Twenty Years of Hus'ling
by J. P. Johnston
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"Young man, you were a God-send to me this day sure," and added: "The Lord will provide."

"Yes, either that or the devil takes care of his own," I answered.

"How so?"

"Well, while the Lord has taken care of you in furnishing you an auctioneer, I have been favored considerably myself, for Heaven knows I needed the job, and, as I feel I am one of the devil's kind, I guess I'll have to give him the preference."

He said: "We'll decide that matter after the sale."

Every thing went on smoothly, and, as the sale was large it took till late in the evening before the last article was sold. The next morning we footed up the sales, and, to the farmer's utter astonishment, it amounted to over eleven hundred dollars. After reflecting a while he said:

"Why, hang it all, we figured in the first place that we had about a thousand dollars' worth, but I never thought of that yesterday morning when I offered you five per cent. Why, great guns, young man, are you going to charge me fifty-five dollars?"

"Of course I am, and I think I've earned it."

"What! Earned fifty-five dollars in one day? Gracious Peter! I can hire good men on my farm for seventeen dollars per month."

"Yes, but I didn't see any of them around yesterday who were handy enough to do your auctioneering."

He became quite excited, and declared he wouldn't pay me more than fifteen dollars. I argued with him till about ten o'clock, when several men had come to take away their purchases and settle for them. After I had resorted to all sorts of methods and arguments to make him pay me, I said:

"Well, sir, I am going to spoil all the sales made to these men."

He anxiously inquired how I intended to do it.

"Well, I don't suppose it has occurred to you that I am not a licensed auctioneer, and under the laws of the State you have no right to deliver or give a bill of sale for goods sold by an auctioneer not licensed."

His eyes fairly popped out of his head, and turning to his wife with much excitement, said:

"Mary, give him fifty-five dollars, and let him go."

After receiving the money, I said:

"I suppose you would be silly enough to believe me if I should tell you you ought to have a license to eat when you are hungry."

As his boy had hitched up my old horse, I took my departure at once; and driving to the nearest town, sent the money to a wholesale notion house and ordered a stock of auction goods, which was promptly sent.

I began business, working my way back north with a view to striking into Michigan in time for the County Fairs.

During the whole time I had been skirmishing around with my old horse, after closing out my stock at Bodkins, I had clung to the old trunk and my street lamps.

The second day after receiving my goods, while driving along, wondering what would happen next, I noticed a farmer coming from his house to the barn, and after looking down the road at me a moment, climbed up on the board fence and sat there apparently waiting my coming. As I drove up, he yelled:

"Halloo, stranger whatcher got to swap?"

"I'll swap anything I've got. What have you to trade?"

"Well, sir, I've got as handsome a little brown mare as you ever saw. She is too small to work on a farm, and as you've got a big bony cuss there that would make a good plow hoss, I'll give you a big trade."

"Bring 'er out; let's see 'er."

"Here, boy, lead that little brown mare out and let the gentleman see her."

As the boy led her from the stable she came out with her ears laying back and her short tail switching; and I said to myself, "here will be a job breaking a kicker and balker."

"How will you trade?" I asked, not leaving my seat in the wagon, but simply looking through and over the fence at her.

Without leaving his seat on the fence, the man said:

"I'll trade for five dollars to boot."

"I'll trade even."

"No, sir," he said, "I'm expecting threshers to-morrow, and have got to have some money to buy meat and groceries with."

"Well, then, I'll give you two dollars and fifty cents, and no more."

"All right; it's a trade. The boy will change them for you."

The lad then led the mare around, and after unhitching the old horse, changed the harness, and after hitching the mare to the wagon I handed him the amount agreed upon, and started on.

I expected to have a little "circus" with her, but to my surprise and delight she started off on a full trot. The sensation was certainly invigorating, as it was the first time I had ridden faster than a walk in all summer.

The idea of our making the trade without either of us leaving our seats, or asking a single question, rather amused me, and seemed like trading "sight unseen."

I felt that two dollars and-a-half was all I had to risk, anyhow, and if he could afford to be reckless just because he was out of meat, I could afford to take equal chances with him.

This, I think, so far as real value was concerned, was the best horse trade I ever made; the animal was not only sound and kind, but an extra good roadster and a good-looking beast.

The next day when I drove into Plymouth, Ohio, to my surprise I met Doctor Frank. He had concluded to stop there and sell polish for a few days before going to Michigan, and in the meantime write up there and learn more about his friend's offer.

I shall never forget his looks as he came walking up to the wagon just as I was lighting my lamps to open a sale. He had been attracted by the lights and the gathering crowd, and when he saw the new horse and discovered me with a stock of goods, he could hardly believe his own eyes.

I took time to explain how I had made a raise, and about the horse-trade.

He was as much pleased as I was, and started out with me again the next day. We kept our course towards Michigan, and while in Ohio visited several towns in which we had previously sold polish, and where we now made auction sales. In a few days he again left me. I staid in Ohio several weeks, then went into Michigan, meeting with good success and making money quite fast.



The Michigan State Fair was to be held at Jackson that year, and I managed to reach there on the opening day and commenced business at once. I sold on the grounds during the day, and on the streets down town in the evenings, doing a splendid business.

On the second day of the Fair a gentleman came up to my wagon, while I was getting ready to make a sale, and remarked that he had heard me down town the evening before, and was glad to see me doing so well; and told me that he had a business that he could make lots of money at if he could get started; but as he was completely stranded, he was unable to procure a license, or anything else.

In answer to my inquiry as to the nature of his business, he said he had a side-show.

I didn't ask what he had to show, but as I had been in almost every other business but that, I concluded to venture, and asked how much money he would need.

"Twenty-five dollars."

"Anything in it for me, if I'll furnish the money?"

"Yes; there will be half we make for you, after paying expenses."

"All right, sir; I'll help you to get a start."

We called on the Secretary, and after paying for our permit, sent for his canvas and very soon had it up.

I accompanied him down town at noon, and on our way asked what he had to show. He answered:

"The Fat Woman, the Dwarf, the Albino and the Circassian Girl."

When we came to his hotel he asked me in and introduced me to his wife, two sons and a daughter.

I asked him where the show people were.

"I have introduced you to all of them."

"But where is your Fat Woman?"

He pointed to his wife.

"Why, Great Heavens," I shouted, "she is not fat; she is as thin as a match and as long as a wagon track; how are you going to make her fat? And the Circassian Girl—where is she?"

He pointed to his daughter, whose hair was all done up in tins, and said to me:

"Never mind about the show. Every thing will be all right. You get there by one o'clock, and we'll be there ready for business."

Sure enough, they were there. The Fat Woman in her long silk robe, and as big as a hogshead.

The Dwarf in his swallow-tailed coat and wearing a plug hat, and his face deeply furrowed with wrinkles.

The Albino boy with his white hair, but lacking the pink eyes.

The Circassian Girl with her dark bushy hair standing out in all directions from her head.

The Albino played the fife, the Dwarf the snare drum, the Circassian lady the cymbals, and the Fat Woman the base-drum.

The first thing to be done was to erect a small stage on the outside, and the entire party came out, and after stationing themselves in proper order, opened up with music.

While this unique band was thus engaged, my new partner mounted the box and began talking at lightning speed. Crowds of people gathered, and after viewing the pictures of the living wonders on the canvas, and listening to the glowing description given of the "GREATEST OF LIVING CURIOSITIES," they began pouring in and kept it up till the tent was packed full. Then the music ceased and the performers went inside, and the Professor singled them out and delivered a lecture on each one, telling their age, nationality, etc., after which he immediately announced the conclusion of the performance and motioned every one out.

As soon as the tent was cleared the band again made its appearance on the outside, and after attracting a crowd and filling the tent again, would step inside to be exhibited, and this was repeated with immense success till the last day and last hour of the Fair.

