infernal exploding hoop skirt

Apparently this moment of public humiliation was so high-larious that it got sent out over the wire for national distribution; although it happened in Belfast, Maine, I picked it up on the front page of the Mayesville, Kentucky Evening Bulletin for October 19, 1882 under the headline “Infernal Machine”:

A rather sad affair took place on one of our streets the other day. A young lady with her arms full of bundles emerged from a dry goods store when one of them fell on the sidewalk without her noticing it. Just behind her was a young man — a Belfast young man who is not polite is not anything — and he quickly stepped forward to pick it up. Now a bundle done up in a piece of paper with a dry-goods advertisement on it is apparently as harmless as a mother’s spanking; and there it lay as guileless as an angleworm, on a sidewalk after a rain. Just as he stooped to pick it up there was a rustling of paper, the twist began to come out of the ends and in another instant a bright red thing — a sort of a cross between a balloon and a devil fish — flew into the air before his eyes, and a No. 10, thirty-six-inch, double-jointed, duplex, elliptic, steel-bowed, bustle-attachment, dollar-and-a-half, red-headed hoopskirt waltzed around and gyrated and opened and shut up and fell on the walk as flat and thin as a restuarant pie; and the young man straightened himself up, looking as if he wished the tail of comet No. 2 would sweep him from this fair land, and the young lady came back with a face that resembled a sunset on a 50 cent chromo, and she picked up the wire contrivance and then she went toward the east and he went toward the west and the sun ducked his head behind a cloud to hide a smile, and three or four looked on, laid down and laughed and doubled themselves up in a manner that would have made a mess of green apples hang their heads in shame.

And that, my friends, is what they used to mean when they would say it was a “slow news day”.

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