on account of its novelty. The thing advertised was an article called “Pease’s Hoarhound Candy;” a very good specific for coughs and colds. It was put up in twenty-five cent packages, and was eventually sold wholesale and retail in enormous quantities. Mr. Pease’s system of advertising was one which, I believe, originated with him in this country, although many have practiced it since, but of course, with less success⁠—for imitations seldom succeed. Mr. Pease’s plan was to seize upon the most prominent topic of interest and general conversation, and discourse eloquently upon that topic in fifty to a hundred lines of a newspaper-column, then glide off gradually into a panegyric of “Pease’s Hoarhound Candy.” The consequence was, every reader was misled by the caption and commencement of his article, and thousands of persons had “Pease’s Hoarhound Candy” in their mouths long before they had seen it! In fact, it was next to impossible to take up a newspaper and attempt to read the legitimate news of the day without stumbling upon a package of “Pease’s Hoarhound Candy.” The reader would often feel vexed to find that, after reading a quarter of a column of interesting news upon the subject uppermost in his mind, he was trapped into the perusal of one of Pease’s hoarhound candy advertisements. Although inclined sometimes to throw down the newspaper in disgust, he would generally laugh at the talent displayed by Mr. Pease in thus captivating and capturing the reader. The result of all this would generally be, a trial of the candy on the first premonitory symptoms of a cough or influenza. The degree to which this system of advertising has since been carried has rendered it a bore and a nuisance. The usual result of almost any great and original achievement is, the production of a shoal of brainless imitators, who are “neither useful nor ornamental.”

In the same year that Pease’s hoarhound candy appeared upon the commercial and newspaper horizon, the “Governor Dorr Rebellion” occurred in Rhode Island. As many will remember, this rebellion caused a great excitement throughout the country. Citizens of Rhode Island took up arms against each other, and it was feared by some that a bloody civil war would ensue.

At about this time a municipal election was to come off in the city of Philadelphia. The two political parties were pretty equally divided there, and there were some special causes why this was regarded as an unusually important election. Its near approach caused more excitement in the “Quaker City” than had been witnessed there since the preceding Presidential election. The party-leaders began to lay their plans early, and the wire-pullers on both sides were unusually busy in their vocation. At the head of the rabble upon which one of the parties depended for many votes, was a drunken and profane fellow, whom we will call Tom Simmons. Tom was great at electioneering and stump-spouting in barrooms and rum-caucuses, and his party always looked to him, at each election, to stir up the subterraneans “with a long pole”⁠—and a whiskey-jug at the end of it.

The exciting election which was now to come off for Mayor and Aldermen of the good city of Brotherly Love soon brought several of the “ring” to Tom.

“Now, Tom,” said the head wire-puller, “this is going to be a close election, and we want you to spare neither talent nor liquor in arousing up and bringing to the polls every voter within your influence.”

“Well, Squire,” replied Tom carelessly, “I’ve concluded I won’t bother myself with this ’lection⁠—it don’t pay!”

“Don’t pay!” exclaimed the frightened politician. “Why, Tom, are you not a true friend to your party? Haven’t you always been on hand at the primary meetings, knocked down interlopers, and squelched every man who talked about conscience, or who refused to support regular nominations, and vote the entire clean ticket straight through? And as for ‘pay,’ haven’t you always been supplied with money enough to treat all doubtful voters, and in fact to float them up to the polls in an ocean of whiskey? I confess Tom, I am almost petrified with astonishment at witnessing your present indifference to the alarming crisis in which our country and our party are involved, and which nothing on Earth can avert, except our success at the coming election.”

“Oh, tell that to the marines,” said Tom. “We never yet had an election that there wasn’t a ‘crisis,’ and yet, whichever party gained, we somehow managed to live through it, crisis or no crisis. In fact, my curiosity has got a little excited, and I would like to see this ‘crisis’ that is such a bugaboo at every election; so trot out your crisis⁠—let us see how it looks. Besides, talking of pay, I acknowledge the whiskey, and that is all. While I and my companions lifted you and your companions into fat offices that enabled you to roll in your carriages, and live on the fat of the land, we got nothing⁠—or, at least, next to nothing⁠—all we got was⁠—well⁠—we got drunk! Now, Squire, I will go for the other party this ’lection if you don’t give me an office.”

“Give you an office!” exclaimed the “Squire,” raising his hands and rolling his eyes in utter amazement; “why, Tom, what office do you want?”

“I want to be Alderman!” replied Tom, “and I can control votes enough to turn the ’lection either way; and if our party don’t gratefully remember my past services and give me my reward, t’other party will be glad to run me on their ticket, and over I go.”

The gentleman of the “ring” saw by Tom’s firmness and clenched teeth that he was immovable; that his principles, like those of too many others, consisted of “loaves and fishes;” they therefore consented to put Tom’s name on the municipal ticket; and the worst part of the story is, he was elected.