It was amusing to see the people gather around and stare at the band of musicians while they were playing on the outside, and then step up and buy tickets to go inside and take another look at them; and, as there was no fault-finding, I suppose they were all satisfied.

I drove my auction wagon as close to the tent as possible, and as fast as I could work the crowd with my goods I would turn them over to my side-show partner, recommending it as absolutely the most singular and remarkable show I had ever seen.

I took the precaution to hire a man to take the tickets, so I had no occasion to interfere with the show; but the last day, in the afternoon, the Professor became almost exhausted; and leaving my wagon I took the blower's stand and relieved him, and through the excitement, soon discovered myself talking Curiosities with as much earnestness as if Barnum's whole menagerie had been inside the tent.

When we figured up and had deducted all expenses, we found ourselves six hundred dollars ahead, which was divided between us; but I had talked so much that I couldn't speak above a whisper.

I wrote home to my wife narrating my success in the show business exhibiting another man's wife and children, and suggested that she get herself and the little boy ready to start at a moment's notice, as I was liable to send for them very soon and start a circus of our own.

As I had no particular taste for that sort of business, however, I thought it best to quit while I was ahead. Consequently I stuck to auctioneering.

My business increased so rapidly as to render me unable to do any thing more with the polish, for which I was very glad. I made several horse and wagon trades, paying boot whenever it was necessary, as I made it a practice of always trading for something better, till at last a nice pair of horses and carriage became my property, with two trunks of goods.

I then worked north through Michigan, and began making regular street parades prior to opening my sale. I would drive around town ringing an auction bell and crying:


My success was almost invariably splendid.

Mr. Keefer wrote me about this time, that he was in need of assistance. His crops had been almost a total failure that year, through which he was unable to meet the payments due on a piece of land he had purchased.

I began an immediate search for a buyer for my horses and carriage, but without success, till one day an old gentleman bantered me to trade the entire outfit for a yoke of oxen and a two-wheeled cart, and was somewhat surprised when I showed my readiness to "swap" for five hundred dollars to boot.

He offered three hundred.

I fell to four.

He offered to split the difference, and I took him up before he had time to draw another breath.

He paid me three hundred and fifty dollars, and I transferred my trunks of goods and other baggage to the cart. When I did so the old gentleman and several others began to laugh, and said they guessed I'd have to hire a teamster, as I would find considerable difference between horses and oxen. I told them of my early boyhood experience in breaking steers, and to prove the truth of my assertion, took up the ox-whip and "gee-d" them around on the streets several times before starting out.

I remitted to Mr. Keefer, took my seat in the cart and continued north, reaching a small village just at sundown, where I made my usual parade, ringing the bell and crying out for everybody to come on Main street and witness the great performing feats of trained oxen. I think everybody must have responded; at any rate I actually made the best two hours' sale I had ever made in the auction business.

The next day I had a pair of blankets made for my team, and had them lettered, "Free Exhibition of Trained Oxen on the Streets this Evening."

On arriving at the next town I hired two small boys each to ride an ox, and ring a bell and halloo at the top of their voices, while I stood up between the trunks in the cart, also yelling and ringing a bell.

We succeeded in getting every one in town out and made a grand sale.

When about to close for the evening, I was asked to give an exhibition of my oxen. I replied that the oxen were there on exhibition, and no charge would be made to those who wished to look at them.

I was asked what they were trained to do.

I replied that among other things they were trained to stand without being hitched!

The fact had been fairly demonstrated that a yoke of trained oxen and cart paid better than a five-hundred-dollar team of horses with a carriage; but as winter was coming on, I saw the necessity of getting rid of them as soon as possible, and found a lumber-man who made me an offer which I accepted.

Then I began traveling by rail, and hiring a livery team in each town.

A few weeks later I returned to Ohio. On my way there I had to change cars at Jonesville, Michigan; and when I boarded the train on the Main Line I noticed, sitting in the second seat from the front door, my old friend the Clairvoyant Doctor. He looked as natural as the day I bade him good-bye at Pontiac, and was wearing the same old silk hat, swallow-tailed coat and plaid pants. There he sat, in his usual position, chin resting on his gold-headed cane, the plug hat poised on the back of his head, and eyes staring vacantly over his gold spectacles, which as usual were balancing across the end of his nose.

My first impulse was to grasp him by the hand, but on second thought I passed on to the third seat behind him, and settled down.

The train was soon under head-way, and I began wondering what I could do to have a little fun at his expense.

Just as I was about to give up the idea for the want of an opportunity, the train slackened up at the next station. As it came to a halt and everything was quiet, I yelled out at the top of my voice: "Change cars for Pocahontas."

The last word had scarcely left my lips when the old Doctor as quick as lightning jumped to his feet, and turning round with the speed of a cat, placed his cane on his seat, and with both hands resting on top of it and his hat on the back of his head, gave a wild, searching look over the car with his spectacles still hanging on the end of his nose. I held a newspaper up in front of me as if interested in reading. A great many people laughed, but of course they could not appreciate the joke as I could. The Doctor then resumed his seat, when I said in a loud tone of voice:

"If the majority of people had more brains and less impecuniosity they would be better off in this world."

At this the Doctor instantly jumped to his feet again and cried out:

"Johnston, you —— red-headed hyena, where are you?"

I then shook him by the hand, and, after quickly relating a part of my experience since leaving him, was informed that he had located in a thriving town in Northern Indiana and was doing well, but had abandoned Clairvoyance. As he was on his way to Toledo we had quite a chat. I referred to our late experience at Pocahontas, a portion of which he enjoyed immensely.

When we arrived at Toledo he said he believed he would eat his supper at the lunch-counter in the depot. Having about thirty minutes' time before my train left, and being a little hungry myself, besides wanting to prolong my visit with the Doctor, I decided to keep him company. He was very hungry and ordered a cold roasted quail with dressing, cold boiled eggs, biscuit, butter and coffee; while I ordered a ham sandwich and coffee.

He ate with a relish and spoke several times about the quail being so very fine, and suggested that I try one.

I told him I wasn't very hungry and didn't care for it.

When we had about half finished our meal another gentleman came rushing up to the counter, and noticing several nicely roasted whole quail ready to serve said:

"Give me one of those quail."

As the waiter handed it over he produced some change and asked how much it was.

"One dollar, sir," replied the waiter.

"Don't want it, don't want it, sir. I'll go up town and eat," and off he went.

"Great ——!" screamed the Doctor, hopping about in his customary frisky, jumping-jack style, and dropping the piece of quail he held in his fingers. "I shouldn't think he would want it. Why, Great Heavens! Great ——! Who ever heard of such a —— outrage. Think of it, Johnston, a dollar for one of those —— little quail, and they are hardly fit to eat. See here, waiter, do you think I am going to pay one dollar for a quail? I want you to understand I am from Indiana, and I know what quail are worth by the dozen. Why, you infernal robbers, they can be bought not a hundred miles from here for one dollar a dozen, and they won't have been dead three months, either. Gentlemen, you have struck the wrong man for once, indeed you have. I am no —— fool; besides——"

"Yes," I interrupted, addressing the waiter, "besides, this gentleman used to wait on table himself in a hotel in Michigan, didn't you, Doctor?"

By this time several people had gathered around. He looked somewhat embarrassed for a moment, but instantly recovering himself and striking the lunch-counter with his fist, very excitedly cried out:

"No, sir; not by a —— sight I don't have to wait table; if I did I'd not work for a man who would dish up a tainted old quail worth eight cents and charge a dollar for it. Why, —— it, Johnston, just think of it—a dollar a dozen in Indiana and a dollar apiece here."

"But, Doctor, go on and finish your meal. You seemed to be enjoying it a little while ago, and spoke of the quail being very nice; and I am certain you haven't more than half finished. Go ahead and eat."

