Little Tiny Joke Books



Click any image to see the full-sized scan.



















Humor has always been a significant genre in the paperback industry. The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbs, Garfield, and their electronic counterparts today (most people read the comics online now) all had their roots in humor publications like the ones listed here. But unless you've actually read one of these earliest books, you cannot IMAGINE how far we have come!

Wehman #1 (New York, printed in 1907) and Ottenheimer 32 (Baltimore, 1914) are roughly the same size (about 4 X 5 inches) and a bit more than 60 pages. You can see most of the Ottenheimer books HERE. The back of the Wehman book is shown below it, and lists many of their offerings.

Many of the titles, and many of the jokes therein, are patently offensive in nature today. I'm sure they were back then, too ... but offensiveness was obviously funny, at least to the people not being offended.

The jokes were gleaned from the acts of vaudeville theaters from across the country, where the jokes were so bad ... (How bad WERE they?) ... they were SO bad that it became the norm for the drummer in the theater orchestra to play a short drum roll following each punch line to let the audience know when the joke was over.

Humor magazines have been popular for a long time. Usually, there was a "Humor Section" in a magazine that was otherwise dedicated to some other genre. The most famous of the periodicals dedicated only to jokes was Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang, which was launched by Wilford Fawcett in 1919. To see my (incomplete) Whiz Bang collection, click HERE.

The Ceagee Publishing Company issued dozens of very small joke books, which I've shown below. They were made of 100% pulp paper (newsprint), were saddle stapled and ranged from about 10 to 20 pages each. They have been called "Tijuana Bibles for slightly more polite company," meaning that, while the jokes were sometimes racist and offensive, there was no overt sexual action illustrated.

I've mentioned the Tijuana Bibles elsewhere in the Oddities Section. The comparison of them to these books (at least, the books' construction, the type of printing, etc.) is at least suggestive. No one knows where the "Bibles" were printed, or how they made their way to the various places where they were distributed (usually locations where men gathered, such as barber shops, bars, speakeasies, vaudeville theaters, etc).

The series listed here for "The Treasure Novelty Company, New York," does not really list Ceagee's place of publishing; only "Printed in the United States." If anyone has additional information on the company, I'd love to hear about it.

And, as far as humor goes: perhaps I'm just a crotchety old man, but I have yet to read a single joke in any of these books that I thought was funny.