In a very short time, Tom was duly installed into the Aldermanic chair, and, opening his office on a prominent corner, he was soon doing a thriving business. He was generally occupied throughout the day in sitting as a judge in cases of book debt and promissory notes which were brought before him, for various small sums ranging from two to five, six, eight, and ten dollars. He would frequently dispose of thirty or forty of these cases in a day, and as imprisonment for debt was permitted at that time, the poor defendants would “shin” around and make any sacrifice almost, rather than go to jail. The enormous “costs” went into the capacious pocket of the Alderman; and this dignitary, as a natural sequence, “waxed fat” and saucy, exemplifying the truth of the adage “Put a beggar on horseback,” etc.

As the Alderman grew rich, he became overbearing, headstrong, and dictatorial. He began to fancy that he monopolized the concentrated wisdom of his party, and that his word should be law. Not a party-caucus or a political meeting could be held without witnessing the vulgar and profane harangues of the self-conceited Alderman, Tom Simmons. As he was one of the “ring,” his fingers were in all the “pickings and stealings;” he kept his family-coach, and in his general swagger exhibited all the peculiarities of “high life below stairs.”

But after Tom had disgraced his office for two years, a State election took place and the other party were successful. Among the first laws which they passed after the convening of the Legislature, was one declaring that from that date imprisonment for debt should not be permitted in the State of Pennsylvania for any sum less than ten dollars.

This enactment, of course, knocked away the chief prop which sustained the Alderman, and when the news of its passage reached Philadelphia, Tom was the most indignant man that had been seen there for some years.

Standing in front of his office the next morning, surrounded by several of his political chums, Tom exclaimed:

“Do you see what them infernal tories have done down there at Harrisburg? They have been and passed an outrageous, oppressive, barbarous, and unconstitutional law! A pretty idea, indeed, if a man can’t put a debtor in jail for a less sum than ten dollars! How am I going to support my family, I should like to know, if this law is allowed to stand? I tell you, gentlemen, this law is unconstitutional, and you will see blood running in our streets, if them tory scoundrels try to carry it out!”

His friends laughed, for they saw that Tom was reasoning from his pocket instead of his head; and, as he almost foamed at the mouth in his impotent wrath they could not suppress a smile.

“Oh, you may laugh, gentlemen⁠—you may laugh; but you will see it. Our party will never disgrace itself a permitting the tories to rob them of their rights by passing unconstitutional laws; and I say, the sooner we come to blood, the better!”

At this moment, a gentleman stepped up, and addressing the Alderman, said:

“Alderman, I want to bring a case of book debt before you this morning.”

“How much is your claim?” asked Tom.

“Four dollars,” replied the rumseller⁠—for such he proved to be⁠—and his debt was for drinks chalked up against one of his “customers.”

“You can’t have your four dollars, Sir,” replied the excited Alderman. “You are robbed of your four dollars, Sir. Them legislative tories at Harrisburg, Sir, have cheated you out of your four dollars, Sir. I undertake to say, Sir, that fifty thousand honest men in Philadelphia have been robbed of their four dollars by these bloody tories and their cursed unconstitutional law! Ah, gentlemen, you will see blood running in our streets before you are a month older. (A laugh.) Oh, you may laugh; but you will see it⁠—see if you don’t!”

A newsboy was just passing by.

“Here, boy, give me the Morning Ledger,” said the Alderman, at the same time taking the paper and handing the boy a penny. “Let us see what them blasted cowboys are doing down at Harrisburg now. Ah!⁠—what is this?” (Reading:) “ ‘Blood, blood, blood!’ Aha! laugh, will you, gentlemen? Here it is.” Reads:

“ ‘Blood, blood, blood! The Dorrites have got possession of Providence. The military are called out. Father is arrayed against father, and son against son. Blood is already running in our streets.’

“Now laugh, will you, gentlemen? Blood is running in the streets of Providence; blood will be running in the streets of Philadelphia before you are a fortnight older! The tories of Providence and the tories of Harrisburg must answer for this blood, for they and their unconstitutional proceedings are the cause of its flowing! Let us see the rest of this tragic scene.” Reads:

“ ‘Is there any remedy for this dreadful state of things?’ ”

Alderman.⁠—“Of course not, except to hang every rascal of them for trampling on our g-l-orious Constitution.” Reads:

“ ‘Is there any remedy for this dreadful state of things? Yes, there is.’ ”

Alderman.⁠—“Oh, there is, is there? What is it? Let me see.” Reads:

“ ‘Buy two packages of Pease’s hoarhound candy.’ ”

“Blast the infernal Ledger!” exclaimed the now doubly incensed and indignant Alderman, throwing the paper upon the pavement with the most ineffable disgust, amid the shouts and hurrahs of a score of men who by this time had gathered around the excited Alderman Tom Simmons.

As I before remarked, the “candy” was a very good article for the purposes for which it was made; and as Pease was an indefatigable man, as well as a good advertiser, he soon acquired a fortune. Mr. Pease, Junior, is now living in affluence in Brooklyn, and is bringing up a “happy family” to enjoy the fruits of his industry, probity, good habits, and genius.

The “humbug” in this transaction, of course consisted solely in the manner of advertising. There was no humbug or deception about the article manufactured.