A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 31, 2015
“A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare…” (horse-car poetry)

Noah Brooks and Isaac Bromley, of the New York (NY) Daily Tribune, were riding downtown one evening in 1875 on the Fourth Avenue line, No. 101, when they read a placard. With the help of W. C. Wyckoff, Tribune scientific editor, and Moses P. Handy, a poem was printed in the newspaper on September 27, 1875:

The conductor when he receives a fare,
Must punch in the presence of the passenjare.
A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare
A pink trip slip for a 3 cent fare.
All in the presence of the passenjare.
Chorus.
Punch, boys, punch; punch with care.


The short bit of “horce-car poetry” was reprinted in many newspapers and quickly became a national sensation. Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemons, 1835-1910) satirized it in “A Literary Nightmare” (The Atlantic Monthly, February 1876), and the verse is often incorrectly credited to Twain.

“Tax the people and tax with care” is the first line of a popular 1921 tax poem that borrowed from the “punch with care” line.


Wikipedia: A Literary Nightmare
“A Literary Nightmare” is a short story written by Mark Twain in 1876. The story is about Twain’s encounter with an earworm, or virus-like jingle, and how it occupies his mind for several days until he manages to “infect” another person, thus removing the jingle from his mind. The story was also later published under the name “Punch, Brothers, Punch!”
(...)
History of the jingle
The poem was not composed by Mark Twain, but by a group of people in 1876. It was the brainchild of Messrs. Isaac Bromley, Noah Brooks, W. C. Wyckoff, and Moses W. Handy. Bromley and Brooks, while riding a tram one night, had taken notice of a sign informing passengers about the fare:

A Blue Trip Slip for an 8-cents fare.
A Buff Trip Slip for a 6-cents fare.
A Pink Trip Slip for a 3-cents fare.
For Coupon and Transfer, punch the Tickets.


Bromley had reportedly exclaimed, “Brooks, it’s poetry. By George, it’s poetry!” The two spent the remainder of their trip composing the poem, giving it its jingle-like character, and adding improvements such as the chorus. Upon arrival at the offices of the New York Tribune, they showed the poem to their friends, scientific editor W. C. Wyckoff and Moses Handy, who assisted them in completing it.

They published their result in the Tribune, the same newspaper which Mark Twain had chanced upon. The poem gained popularity rapidly, taking over the minds of numerous people; it was assisted by Twain, who let it loose upon the world in his story. The jingle gained popularity among most of the population of Boston, Harvard students, and was even translated into French and Latin.

27 September 1875, New-York (NY) Daily Tribune, pg. 5, col. 2:
HORSE-CAR POETRY.
The conductor when he receives a fare,
Must punch in the presence of the passenjare.
A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare
A pink trip slip for a 3 cent fare.
All in the presence of the passenjare.
Chorus.
Punch, boys, punch; punch with care.
A blue trip slip for an 8 cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a 6 cent fare
A pink trip slip for a 3 cent fare.
Punch in the presence of the passenjare.

Google Books
The Literature Network
February 1876, The Atlantic Monthly, “A Literary Nightmare,” pp. 167-169:
WILL the reader please to cast his eye over the following lines, and see if he can discover anything harmful in them?

“Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
CHORUS
Punch, brothers! punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!”


I came across these jingling rhymes in a newspaper, a little while ago, and read them a couple of times. They took instant and entire possession of me. All through breakfast they went waltzing through my brain; and when, at last, I rolled up my napkin, I could not tell whether I had eaten anything or not. I had carefully laid out my day’s work the day before--thrilling tragedy in the novel which I am writing. I went to my den to begin my deed of blood. I took up my pen, but all I could get it to say was, “Punch in the presence of the passenjare.” I fought hard for an hour, but it was useless. My head kept humming, “A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,” and so on and so on, without peace or respite. The day’s work was ruined--I could see that plainly enough. I gave up and drifted down-town, and presently discovered that my feet were keeping time to that relentless jingle. When I could stand it no longer I altered my step. But it did no good; those rhymes accommodated themselves to the new step and went on harassing me just as before. I returned home, and suffered all the afternoon; suffered all through an unconscious and unrefreshing dinner; suffered, and cried, and jingled all through the evening; went to bed and rolled, tossed, and jingled right along, the same as ever; got up at midnight frantic, and tried to read; but there was nothing visible upon the whirling page except “Punch! punch in the presence of the passenjare.” By sunrise I was out of my mind, and everybody marveled and was distressed at the idiotic burden of my ravings--"Punch! oh, punch! punch in the presence of the passenjare!”

