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NPR History Dept.

Before Or After 1900? A History Game


A detail of a dog on what appears to be some kind of skateboard-like contraption.
Library of Congress
A detail of a dog on what appears to be some kind of skateboard-like contraption.

History can be tricky. Something that you think has never happened before has, actually, happened before. Someone who seems thoroughly modern actually lived long ago. And a quote that sounds up-to-the-nanosecond contemporary was actually uttered more than 100 years ago.

So let's see how you do: Here are seven items — six quotes and a photo. Your task is to determine whether they occurred before 1900 or after 1900. Answers are at the bottom.

1) Newspaper quote: "Dick got an idea somehow that Theo thought he was a slouch."

2) Newspaper quote: "I worked hard all my life and am now 28 years old and had no time to learn to be a dude and never desired to become one ... "

3) Photo: Detail of a dog on what appears to be some kind of skateboard-like contraption.

4) Book quote: "Sock it to him ... "

5) Newspaper quote: "Raymond Foster of Rector, Ark., died under the influence of morphine administered to quiet spasms caused by the bite of a hog."

6) Newspaper quote: "Chiefs of the Baltimore Fire Department have pocket telephones ... "

7) Newspaper quote: "We must not only talk turkey, but the Governor must be made to walk turkey!"

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Answers: The answer to all seven questions in this quiz is: Before 1900.

Mediography: 1) Cincinnati, Ohio, Enquirer, June 24, 1886. To me, "slouch" comes across as such a contemporary slacker word. But even back then, it meant "no account." 2) The New York World, May 27, 1890. I guess the "dude" abides. 3) Library of Congress, 1897. Looks like a poodle on a skateboard, but is most likely just a stuffed-animal pull toy. 4) The American Slang Dictionary by James Maitland, 1891, gives the definition of "sock-it-to-him" as "give him a good thrashing." So the "sock-it-to-me" gagline did not originate with Judy Carne and that late-1960s show Laugh-In. 5) Murfreesboro, N.C., Index, Dec. 16, 1887. This old line about morphine and a hog bite sounded like the backstory for a contemporary country song. 6) Barbour County Index, Medicine Lodge, Kan., Feb 22, 1899. This particular pocket phone was some kind of gizmo designed to be hooked onto a fire alarm box, enabling the user to establish "direct telephonic communication with any point in the system." 7) Rutland, Vt., County Herald, Nov. 20, 1851. Apparently, Americans have been demanding that politicians "talk turkey" for a long time.

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