History on Craigslist

Posted on February 13, 2007 under public history

An Onion-flavored post on the sf craigslist purports to be a record of titles of craigslist posts a century ago.

Silly but historically-minded, it’s mostly a spoof of the Rants and Raves pages:  “Damnation! Cable Car Bells. Day and Evening – Clang! Clang! Clang!”  Other concerns are opium, sex, immigration, and temperance (“I Wish to Punch a Drinker of Demon Rum Right in the Face”).  The race posts are pretty offensive, just like those on modern CL.  Some posts are anachronistic for the sake of humor (a post about “Trader Joseph’s”) or just because all old things blend together for the poster (a post about FDR).

The perennial CL concerns of proper spelling and internet etiquette are addressed in a weird parallel to telegraphy:  “RE: Stop Tapping Your Key so Hard … I Shall TAP My Key as Hard as I Please.”  I do like the reference to the ‘hand,’ the personal style of the telegraphers.  But the telegraph was never a home product* because it was so large and expensive.  The CL equivalent around the turn of the century (though I hate to structure the parallel this way) was bill-posting, cheap periodicals, and talking to your neighbors.  Also, on the streets and in the papers, advertising messages were much more prevalent than anything else.  If the list was two-thirds patent medicine ads that would have been much more accurate.

For the CL poster, history is entertainment.  The very existence of the post highlights the noncommerciality of CL.**  Someone was inspired or bored one day and decided to write something funny about history. Ze wasn’t getting paid or trying to promote hirself (it’s an anonymous post).  The apotheosis of the post came when more anonymous folks nominated it to the ‘best-of’ category, where it will be archived for only a few months.  Luckily, it will achieve blog-immortality by being read by my half-dozen readers.

*Unless anyone knows further:  was the telegraph ever marketed directly to consumers?

**or at least the personals section.

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