‘Jonathan’s Jokes: American Humour in the Late-Victorian Press’
My first academic article will be published in the next issue of Media History. It’s all about ‘American Humour’ columns and their role in shaping transatlantic relations during the late nineteenth century. For those of you who can’t wait to read it in print (hello?… is anybody still here?), an advance copy is now available on the journal’s website. Unfortunately, a subscription to Media History is required to view it – unless you’re mad enough to pay £21 to buy your own copy (in which case send the money directly to me and I’ll throw in a signed photograph). It’s going to be published as part of a special issue on ephemeral print culture which will include fantastic articles by Jim Mussell, Laurel Brake, Adrian Bingham, Pam Epstein (author of the brilliant advertisingforlove.com), and Karl Christian Führer. A perfect Christmas gift for the discerning historian-about-town.
During the final quarter of the nineteenth century, columns of American jokes became a regular feature of numerous British newspapers. The Newcastle Weekly Currant, for example, had a weekly column of ‘Yankee Snacks’; The North Wales Chronicle had ‘American Humour’; the Hampshire Telegraph its ‘Jonathan’s Jokes’; and the Northern Weekly Gazette sported a ‘Stars and Stripes’ column. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper introduced a regular column of ‘American Jokes’ in 1896, the same year it achieved an unprecedented circulation of one million readers. Almost half a century before Hollywood, here was a distinctively American form of popular culture which took Britain by storm. It has, however, received little academic attention. This article explores the development of the American humour column, considers the way in which it was consumed by British readers, and argues that these seemingly ephemeral jokes played a key role in shaping Victorian encounters with America.