United States and American History: 1888

About the history of the United States in 1888, Looking Backward is published, Eastman creates a personal camera, Casey at the Bat is written.


--Edward Bellamy's provocative socialist-utopian novel, Looking Backward, was published. It sold only 35,000 copies the 1st year, but by 1890 over 200,000 copies had been sold. The slender, diffident, 38-year-old Bellamy, son of a Baptist minister, spent most of his life in Chicopee Falls, Mass. After being admitted to the bar, he gave up law for writing.

He never improved upon his 3rd book, Looking Backward, which predicted a cooperative commonwealth in the U.S., music transmitted over telephone wires, and delivery of goods by city-wide pneumatic-tube systems. His book gave birth to the Nationalist party, which promoted his theories. He died of tuberculosis at 48, leaving a wife, a small daughter, and a 13-year-old son.

--A simple box camera and roll of film taking round pictures was produced by George Eastman, of Rochester, N.Y., enabling photography to be enjoyed by ordinary people and enabling Mr. Eastman to become very wealthy and very philanthropic.

June 3 On page 4, column 4, of the San Francisco Examiner, there appeared a 13-stanza poem signed E.L.T. entitled, Casey at the Bat, A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888. Thousands welcomed its 1st appearance right down to the final explosive verse:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land

the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere,

and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing,

and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Mudville--

mighty Casey has struck out.

This ode to Humpty Dumpty's fall was penned by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, heir to the American Woolen Mills, who studied philosophy at Harvard under William James and was editor of the Harvard Lampoon, with young William Randolph Hearst as the magazine's business manager. When young Heart's father had him take over the San Francisco Examiner, Hearst induced Thayer to come aboard and write a humor column. Thus, Casey was spawned. Thayer got $5 for the poem.

The poem became a classic 2 months later when William De Wolf Hopper, a comedian and singer, was doing a comic opera at Wallack's Theatre on Broadway. On the fateful night, the management had invited baseball players from the New York Giants and Pop Anson's Chicago White Stockings to attend as front-row guests. While searching for material the players could relate to, Hopper was given the clipping of Casey at the Bat by a novelist friend. Hopper thundered forth the poem in 6 minutes, and the reading created a sensation. Thereafter, Hopper delivered the poem 10,000 times in public, and was always remembered for it as well as for the fact that Hedda Hopper, the actress and movie columnist, was his 5th wife.

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