Two days later, on Saturday morning, I arose, a tottering wreck, and went forth to fulfil an engagement with a valued friend, the Rev. Mr.------, to walk to the Talcott Tower, ten miles distant. He stared at me, but asked no questions. We started. Mr.------ talked, talked, talked as is his wont. I said nothing; I heard nothing. At the end of a mile, Mr.------ said “Mark, are you sick? I never saw a man look so haggard and worn and absent-minded. Say something, do!”

Drearily, without enthusiasm, I said: “Punch brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!”

My friend eyed me blankly, looked perplexed, they said:

“I do not think I get your drift, Mark. Then does not seem to be any relevancy in what you have said, certainly nothing sad; and yet--maybe it was the way you said the words--I never heard anything that sounded so pathetic. What is--”

But I heard no more. I was already far away with my pitiless, heartbreaking “blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, pink trip slip for a three-cent fare; punch in the presence of the passenjare.” I do not know what occurred during the other nine miles. However, all of a sudden Mr.------ laid his hand on my shoulder and shouted:

“Oh, wake up! wake up! wake up! Don’t sleep all day! Here we are at the Tower, man! I have talked myself deaf and dumb and blind, and never got a response. Just look at this magnificent autumn landscape! Look at it! look at it! Feast your eye on it! You have traveled; you have seen boaster landscapes elsewhere. Come, now, deliver an honest opinion. What do you say to this?”

I sighed wearily; and murmured:

“A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare, punch in the presence of the passenjare.”

Rev. Mr. ------ stood there, very grave, full of concern, apparently, and looked long at me; then he said:

“Mark, there is something about this that I cannot understand. Those are about the same words you said before; there does not seem to be anything in them, and yet they nearly break my heart when you say them. Punch in the--how is it they go?”

I began at the beginning and repeated all the lines.

My friend’s face lighted with interest. He said:

“Why, what a captivating jingle it is! It is almost music. It flows along so nicely. I have nearly caught the rhymes myself. Say them over just once more, and then I’ll have them, sure.”

I said them over. Then Mr. ------ said them. He made one little mistake, which I corrected. The next time and the next he got them right. Now a great burden seemed to tumble from my shoulders. That torturing jingle departed out of my brain, and a grateful sense of rest and peace descended upon me. I was light-hearted enough to sing; and I did sing for half an hour, straight along, as we went jogging homeward. Then my freed tongue found blessed speech again, and the pent talk of many a weary hour began to gush and flow. It flowed on and on, joyously, jubilantly, until the fountain was empty and dry. As I wrung my friend’s hand at parting, I said:

“Haven’t we had a royal good time! But now I remember, you haven’t said a word for two hours. Come, come, out with something!”

The Rev. Mr.------ turned a lack-luster eye upon me, drew a deep sigh, and said, without animation, without apparent consciousness:

“Punch, brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!”

A pang shot through me as I said to myself, “Poor fellow, poor fellow! he has got it, now.”

I did not see Mr.------ for two or three days after that. Then, on Tuesday evening, he staggered into my presence and sank dejectedly into a seat. He was pale, worn; he was a wreck. He lifted his faded eyes to my face and said:

