Sunday, February 3, 2013

Benchley 1914 Piece Uncovered

Sept. 9, 1914, New York Tribune, "The Conning Tower"
Thanks to independent historian Stuart Y. Silverstein of Los Angeles and Chicago, the editor of Not Much Fun, the Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker, we can now read something Robert Benchley wrote in 1914 for "The Conning Tower" of the New York Tribune. Benchley was just two years out of Harvard, and the Algonquin Round Table was five years off on the horizon.

The piece, "Blank Form To Be Handed to Returning Tourists," was submitted to the editor of the column, Benchley's mentor, Franklin P. Adams. As all "contribs" to "The Conning Tower" it was signed with Benchley's initials, not his byline. It ran Sept. 9, 1914. Mr. Silverstein says, "Note that it refers to the First World War - which started July 28, 1914 - just 6 weeks earlier. This item appeared less than a week before Benchley's 25th birthday."

Thanks, Mr. Silverstein, for digging up what we believe is the first appearance of Benchley in a New York newspaper, and sharing it with us.

(If the image is hard to read, here is a transcription)

Blank Form To Be Handed to Returning Tourists

Please fill in blanks and return with photograph showing yourself with mouth open.

The first inkling I had of the war was in _____. I was with my _____ (and my _____) at the time, and we had just come from a delightful trip through _____. One evening, the _____th of _____, we heard _____ and I said to our _____friend--, "_____?" He replied: "_____!" Immediately the streets were thronged with enthusiastic _____, all singing "_____." We had time only to get our _____ and stand _____ hours in the station for the train to _____. We were grossly insulted on the border by a _____ who insisted on _____. On reaching _____ we had to stand like cattle before the _____ left for _____. I tell you, the old Statue of Liberty looked pretty good to me. I don't know, of course, but take it from me, the war won't be over until one side is victorious and that won't be for _____.

R. C. B. 


Agata Stanford said...

Why, he wrote the first Mad Libs!
Wasn't he grand?
Agata Stanford

ChrisM said...

This absolutely _______!

- Chris Morgan

Robert Benchley Society

For more information about the Robert Benchley Society, local chapters near you, our annual Award for Humor, and our Annual Gathering, visit The RBS Website