"Oh, eat be ——! I'm not hungry, and if I were I'd eat something besides quail at twelve dollars a dozen. Good ——! If a quail comes to a dollar what in —— nation do you suppose they'll charge for a full meal? It's —— robbery, and I'll not be robbed by them. I'll go down town and eat, as that other man did."

"But, Doctor, what are you going to do? You have eaten about half of that quail, and I can't see how you expect to fix it."

"Well, if quail are in such great demand as to be worth a dollar apiece, they will surely have use for any part of one, and if they wish to take back what I have not eaten, and give me credit for it, I'll settle for the balance. Otherwise I'll stand a lawsuit; for, —— it, Johnston, I tell you I can buy them by the car-load in Indiana for one dollar a——"

"All aboard going east!" shouted the conductor, and, quickly settling my bill and bidding the Doctor good-bye, I left him and the waiter to settle the quail question.



On my return home I met an old acquaintance who had just sold out his grocery and was anxious to invest with me in the auction business. We very soon formed a co-partnership, he furnishing one thousand dollars and I five hundred.

We opened at Upper Sandusky, in a store room, with a stock of notions, hosiery and underwear, but from the very first began losing money. The roads were very muddy, and it rained day in and day out. The weather was warm and there was no demand for our goods. We moved from one town to another with but poor success, hoping for cold weather and a demand for sox and underwear. However, "luck," as we called it, was against us, and when spring came we invoiced and found ourselves with about six hundred dollars' worth of stock on hand.

I then made clear to him that at the rate we had been losing money, we would probably have about five hundred dollars cash after winding up provided we commenced at once and sold out as soon as possible. I suggested that we do so, and I would turn that amount over to him, which would leave us each just five hundred dollars out of pocket for the winter's work.

Hank said he was perfectly satisfied, and I should go on and close out, and he would go home and attend to other business.

I worked into Indiana, and succeeded in finishing just about as we had figured on, for after sending him the last remittance to make up the five hundred dollars, I had about four dollars in cash and an old trunk left.

Elkhart, Indiana, was the town I closed out in, and while stopping there at the hotel I became acquainted with a physician and surgeon from Chicago, Dr. S. W. Ingraham, whose office is now on South Clark Street.

He had been called there to perform a surgical operation, and being obliged to spend an hour or two in the hotel office before taking a return train, he became an interested listener to several stories told by a couple of drummers and myself. He finally told one or two which convinced us that we had struck an old-timer. After we had related some personal experiences I learned, to my great delight, that the Doctor's experience had been almost as varied as my own. He began by relating the different kinds of business he had engaged in while a young man; but he was unable to mention a single thing that I hadn't embarked in and of which I could show up a smattering of knowledge.

Finally he said:

"Now, Johnston, I am going to head you off right here."

"What is it, Doctor? I am anxious to know what it is."

"Well sir, I'll bet you never made a political speech, and I stumped Ohio during one campaign and made one speech a night for ten consecutive weeks."

"I can beat that. I stumped Ohio for Hayes and Tilden, and made two speeches on the platform for one consecutive night."

"But how could you speak for Hayes and Tilden? One was a Democrat and the other a Republican."

"No matter, I did it anyhow, and all in the same speech, too."

And to prove the correctness of my statement, as the Doctor seemed a little incredulous, I jumped to my feet and delivered a part of my Republican speech and then a part of the Democratic, and then headed him off by relating my experience running a fruit stand, the three days with a side-show, besides one or two other ventures. When I told him I was an auctioneer he at once became interested in me, as he had been one himself in his younger days. I quickly satisfied him that I could sell at auction, and he likewise convinced me that he "had been there." I then narrated the ups and downs I had had, and showed up my books for the winter's losses, and how I had just sent my late partner about all the money I had. He asked my plans for the future. I told him about my furniture polish, and that it was always a sure thing. He listened attentively, and after a moment's reflection said:

"But the time of year is just coming when you could make money fast if you had a nice auction stock."

"I know that; and another thing I know is just how to do it now, as I have paid well for my experience."

"Well," said the Doctor, surprising me as he reached down into his pocket and produced a roll of bills, "I am going to loan you one hundred dollars, and I know you will pay it back before three months."

I thanked him, but told him fifty dollars would answer, as I could get along nicely and would prefer to commence as low down as I dared. He insisted that a hundred would be none too much, but I declined to accept more than fifty, and immediately sent to Chicago for a stock of just such goods as I felt certain would sell well and not be too bulky.

I assured the Doctor that if I were successful I would pay him back, and if I was not I would never cross the street to shun him when I came to Chicago, but would surely call on him and acknowledge the debt, anyhow.

I had heard and read of men like Doctor Ingraham, but he was the first of his kind that I had ever met; and realizing that such friendship could not be valued too highly, I determined to not only repay him, but to let him have the satisfaction of knowing sooner or later that the start he gave me had developed into something of consequence.

After he bade me farewell and started for home, I was at a loss to know what to do while waiting for my goods, and had almost concluded to have a few bottles of polish made up with which to make a few dollars, when a young man appeared at the hotel with a very peculiar-looking cylindrical instrument in a box. I was curious to know what it was, and as he looked rather tired and sorry, I ventured to inquire what he had in there. He answered:

"Oh, it's nothing but a 'talking machine.'"

I was fairly dumfounded, and thought perhaps he was casting a slur, as I had been doing considerable talking. At any rate I felt that whether he was telling the truth or not, I had a right to take exceptions.

If he had meant to slur me, I would be insulted.

If he had told the truth, I had a right to oppose unfair competition.

I then demanded an explanation, and assured him that I did nothing else but talk, and considered I had a perfect right to investigate any sort of a machine that would be at all likely to monopolize the business.

He then took the cover off the box and showed me an Edison phonograph, which he had gotten in exchange for a horse. He had come on there expecting to meet his cousin, who was to furnish the money, and they were going to travel and exhibit it.

I asked him to "set 'er going" and let me hear it spout an hour or two. He said it would take several minutes to arrange it, besides he didn't like to use up any more tin foil than was necessary, as he hadn't much on hand.

I asked him what he thought of doing. He said he didn't know, but guessed he'd go back home if his cousin didn't come.

"Why can't you and I give an exhibition?" I asked.

"Where will we give it?"

"Suppose we go to some country school-house a few miles out and give a show to-morrow evening?"

"All right, I'm willing. I have plenty of small hand-bills."

"Then we'll hire a team to-morrow morning and drive out to some thickly-settled neighborhood and advertise it. You're sure it'll talk, are you?"

"Talk? You bet it'll talk!"

The next morning we were up and ready for business, and, after hiring a horse and wagon, started out.

After driving several miles, we found a place where we thought it would pay to stop, and upon inquiring for the school directors, were referred to a farmer living near by.

We called on him, and after stating our business and promising himself and family passes, were given an order on the school-teacher for the key, when she had locked up for the day. We drove directly there, where we found nearly forty scholars in attendance.

After making the teacher's acquaintance and explaining our business, she gave us permission to deliver a circular to each one present, and to make an announcement.

This I managed to do, and stated to them that if I had time after the performance with the talking machine, I would deliver a lecture on Telegraphy, and explain the manner of sending messages, and how batteries were made, and how long it would take a message to travel from New York to San Francisco.

My idea, of course, was to represent as much of an attraction as possible, as I felt certain that if we got them there, and got the machine to talking once, they would forget all about Telegraphy.

On our way out my partner had drilled me on what to say to the Phonograph in order to have the words reproduced distinctly. He said it was necessary to use a certain set of words that I could speak very distinctly, and that would be penetrating, and recommended the following:

"Dickery-dickery-dock, The-mouse-ran-up-the-clock, The-clock-struck-one, And the-mouse-ran-down, Dickery-dickery-dock."

After making arrangements at this school-house, we started out and visited two other districts and advertised our performance. The result was that people came from all directions, in carriage and wagon loads. They had all heard or read of Edison's talking machine, and were anxious to see and hear it.

The house was packed, and we took in over forty dollars at the door.

