Auction Troubles

I found this in the Bismarck Semi-Weekly Tribune from May of 1877.  In the olden days, newspapers didn’t distinguish much between joke articles and true news, relying on context to tell whether or not something is real.   I’m pretty sure, based on the florid prose employed to describe the troubles with auction-going, this was a humorous fiction piece.   However, there’s something rather true about it all, so maybe it hasn’t happened in reality, but I’m pretty sure this has happened in spirit more than once.  Full story inside…

The Auction Season.


The auction fever has broken out as usual, though with more than usual violence, and is devistating happy households all over the city.  A woman on Center avenue went out one day last week, at 9:30 a.m., with an umbrella, a look of determination, and a book of auction-sale advertisements; she got home at 6:15 p.m., tired, snappish, hungry, and splashed with mud up to the ears.  She had two china vases, one with a chip out of the lip that you wouldn’t notice much if you turned the reverse side of the vase to the front, and the other cracked, but not enough to show; also, eight Mulberry dinner plates and a soup-ladle of the same sort.  She had paid ninty cents for the vases—she wouldn’t have given more than sixty, only a Fright of a thing with a new hat wanted them, and she (the house wife) was resolved that she (the Fright) shouldn’t have them — and they were worth $2 when they were new, if they were worth a cent, while she had secured the plates and ladle at a dead bargain for eighty-three cents.  “A ladle like that,” she said,” costs $1.25, and most of the plates are sound, and as there are always things of this pattern being sold at auction sales we shall be able to put together a colored dinner set for next to nothing, white diskes are so common and look so like a hotel.”  On the whole, she estimated her saving $1.95, which, she said, was the equivalent of nearly six dollars a year, a sum not to be despised in these hard times.  By judicious cross-examination her husband educed from the facts that she had spent 75 cents for car-fare, and 30 cents for lunch; she had received a bad half dollar from some one, she couldn’t say where, when, or how; her pocket-book had been stolen (luckily it was an old one, and she carried her money in the bosom of her dress, all but her small change, say sixty or seventy cents,) and her dress was ruined so that it would take $1.50 to clean it.  Oh, and she had forgotten her umbrella at some of the houses where she went—that was $3.25.  Without making any allowance for her time, therefore, she had saved $1.95 at a direct expenditure of $11.  Here, of course, she burst into tears, and said that this was all the thanks she ever got, and if it wasn’t for the children, etc., till her husband repented and apologized abjectly, and they rang for the girl to remove the bargains, and the girl fell down the basement stairs, with them, and smashed every blessed one of them with a noise like a Hell-Gate explosion.


She was more unfortunate than a prudent house-wife on the North Side who returned one evening last week tired but triumphant, with the intelligence that she had just bought what she had been looking for for months, a sideboard to fit into a certain niche in the dining-room.  When she saw it she knew at a glance that it was the very thing she had wanted so long.  It was a little scratched and bruised, she said, but you always had to expect that in goods you bought at an auction, and the looking-glass over the top was smashed, but it wouldn’t cost very much to have a new one put in, and with a little varnish and new hinges for the door that was falling off, it would look as good as new, if not better.  “What shaped thing is it?” asked her husband, carelessly.  “Oh, something like that hideous old abomination we used to have here, but larger and not so heavy looking.  There is no comparison between the two.  I could hardly believe that I got it as cheap as I did — eighteen dollars.”  A cold sweat of horrible suspicion broke out all over the husband’s back, but clasping his hands over his forehead, as if to shut out some terrible idea he restrained himself and muttered: “No, no, it cannot be.”  At that moment the sideboard arrived, and after doing a good deal of miscellaneous damage to itself, the gate, the front steps, the ditto door, and the knuckles of her husband and the express-man, was landed in the dining-room.  So soon as the husband had bound up his knuckles, replaced his bursted shirt-collar with another one, and tapered down his profanity to a comparatively small and mild form, he took a square look at the bargain, and then, with a shriek of dispair, yelled: “It is!  It is! I knew that dark presage must be true.  Maria,” he added, with a frenzied laugh, as if his reason was tottering on its throne; “Maria, it’s your own sideboard!  Here’s our address on the back that we painted on it when we moved here from Kalamazoo.”  It was the same sideboard which, by reason of being an eye-sore and a general inconvenience, the prudent housewife had sold at an auction-room the year before for $12.60, and it was just in as good order as when she sold it, only the mirror was smashed, one door was off, two drawer-knobs were missing, and the paint was badly scratched.—Chicago Tribune

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