“Ah, Mark, it was a ruinous investment that I made in those heartless rhymes. They have ridden me like a nightmare, day and night, hour after hour, to this very moment. Since I saw you I have suffered the torments of the lost. Saturday evening I had a sudden call, by telegraph, and took the night train for Boston. The occasion was the death of a valued old friend who had requested that I should preach his funeral sermon. I took my seat in the cars and set myself to framing the discourse. But I never got beyond the opening paragraph; for then the train started and the car-wheels began their ‘clack, clack-clack-clack-clack! clack-clack! --clack-clack-clack!’ and right away those odious rhymes fitted themselves to that accompaniment. For an hour I sat there and set a syllable of those rhymes to every separate and distinct clack the car-wheels made. Why, I was as fagged out, then, as if I had been chopping wood all day. My skull was splitting with headache. It seemed to me that I must go mad if I sat there any longer; so I undressed and went to bed. I stretched myself out in my berth, and--well, you know what the result was. The thing went right along, just the same. ‘Clack-clack clack, a blue trip slip, clack-clack-clack, for an eight cent fare; clack-clack-clack, a buff trip slip, clack clack-clack, for a six-cent fare, and so on, and so on, and so on punch in the presence of the passenjare!’ Sleep? Not a single wink! I was almost a lunatic when I got to Boston. Don’t ask me about the funeral. I did the best I could, but every solemn individual sentence was meshed and tangled and woven in and out with ‘Punch, brothers, punch with care, punch in the presence of the passenjare.’ And the most distressing thing was that my delivery dropped into the undulating rhythm of those pulsing rhymes, and I could actually catch absent-minded people nodding time to the swing of it with their stupid heads. And, Mark, you may believe it or not, but before I got through the entire assemblage were placidly bobbing their heads in solemn unison, mourners, undertaker, and all. The moment I had finished, I fled to the anteroom in a state bordering on frenzy. Of course it would be my luck to find a sorrowing and aged maiden aunt of the deceased there, who had arrived from Springfield too late to get into the church. She began to sob, and said:

“‘Oh, oh, he is gone, he is gone, and I didn’t see him before he died!’

“‘Yes!’ I said, ‘he is gone, he is gone, he is gone--oh, will this suffering never cease!’

“‘You loved him, then! Oh, you too loved him!’

“‘Loved him! Loved who?’

“‘Why, my poor George! my poor nephew!’

“‘Oh--him! Yes--oh, yes, yes. Certainly--certainly. Punch--punch--oh, this misery will kill me!’

“‘Bless you! bless you, sir, for these sweet words! I, too, suffer in this dear loss. Were you present during his last moments?’

“‘Yes. I--whose last moments?’

“‘His. The dear departed’s.’

“‘Yes! Oh, yes--yes--yes! I suppose so, I think so, I don’t know! Oh, certainly--I was there I was there!’

“‘Oh, what a privilege! what a precious privilege! And his last words --oh, tell me, tell me his last words! What did he say?’

“‘He said--he said--oh, my head, my head, my head! He said--he said--he never said anything but Punch, punch, punch in the presence of the passenjare! Oh, leave me, madam! In the name of all that is generous, leave me to my madness, my misery, my despair!--a buff trip slip for a six-cent fare, a pink trip slip for a three-cent fare--endu--rance can no fur--ther go!--PUNCH in the presence of the passenjare!”

My friend’s hopeless eyes rested upon mine a pregnant minute, and then he said impressively:

“Mark, you do not say anything. You do not offer me any hope. But, ah me, it is just as well--it is just as well. You could not do me any good. The time has long gone by when words could comfort me. Something tells me that my tongue is doomed to wag forever to the jigger of that remorseless jingle. There--there it is coming on me again: a blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare, a buff trip slip for a--”

Thus murmuring faint and fainter, my friend sank into a peaceful trance and forgot his sufferings in a blessed respite.

How did I finally save him from an asylum? I took him to a neighboring university and made him discharge the burden of his persecuting rhymes into the eager ears of the poor, unthinking students. How is it with them, now? The result is too sad to tell. Why did I write this article? It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose. It was to warn you, reader, if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them--avoid them as you would a pestilence.
Mark Twain

Chronicling America
22 August 1903, New-York (NY) Daily Tribune, pg. 10, col. 3:
The authorship of the lines beginning,

Punch, brother, punch with care,
Punch in the presence of the passengair.


has been called in question by Monsignor Doane in giving his recollections of Noah Brooks to “The Newark Daily Advertiser.” While Mr. Brooks was editor of that newspaper, Monsignor Doane says, he belonged to the Fortnightly Club, and at one of their meetings, when the monsignor, in commenting on a paper that had just been read, spoke of Mark Twain as the author of the well known verses. Mr. Brooks sprang to his feet instantly, saying that not Mark Twain, but he himself was the author of the lines. According to the interview in “The Advertiser” Mr. Brooks acknowledged the assistance of the late Isaac H. Bromley, of The Tribune. As a matter of fact, Mr. Bromley himself was responsible for the apparently immortal verses, and composed them upon the suggestion of a colleague in the office.