At eight o'clock I announced everything ready for the exhibition, and requested all to remain as quiet as possible throughout the performance.

Of course I was as ignorant of the manner of manipulating the talking machine as any one of the audience.

I didn't know whether the thing had to be "blowed up" or "wound up," and was obliged to leave it all with my partner, who seemed perfectly confident of its success.

After arranging the tin foil he took hold of the crank, began turning, and instructed me to place my mouth over the instrument and speak my little piece about the mouse and clock. After finishing, I stepped back to await results.

He turned the crank, and the thing gave just one unearthly, agonizing groan and, I imagined, rolled its eyes back, and gasping for breath, died a natural death.

The audience showed a look of disappointment. I endeavored to convince them by my careless, indifferent manner that it was only a common occurrence, and that all would soon be right.

My partner tried to laugh it off and make believe it was a good joke, but I noticed very quickly large drops of perspiration standing on his forehead as he busied himself in trying to fix the machine.

At last he was ready to try it again, and instructed me to speak louder and more distinctly than I did before. I was determined that he should not lay the blame to me for not talking loud enough, and therefore used all the strength and power of lungs and voice that I could command. The result was less satisfactory than before, for not a sound could we get from it.

The audience began to show impatience, and from different words and expressions that came from them we were convinced that they were not going to submit easily to anything but an exhibition of some kind.

By this time my partner had taken off his coat and vest, although it was really cold enough for an overcoat, and the perspiration was fairly dripping from him. He was much excited and I wasn't feeling any too gay myself.

We began working on the machine together, which gave us a chance to converse in an undertone. I asked if he had ever tried to run it before. He said no, but he was certain he knew how.

I told him it really looked as though he must have boarded and roomed with Edison when he conceived the idea of making the thing.

"Are you positively certain it ever did talk?"

"I know it has talked."

"Did you ever hear it?"

"No, but my cousin did."

"Great Scott, man! you don't know whether this is a Phonograph or a washing-machine; and I am certain it looks more like the latter. What are we going to do?"

He said he guessed we'd better give back the money and let them go.

"Yes, that would be a bright thing! Do you suppose I'd give back this money? Not much."

"Well, but we'll have to. What can we do?"

"What can we do? Well sir, we've got to do something to entertain these people and hold their money, if you and I have to give them a double song and dance."

"My gracious, Johnston, I can't dance!"

"But you have got to dance. I can't dance either, but this is a 'ground-hog case,' and we've got to dance and sing too."

"I guess I'll announce to them that you will favor them with a song and single clog, and then we will appear together."

As I stepped to the table I heard him say:

"I'll take my hat and run!"

Then, stepping to the front, I said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you will be patient with us a few moments. The trouble is just this: We brought the Phonograph over here in an open wagon, and as the weather has been cold and damp, and we forgot to keep the thing blanketed, it took a severe cold, which seems to have settled on its lungs, rendering it unable to speak above a whisper. But with your kind indulgence we hope to doctor it up and be ready to give you a nice exhibition in a few moments."

Of course I expected our audience to laugh at and ridicule the idea of its taking cold, and was surprised that not a single person cracked a smile, but, on the contrary, every one seemed to gaze at the instrument with a look of sympathy.

When I returned to my partner, who was still trying to fix it, he was nervous and showed much agitation, and said:

"Oh, what a relief. I would have sunk through the floor if you had announced what you said you were going to."

"Do you think you can fix it?"

"It don't look like it. Say, Johnston, suppose you deliver that lecture on Photography?"

"On Telegraphy, you mean."

"Oh yes, Telegraphy. Go ahead."

"But it won't take three minutes to tell all I know about that."

"Well then, by Jove, we've got to give back the money."

"Not much! No giving back the money with me; and as I sold the tickets and have the cash, you can rely on that. You have got to do something to entertain these people. You can sing can't you?"

"Indeed I can not."

"Can you whistle?"

"No, sir."

"Can you do anything? Can you speak a piece?"

"Johnston, if my life was at stake I couldn't do a thing! —— the old talking machine anyhow! I wish—"

"Say, I'll tell you what we'll do. I'll announce to them that the Phonograph is too sick to talk, and will give them a choice of three things: Either a lecture on Phrenology or Telegraphy, or an imitation of a Yankee peddler selling his wares at auction; and the moment I say 'auction' you look up and begin to laugh and clap your hands and say, 'Johnston, give them the Yankee peddler; that's the best of all.'"

He agreed, and when I made the announcement he had no sooner carried out my instructions than the whole house cried as with one voice:

"Yes, yes, give us the Yankee peddler!"

Then I felt relieved and knew we had them. I then explained that Yankee peddlers usually carried handkerchiefs, sox, hosiery, shears, shoe-laces, suspenders, soap, pencils, pins, razors, knives, etc., and if some one of the crowd would name any article, I would go through the formality of selling it on the down east Dutch auction style.

A lad sitting near me on a front seat cried out:

"Here, Mister, play you are selling my knife," and reaching out and taking it in my hand, after making a few preliminary remarks, I began with the twang of the almost extinct down east Yankee, and in a high-pitched voice and at lightning speed, rattled off:

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, the first article I am going to offer for your inspection is a fine silver-steel blade knife with a mother-of-pearl handle, brass lined, round-joint tapped and riveted tip top and bottom a knife made under an act of Congress at the rate of thirty-six dollars per dozen there is a blade for every day in the week and a handle for your wife to play with on Sunday it will cut cast-iron steam steel wind or bone and will stick a hog frog toad or the devil and has a spring on it like a mule's hind leg and sells in the regular way for—"

I then went on with my usual plan of selling, and introduced the endless variety of sayings and jokes which I had been two years manufacturing and collecting, and then went on through the whole list of Yankee notions, giving my full description of everything, to the great satisfaction of my audience and the surprise of my partner, who was in ignorance of the fact of my ever having been in the auction business.

I kept this up for over two hours and kept the crowd laughing almost constantly. This, I considered, was about as much as any show could do, and felt that I was not only entitled to their money, but that I had struck quite a novel way of utilizing my knowledge of auctioneering.

After closing the entertainment the people gathered around, and many of them wanted me to stay in the neighborhood and deliver a lecture the next night on Phrenology. But as we were billed at Elkhart for that date, it was impossible to do so. We remained over night with the school director, and the next morning he requested me to delineate the character of his son by an examination of his head.

I had always been interested in the study of human nature, and consequently had taken considerable pains to read up and post myself on Physiognomy. I had a fair knowledge of temperaments, and altogether was enabled to pass fair judgment on the lad. While I hadn't the slightest knowledge of Phrenology, I was more or less familiar with the terms used by them, such as benevolence, veneration, firmness, self-esteem, approbativeness, caution, combativeness, ideality, etc., etc., and began at once to delineate the boy's character.

When I placed my fingers on the front part of the boy's head and looked wise, saying "large combativeness," the father said:

"Great Caesar! do you locate combativeness in the front of the head?"

"Who in thunder said it was in the front of the head?"

"But you put your fingers on the front part of the head."

"Yes, possibly so, but if I did my thumb was at the same time resting on the bump of combativeness. My gracious, any one knows where that is!"

This satisfied him, and the whole family were delighted with the boy's prospects when I had finished.

We were then ready to leave, and when I asked how much our bill would be, he said he guessed two dollars would be about right, and then inquired what my charges would be for examining the boy's head. I told him two dollars and a half was the usual price, but we'd call it square on our board bill. He said he thought it would be about right to call it even.

My partner thought it the most wonderful thing he had ever heard of that I should be able to jump up before that large crowd of people, as I did the night before, and conjure up such a lot of talk on notions, and he couldn't see how I did it. He said he believed I was inspired.

On our return to Elkhart we divided our cash and dissolved partnership.



As my goods had arrived at Elkhart, I started out immediately, selling from a trunk, and met with splendid success. I concluded to make a trip north, through the lumber country. As my facilities were going to be poor for hiring livery teams in the majority of those towns, with which to drive out upon the streets to make a sale, I began trying to invent something to take with me on which to put my trunks when selling.

One day I saw a gentleman pushing a two-wheeled cart, and it occurred to me that I could put end-boards on it, and after placing a trunk on each end I could stand up very nicely in the center, which would bring me at just about the proper height above my audience.

Acting accordingly, I bought the cart, and after having the end-boards put on and a standard made to fasten at the rear end of the box to keep the thing from tipping backward, I bought another trunk and made "a pitch" with it.

It was just the thing. I could give the baggage-men on the trains from twenty-five to fifty cents each time I made a trip and when I arrived at my destination it would be thrown off with my trunks. I was thereafter troubled no more with the annoyance of procuring a suitable conveyance to sell from.

I traveled through the lumber country in Michigan and very soon remitted my new friend, Doctor Ingraham, the full amount of my indebtedness, and explained to him my new plan which was saving me lots of money in livery hire.

His reply, acknowledging the receipt of the money, did me more good than the making of a small fortune would have done. He assured me that if I ever needed assistance I could always depend on him, as he liked a good "hus'ler" and liked to favor them all he could, when he knew they were square.

My wife joined me a few weeks later, leaving little Frankie with my mother. She traveled with me all summer and business kept fairly good. We continued on till fall, when she returned to Ohio and I went South to the climate my mother had previously recommended as adapted to straw hats and linen dusters.

I remained there during the winter, meeting with fair success, and returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I remained a few weeks.

On May first my wife met me there, when we started on a trip to the Lake Superior country, visiting all the mining towns and meeting with unusually good success.

During the entire trip I paid all our traveling expenses with the sale of needles. This I managed by employing four small boys each day in every town to peddle them for me. I put the needles up in twenty-five cent packages, and gave each boy five cents commission per package on his sales, and always made it a point to select not more than one boy from any particular neighborhood or locality, and instructed him to call on every relative and neighbor he had, and if possible make a sale; and for every extra day I remained in town I would employ a new set of boys. In this way I managed to reach almost every house in every town I visited, and although my time was almost wholly occupied in keeping my auction stock in shape, I was able to manage this little scheme so as to net me a regular profit of from three to ten dollars per day.

I still kept my two-wheeled cart, which I could hardly have dispensed with in a country where horses and carriages were scarce. We pushed our way toward the north, with but few incidents worthy of mention.

At Sault St. Marie we were obliged to remain five days before getting a boat to Marquette, and the first night I opened my sale there was called upon by an officer who demanded a State license. This was the first time I had ever been asked for State license, and the first intimation I had ever had that there was a law requiring it. But as Governor Crosswell and staff were then visiting the town and were at that moment sitting on the porch of the hotel witnessing my sale, it instantly occurred to me that the gentleman was making himself over-officious, with a view to making a favorable impression upon the State officials.

And as he showed considerable awkwardness in demanding a license by inquiring if I had State license to sell, I quickly "sized him up" and said:

"No sir, I have no license to sell, but I have soap and fine tooth combs for sale, and the Lord knows you need them more than you do a license."

He appeared considerably offended and displaying his star said:

"I demand your license, sir!"

"Do you understand the laws regarding your duty as an officer?"

"I think I do, sir."

"Then, sir, you know you have no right, under the law, to ask me for a license. Your only course is to make inquiries of the Secretary of State, and as that official is sitting right there on the porch, not more than twenty feet from here, I'll refer you to him; but unless you are prepared to pay damages don't you interrupt me again, for I want you to distinctly understand that my license entitles me to the privilege of doing all the talking there is done here to-night, and I propose to do it. If you have anything to say, you must go outside the corporation."

I resumed business immediately, when I heard the officer say (as he passed out, amid the hisses and laughter of my audience):

"I'll see a lawyer about this."

The next day I interviewed the Governor and the State Secretary and Treasurer, and was informed that there was a law requiring the payment of fifteen dollars per annum for State license.

I prevailed upon them to allow me to pay the amount to them and receive a receipt for it to show I had acted in good faith, and they were to forward my license to me at Marquette.

The next night, just as I had gotten nicely started with my sale, the same officer came up again and demanded my license, saying he had spent some time with a good lawyer in looking up the law, and he knew it was his duty to demand a license of me direct. I said:

"Well, if you'll jump up here and hand out these boxes of soap, so as not to interfere with my sale, I'll go inside and get my license."

He agreed, and climbed into the cart, when I stepped back in the crowd and began urging every one about me to patronize him as much as possible, and explained to them that I intended to stay away and let him worry it out till he got tired. He made several sales and then began to look anxious and silly. I still kept in the background and he sent a boy into the hotel to learn my whereabouts. The lad returned with the information that I had not been there since I opened my sale.

After the crowd had laughed at him and the small boys had "guyed" him till he was ready to quit, I stepped up briskly and said:

"Mister, have you got either State or city license to act as an auctioneer, or to hawk goods upon the street at public sale?"

He said he didn't need any.

"Very well, sir," I said as I climbed in the cart and forced him out, "as this is America, where one man's rights are as good as another's, I guess I can get along without license if you can."

The crowd laughed again and he stepped off without molesting me further. The only satisfaction I experienced was that of beating him at his own game, and I had gotten rid of him without having to show up my receipt.

When it was given to me by one of the State officials, he remarked that while he didn't think I would be likely to get into any difficulty so long as I could show it up, he was certain that by law I had no authority to sell till I had procured the license. I therefore thought best to avoid showing my receipt till the very last resort. I made several other sales there, but was not molested again.

Our next town was Marquette, where our success was far beyond our expectation. I remember the first night I sold there, just as I had started in and was having a big run, a tall, slim man with a very intelligent face and a large, red nose, but rather roughly dressed, came rushing through the crowd, swearing at the top of his voice and calling me all manner of names. I shouted at the very top of my voice:

"Stop, sir! Stop right where you are!" And as he obeyed me I said:

"Don't you advance another step, sir! If you open your mouth again I'll have you arrested!"

"Hic—hic—what for?"

"For violating the revenue law," I quickly answered, discovering he was intoxicated.

"Hic-for-hic-for violating the revenue law, did you say?"

"Yes sir, that's what; and as sure as you open your mouth again I'll have you arrested. You are old enough and have had experience enough to know better than to come out here on Main Street and open a rum-hole without paying license!"

The crowd yelled and screamed and whooped and shouted with unusual enthusiasm, which at once convinced me that I had struck something different from the ordinary, and my opinion was fully confirmed when he commenced to laugh, and stepping within my reach began buying my goods as fast as I could hand them to him. He never opened his mouth, but kept reaching for the goods as fast as I could count them and pass them out, and handed me a dollar for each sale, as I was selling in dollar lots. This he kept up till he had loaded himself and several friends, and started off, saying he would be back the next night.

After he left I was informed that he was worth several millions, which he had made in iron and copper mines.

The next night I went out with my cart rather early, as usual, and lighted my torches and returned to the hotel to await the regular time for opening. When I came out again I was surprised to see every window in every building around me occupied by nicely dressed ladies, and the streets filled with handsome horses drawing carriages occupied, as I could see, by a well-to-do class of people.

It was remarked by many the next day that there never had been as large a crowd gathered on the street at one time before, and the result of my sale, which was three times larger than any I had ever before had, proved to me what a little free advertising could do.

I looked in vain, as did also many of my audience, for the rich miner, but he didn't come.

We continued on towards the copper country, working the iron mining towns on our way, arriving at Houghton the middle of July.

The next day after making my first sale there, I was walking down street, and when passing a store room a gentleman came to the door and said:

"You're just the man that ought to buy me out and sell the goods at auction."

"What have you got?"

"I have everything—boots, shoes, suits of clothes, overcoats, dishes, notions and I don't know what I haven't got."