Some time after they had appeared in The Tribune and had been quoted all over the country, Mark Twain used them as a text for a tale he contributed to “The Atlantic Monthly” (February, 1876), called “A Literary Nightmare.” His readers generally supposed that he was the author of the verses, and from time to time they are regularly attributed to him. Following the appearance of Mark Twain’s tale, Mr. Bromley wrote a letter to “Scribner’s Magazine” (old series, April, 1876), called “The Horse Car Poetry, A True History,” and signed Winkelreid Wolfgang Brown, in which he apportioned the credit between Mr. Brooks and two other members of the staff. All that remains to be done in the matter of the authorship of this skit is to discover a cipher in it.

The inspiration of the lines as cited in Mr. Bromley’s letter was a sign in horsecar No. 101, Fourth Avenue line, which read as follows:

The conductor, when he receives a fare, will punch, in the presence of the passenger, a blue trip-slip for an eight cent fare, a buff trip-slip for a six cent fare, a pink trip-slip for a three cent fare.

Google Books
Mark Twain, a Biography:
The Personal and Literary Life of Samuel Langhorne Clemons
Volume 1

By Albert Bigelow Paine
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers
1912
Pg. 555:
He was writing a skit about a bit of doggerel which was then making nights and days unhappy for many undeserving persons who in an evil moment had fallen upon it in some stray newspaper corner. A certain car line had recently adopted the “punch system,” and posted in its cars, for the information of passenger and conductor, this placard:

A Blue Trip Slip for an 8 Cents Fare,
A Buff Trip Slip for a 6 Cents Fare,
A Pink Trip Slip for a 3 Cents Fare,
For Coupon And Transfer, Punch The Tickets.


Noah Brooks and Isaac Bromley were riding down-town one evening on the Fourth Avenue line, when Bromley said:

“Brooks, it’s poetry. By George, it’s poetry!”

Brooks followed the direction of Bromley’s finger and (Pg. 556—ed.) read the card of instructions. They began perfecting the poetic character of the notice, giving it a more rhythmic twist and jingle, arrived at the Tribune office, W. C. Wyckoff, scientific editor, and Moses P. Handy lent intellectual and assistance, with this result:

Conductor, when you receive a fare,
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
A blue trip slip for an eight-cent fare,
A buff trip slip for a six-cent fare,
A pink trip slip for a three-cent fare.
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!
CHORUS
Punch, brothers! Punch with care!
Punch in the presence of the passenjare!


It was printed, and street-car poetry became popular. Different newspapers had a turn at it, and each usually preceded its own effort with all other examples, as far as perpetrated. Clemons discovered the lines, and on one of their walks recited them to Twichell. “A Literary Nightmare” was written a few days later. In it the author tells how the jingle took instant and entire possession of him and went waltzing through his brain; how, when he had finished his breakfast, he couldn’t tell whether he had eaten anything or not; and how, when he went to finish the novel he was writing, and took up his pen, he could only get it to say:

Punch in the presence of the passenjare.

He found relief at last in telling it to his reverend friend, that is, Twichell, upon whom he unloaded it with sad results.

It was an amusing and timely skit, and is worth reading to-day. Its publication in the Atlantic had the (Pg. 557—ed.) effect of waking up horse-car poetry all over the world. Howells, going to dine at Ernest Longfellow’s the day after its appearance, heard his host and Tom Appleton urging each other to “Punch with care.” The Longfellow ladies had it by heart. Boston was devastated by it. At home, Howells’s children recited it to him in chorus. The streets were full of it; in Harvard it became an epidemic.

It was transformed into other tongues. Even Swinburne, the musical, is said to have done a French version for the Revue des deux mondes. A St. Louis magazine, The Western, found relief in a Latin anthem with this chorus:

Pungite, fratres, pungite,
Pungite cum amore,
Pungite pro vectore,
Diligentissime pungite.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Saturday, October 31, 2015 • Permalink