I asked his reason for selling. He replied that it was a stock that had gone through a fire, and he had bought it for a few hundred dollars and was then six hundred dollars ahead, and would sell the balance cheap. I stepped inside and after glancing over the stock asked his price.

"Six hundred dollars."

"I'll give you just twenty-five per cent. of that, and no more," and started to walk out.

"I'll take two hundred fifty."

"No sir," taking a roll of money from my pocket and showing it to him, "one hundred and fifty, and your cash in your fingers."

"All right, count it out."

"But step to the Recorder's office and assure me that there is no mortgage on your stock and that it belongs to you, and after giving me a bill of sale your money is ready."

He did so, and I made the purchase.

In this stock was a quantity of paper cambric of all colors, and when the firemen were trying to put out the fire they had deluged it, and the result was that the water had soaked through it and had carried with it all the colors, leaving each piece variegated.

I was at a loss to know what to do with it, and finally concluded to cut it up into dress patterns of sixteen and two-thirds yards and then give one pattern away with each dollar sale that evening when I sold at auction.

That night, before opening my sale, I picked up one of the pieces, and handing one end of it to a boy, requested him to run down the street with it till he got it all straightened out. While the boy was holding to one end and I to the other, I went on and explained that I had that day bought out Mr. ——, and as I had no knowledge of the dry-goods business and couldn't tell a piece of calico from an Irish tarpaulin, that they must not blame me if I sold them silk for Canton flannel.

Besides the paper cambric I had a lot of other pieces of dress goods, which were in good shape and which I intended to sell to the highest bidder.

Just as I was about to inaugurate my gift enterprise scheme, some gentleman of German descent cried out in broken English:

"Swei dollar."

I at once yelled:

"Sold for two dollars, and who will have the next sixteen and two-thirds yards for two dollars?"

"I'll take 'em," "I'll take 'em," "Here," "Here," "Give me one," "Give me one," they all shouted at once, and the two-dollars were as thick as hailstones in less than a second. I stood there and tossed out the dress patterns and caught their two-dollar bills and silver pieces like a Chinese juggler. After I had cleaned out every dollar's worth of the cambric I said:

"Gentlemen, I am going to be frank with you now, and advise you not to represent to your wives that you have any great bargain in these dress patterns, for they may be better posted than any of us are. But I'll tell you what I'll do, boys. If you are dissatisfied now I'll give you two dollars' worth of any other goods I have, and take the dress patterns back; or if your wives are not satisfied they can come to the store to-morrow at ten o'clock and I'll give them two dollars' worth of any goods I have in exchange for the patterns."

They agreed that that was fair, and all stayed and I made a splendid sale of notions.

The next day, at two o'clock, I went down to the store and found a crowd of women large enough to fill a small circus tent. Each one had a dress pattern, and as I passed by to unlock the door each had something to say. The crowd was composed of all classes—Polish, Norwegian, Irish, German, Cornish, etc. The Irish, with their sharp tongues and quick wit, were predominant, and all together they had considerable sport in relating what their husbands had to say when they brought home the dress patterns and learned that those same goods had been offered for one-fourth of a cent a yard ever since the fire. I took every piece back and allowed them to trade it out. I employed two young men to help me that afternoon and took down each lady's name and then jumped up and made an auction sale to them. We kept each lady's purchase by itself, and after the sale had a final settlement with them, many of whom had bought enough to bring them considerably in my debt.

This was one of the very best advertisements for me, as it convinced the people that I would do by them as I agreed; and they all considered it a good joke, and the afternoon sale having made me acquainted with many women, I had no trouble in getting a large crowd every night who bought freely.

After making several sales at Houghton I packed up and went over to Hancock and Red Jacket, where I met with flattering success. As nearly as I could estimate it, I cleared about twelve hundred dollars on my investment of one hundred and fifty.

I sold nearly everything at an advance on the regular first cost, but when I came to look through the boxes and drawers and sort all the goods contained in my new stock, I was much surprised and greatly pleased.

I remained at Red Jacket six weeks, making sales every night.

On the first of September, as it had begun to get cold up there, and in fact had twice snowed a very little the last of August, we returned to Chicago, when I immediately called on my friend Doctor Ingraham. He didn't recognize me until I took a large roll of bills, containing over three thousand dollars, from my pocket and said:

"Doctor, I would be pleased to loan you a hundred dollars and I'll bet you will pay it back in less than three months."

"O-ho, Johnston, you have got to the front, haven't you? How are you?—how are you?" shaking me warmly by the hand.



Now that I had made considerable money and had it in cash I determined on doing two things.

The first, was to arrange with some wholesale jewelry house to furnish me with what stock I needed, at a small advance above the manufacturers' price, to travel on the road and supply the retail trade—as I had never given up the idea of some day becoming a wholesale jeweler.

The second, was to return immediately to Bronson, Michigan, and Clyde, Ohio, and pay all of my debts, which had been running a long time. With the first object in view I set out to find headquarters for purchasing my jewelry, and succeeded in finding a dealer who offered me satisfactory prices. After looking his goods over and coming to an understanding with him, I informed him that I was going east for a few days, and on my return would select a stock of goods and start out.

My wife and I then packed our trunks, and had bought our tickets ready for a start, when I happened to pick up a paper and read an advertisement offering four thousand dollars' worth of goods for two thousand dollars. I thought it a good idea to make a couple of thousand more before starting east, if I could just as well as not, and called on the advertiser.

I first demanded to know if the stock was clear of incumbrance; and when convinced that it was, I looked it over, and although it looked to me like ten thousand dollars' worth, I laughed at the fellow for having cheek enough to ask two thousand dollars for it.

He asked how much I thought it was worth.

I offered five hundred dollars.

He offered to take eighteen hundred.

"Well, sir, we are only thirteen hundred dollars apart, and I'll split the difference with you and pay the cash."

So saying, I "flashed" my roll of money, when he agreed to my proposition.

After I had made the purchase I asked the gentleman (who was a German) why he had sold so cheap. He informed me that his uncle had recently died in Germany, and left him a large fortune; and he was anxious to go there and spend the balance of his life.

His explanation satisfied me, and I began packing up the goods ready for shipment.

We gave up our trip east, and after buying nearly two thousand dollars' worth of almost all kinds of goods, such as tin-ware, glass-ware, crockery, woolen goods, etc., to put with the miscellaneous line I had just bought, we started out for the country towns with a large stock, and advertised to sell at private sale only, and to remain but six weeks in each town. My reason for giving up the auction sales was this: I had begun to have some trouble with my throat, and was advised by the doctor to do no more auctioneering for at least six months.

We continued on with our large stock of goods and traveled through a section of country where the mud was so deep during the fall and winter that it took four horses to haul an empty lumber wagon.

We tried to get into a country where the farmers could occasionally get to town, but the farther we traveled the deeper the mud kept getting. It usually took about all the money I could take in at one town to pay freights and the expense of moving to the next.

I had established a very good commercial standing with several wholesale houses in Chicago with whom I had been dealing, and felt anxious to make a success, if for no other reason than to sustain my credit. This I realized was an important feature in building up a business of any kind.

After remaining in Illinois and Indiana till spring, I decided to work my way back into Michigan, where I felt certain of finding good roads, if nothing else.

The first day of April found us at Plainwell, Michigan, with a very light stock of goods and a small roll of money. After taking a careful inventory of my stock, and figuring up my liabilities, I at once saw that if I could sell out and receive one hundred cents on the dollar at what I had invoiced, I could just about pay my debts to the wholesale houses, and I decided to make an auction sale and close out immediately, and thus save my credit.

By the first of May I had succeeded in selling out everything I possessed; and after paying up all of my Chicago debts, had but a few dollars left.

Of course my first thought was Furniture Polish. But on the very day when I was about to order some of the preparation put up, I happened into the express office, and there saw on the shelf a package of jewelry addressed to my name.

It was an order I had given before deciding to close out, and when it came I refused to take it, instructing the agent to return to the shipper. He had neglected to do this, and when I asked him why, he laughed and said he thought best to hold it awhile and see if I wouldn't conclude to take it.

At this simple suggestion it instantly occurred to me that I could make good use of such goods by selling to the people about the hotels where I traveled. I therefore accepted the package, and after looking it over, which in all amounted to less than fifty dollars' worth, I hired a carpenter to make me a sample case, for which I paid him five dollars. After arranging my goods nicely in the trays, we started on the road. I had with me also two dozen bottles of the "Incomprehensible" as a sort of stand-by.

We visited several towns where I "hus'led" out with the polish, meeting with fair success as usual, and managed to sell a piece of jewelry occasionally, which netted a fair profit.

At White Cloud, Michigan, I called at the drug store of A. G. Clark & Co. to make a small purchase. When in conversation with Mr. Clark I mentioned that I was in the jewelry business and would be pleased to show him my goods. He said he had never handled jewelry in connection with his drugs, and had no idea it would pay. I persisted, however, in showing him my line, till he at last consented, when I hastened to the hotel for my sample case and returned at once.

When I opened the case, containing about two dozen empty trays and only three trays of goods, Mr. Clark looked rather disgusted, and asked where I hailed from. I reported myself on my way in, and was closing out my samples and delivering on the spot.

"Oh, I see; that accounts for your empty trays."


He began picking out a few pieces, and kept it up till he had selected what he considered enough for a fair stock, and asked me to make out a bill.

I did so, and billed it on a piece of brown paper, calling to mind my jewelry experience of years before. The amount was twenty-nine dollars, which he paid and I receipted in full.

If Mr. Clark reads this book it will no doubt be the first intimation he has ever had that he was my first customer; and as he is still in business there, and has a large show-case full of jewelry, which he takes pride in keeping replenished often, and always favors me when placing his orders, I take it for granted that he has never had occasion to regret his first investment in that line.

I then called on another dealer and sold eight dollars' worth.

When I returned to the hotel I made known my success to my wife, and declared my intention of sticking to it. She reminded me that I had always contended that it required large capital; and wondered how I could expect to succeed with a fifty-dollar stock then, when I was unable to get along with several times that amount years before.

I told her I thought she was mistaken about my stock in trade, and assured her that my present stock was fifty times larger than when I tried it before. In considerable astonishment she asked me what I meant.

"I mean that experience should be invoiced as stock in trade; and as I have had lots of it since my first experiment, I am going to fill up two trays in my sample case with jewelry, and in each one of the empty trays I'll put a card with the word 'experience' written on it; and if a merchant laughs at my goods I'll explain that my stock consists of jewelry and experience, but that I am only selling the jewelry, and keeping the experience for my own use."

This plan was carried out; and in every instance when I called on a merchant and displayed all of my trays on his counter, he would take the cards up one after the other, and after reading the word "experience" on each and every one, would ask its meaning. I always explained that I had more experience than capital, and as I valued it very highly, I considered it perfectly legitimate to figure it as stock in trade. This generally brought a smile from them, and as a rule seemed to work to my benefit. At any rate, I sold jewelry to almost every dealer I called upon.

As I was then owing my wholesaler fifty dollars for the first bill, I at once ordered several small packages sent on ahead of me C.O.D. to different towns, and as I came to them would take them up.

This gave me a chance for some "tall hus'ling," and I made the most of it.

I began by showing up my jewelry early in the morning to clerks or porters at the hotel, and in the evening before retiring, to the hotel girls.

As soon as the stores were opened I visited every merchant in town, and sold to Jewelers, Grocers, dealers in Dry Goods and Hardware, Druggists, Restaurants, Milliners, in short, to every one who had a show-case.

At noon I would open up in the hotel office, ostensibly to arrange my jewelry, but for no other purpose than to attract the attention of boarders or guests to my stock of goods.

Whenever they asked to buy I would assume an air of independence and indifference, and quote the price of every article by the dozen, and was sure to mention that it was the wholesale price. Of course almost every one was anxious to buy at wholesale, and I had no trouble in disposing of goods.

When at the depots awaiting trains I always got into the good graces of the Telegraph Operator by convincing him that I could read readily from his instrument, and usually sold him an article of jewelry, and often several dollars' worth. I might add here that in traveling about the country it was quite entertaining to listen to every telegraph instrument, while waiting for trains, and consequently I kept in fair practice. As I still cling to that habit, I find little difficulty, even now, in reading rapidly.

When going from place to place on the cars, I made it a point to "spot" my man as soon as I entered the car, and managed to either get into the same seat with him or one very near; and before I was fairly settled I would find it necessary to open my sample case, and if possible would ask my would-be victim to hold some of the trays while I arranged a few goods in the bottom of my case. It was never necessary for me to offer to sell to them, as they were usually eager to look through my stock, and very anxious to buy when informed that I was a wholesaler.

It used to amuse me to come in contact with the high-salaried drummers, upon whose personal sales their houses solely depended for success, and see them spend a large share of their valuable time in "getting acquainted" with some prominent merchant prior to inviting him to the hotel to see their samples, which only for the disgrace of carrying their cases from store to store they would have had with them. It was always an easy matter for me to frustrate this class of salesmen in their schemes of getting acquainted, as I always had my sample case ready to spring open at the very first opportunity; and as I usually managed to get the floor, and almost invariably did all the talking, the "box," as a rule, was opened up to the merchant on short notice; and although I considered a sale half made when this was accomplished, I never quit talking or quit pushing sales, and always hurried my customer through as fast as possible, and as soon as finished bade him good-bye and left his store.

Many a good sale I made in this way while my modest, sleek, forty-dollar-a-month friend stood by and wondered how long I had been acquainted with the proprietor.

We traveled through Michigan, visiting the same towns we had sold auction goods in the year before; and wherever I traveled, the moment I would step off the cars I would hear such remarks as these from men and boys:

"There's the auction man. We'll have a circus to-night; he can talk a man to death in five minutes. Wonder what he's got in that box."

In about thirty days from the day I made my first sale of jewelry I arrived at Cheboygan, Michigan; and upon taking an inventory of stock and cash, found I had cleared just six hundred and twenty-five dollars over and above all our expenses.

On calling for my mail at this place I received a letter from the proprietor of the wholesale house I had been dealing with, requesting me to come to Chicago at once, as they had a very important proposition to make to me. When I returned to the hotel I met my wife in the hall and said: "Flo., I guess G. & S. want to take me in partnership with them; at any rate they have written me to come to Chicago, and I think we'd better start at once."

We boarded a small steamer for Traverse City, where we took the steamer "City of Traverse," and after about forty-eight hours' ride arrived in Chicago, and I immediately called on the firm with a feeling of almost absolute assurance that thirty minutes later would find me a member of the concern. After shaking hands and passing the time of day, one of the firm called me into his private office and informed me that they had concluded to put me on the road at a stipulated salary.

"But I never work on a salary. It's against my principles and ideas of business."

"Yet you would certainly prefer a sure thing, wouldn't you, Johnston?"

"No, sir; not a bit of it. I wouldn't snap my finger for a sure thing. There is no fun, excitement or satisfaction in a sure thing, and worse still, no money in it."

"Well, you wouldn't refuse an extra good offer, would you?"

"Yes, sir, I think I would."

"Do you mean to say that money wouldn't hire you?"

"Oh, no. I don't say that."

"Well, now just stop to consider, Johnston, how many years you have been working for yourself; and how much are you worth?"

"Indeed, Mr. S., I am worth more than you are, to-day."

"How so?"


"Experience? Do you claim that as capital?"

"Indeed I do, sir, and worth more than all your store. I have been several years getting ready to make money, while you have been making it before you got ready. I have had too many ups and downs in my early life not to be able to profit by at least some of them sooner or later; and I can't afford now to go to work for you on a salary, and give you the benefit of all these years' experience. Not much, sir, and I'll just keep 'hus'ling.' If I can't win, I can die in the cause."

"But the probabilities are, you will never get enough ahead to start a business of your own, and will always keep in the same old rut."

"But I am not the 'rutty' kind, Mr. S. Besides, I dislike to work for any one but Johnston."

"Well, let's see how much it will take to hire you for a year."

"Very well; you mark on a piece of paper how much you will give, and I'll mark how much I'll take."

He agreed, and assured me he was going to make me an extra good offer for a new-beginner. When we had both put down our figures we threw our papers on the desk. He had marked six hundred dollars a year and expenses, and I had put down thousand dollars and expenses.

I asked, with much astonishment, if he didn't mean thousands, and he, with equal astonishment, asked if I didn't mean hundreds.

On my assuring him that I meant just what I had put down, he asked on what basis I figured. I answered, on the basis of having cleared over six hundred dollars the first month, on a capital of fifty dollars' worth of goods and one million dollars' worth of experience.

"Great Heavens! have you cleared that much since you commenced?"

I convinced him by showing my stock and cash on hand. He said he knew, of course, that I had been selling a great many goods, but he supposed I had done so by cutting prices.

I at once made arrangements to start out again.

The firm offered me a limited credit of one hundred dollars, which I accepted, realizing that some day I would find it convenient to have some one to refer to in case I should get in shape to begin business for myself.

My wife again accompanied me, and we returned to Northern Michigan and began with excellent sales. I delivered all my goods on the spot, and sold exclusively for cash.

We continued on in this manner till fall, visiting almost every town in Northern Michigan and Wisconsin, when I had increased my stock to several hundred dollars, and was making money fast.



As cold weather was approaching, my wife concluded to return to Chicago, and I proceeded towards the Northwest. At Duluth I received two large packages of new goods, which came C.O.D., and which took nearly my last dollar.

I carried with me a leather trunk in which to keep my reserved stock, and as I had but a few moments' spare time, after receiving the goods at Duluth, before the train left for Aiken, Minnesota, I put all of my new goods in the leather trunk, leaving but a small stock in my sample case. I then checked the trunk to Aiken, where I arrived at one o'clock in the morning.

From force of habit I had become accustomed to stepping forward towards the baggage car, whenever I alighted at a depot, to see that my baggage was taken off; and this time not being an exception, I remained standing by till I saw my trunk taken off and set to one side, when I proceeded to the hotel.

I expected to have a porter return to the depot and assist me in carrying it to the hotel, but on reaching there found a cheap fourth-rate house, with not less than fifty or sixty drunken woodsmen, and at once decided that the jewelry would be safer at the depot than there, and retired without it.

The next morning I presented my check and was informed that there was no piece of baggage there with a corresponding number. I told the baggage-man that I saw him take it off and set it on the platform.

He was sure he had never seen it, and at once accompanied me to Brainerd, where the general baggage-agent's report showed that the trunk had been reported taken off at Aiken; the agent at this place then produced the duplicate to my check, and stated that the conductor of the train on which I had come from Duluth had found it on the rear end of the hind car, just after leaving Aiken. The superintendent took immediate steps towards having the matter ferreted out, and very kindly gave me a pass over the road.

It was plain to be seen that the baggage-man at Aiken had gathered up some other pieces of baggage and carried them inside, and left mine on the outside, when a couple of men picked it up, and putting it on the rear end of the car, rode a mile or two upgrade to an Indian camp, where they threw it off and then jumped off themselves. These men were traced to the head of the Mississippi River, where they took a canoe and started down stream. Nothing more was ever heard of them or the goods; and as the State laws made the Railroad Company responsible for wearing apparel only, I could collect nothing from them. But as the trunk happened to contain a small compartment in which I carried my shirts, underwear, handkerchiefs, socks, etc., I made Mr. Superintendent smile, a few weeks later, when I handed in my bill for them, at Fargo. He laughed, and said he had never happened to meet a man before who wore such high-priced shirts and underwear.

After giving up my trunk and goods as lost, I looked over my stock of jewelry in the case; and although it was badly in need of a few extras to make it complete, I considered it enough to commence with again, and started out to see what I could do.

I was unable to do anything at Brainerd, and concluded to visit smaller towns, where my little stock would look larger. I took an evening train, arriving at a small hamlet a few miles west, in time to work the town that evening. But fate seemed to be against me, for I couldn't make a sale, and to make time I would have to get up the next morning about half past two to get a local freight train going west.

The landlord called me, and after making my toilet I started for the depot, a few rods distant across the track. He had cautioned me about the fast express, which would be due in a few minutes going west, and which did not stop there, but passed through at lightning speed. On passing out I discovered that a terrible snow and wind storm was raging, and with much difficulty found my way towards the depot. Just as I was crossing the Railroad track the lock on my case gave way and the side lid fell down, and the top cover to which the handle was fastened raised up, letting every tray of jewelry fall in a heap in the middle of the track. I stopped to pick it up, but at that instant heard the engine whistle close by, and had no sooner gained a foothold on the platform of the depot than the engine came dashing along, with its bright head-light, and the sparks flying from it in all directions, and the steam whistle blowing and screeching like a demon, and struck my pile of trays and jewelry and sent them skyward and entirely out of existence.

A million things ran through my mind in an instant, but I think about the first I thought of was the "Incomprehensible."

I saw the utter foolishness of trying to find any of the jewelry, as the storm was raging furiously; besides, it was long before daylight. But I decided to return to the hotel and remain till morning.

When I walked into the office with my sample case still in the shape as when it "busted," the landlord gazed at me a moment, and asked what in thunder I'd been doing with my jewelry. I explained, and he said he supposed the jewelry, trays and all were still flying through the air, and if the storm kept up they probably would never stop.

His idea was about correct, I think. At any rate I never saw one dollar's worth of my goods afterwards. Of course the heavy fall of snow would very soon cover it up any how, but it is very doubtful if any of it was ever found any where in the vicinity of the depot.

The next day after satisfying myself that my stock of jewelry had vanished and that I was again "busted," I took the train for Brainerd, where I once more resorted to selling furniture polish.

While at this town I called at a house, rang the door bell and was admitted by a person whom I at once recognized as an old school teacher who had taught our district school at Galetown Corners years before. As he did not recognize me I thought I would have a little fun with him, and after introducing my polish, I produced a small book containing the names of my patrons at Brainerd, and said:

"Mister, I have here the names of those who have been buying, which I will read, to show you that it is an article of value and one that is appreciated by almost every housekeeper."

So saying I began to read off the names of people living in the old Galetown school-district, such as Mrs. M. Keefer, Mrs. John Bartlett, Mrs. Curt Dirlam, Mrs. R. E. Betts, Mrs. Alfred Hutchinson, Mrs. James Drown, Mrs. John Lefever, Mrs. Dave Ramsey, Mrs. Sidney Tuck, Mrs. Calif Luce, Mrs. Samuel Chapin, Mrs.——

"Great Scott! Do all those people live in this town?"

"Why not?" I asked.

"Why not? Caesar-ation! I used to teach school in Ohio. In a neighborhood which contained the sir names, given names, initials and all, of every person you have mentioned."

I slipped the book into my pocket and told him I could not help that, and then began to show the polish to him and the lady of the house. He was too much excited to give any attention to it, but as he was only a visitor, that did not signify much. He soon asked me to read those names over again. When I had finished he inquired of his hostess if she knew any of those people. She said no, but as she had not lived there long she would not be likely to know them. He became more excited than ever, and putting on his overcoat and hat declared his intention of calling on some of them.

Then I said to him:

"Well, this Mr. Keefer, who lives over here on the back street has a step-son by the name of Johnston. Perry, I believe, is his given name."

"Yes sir, yes sir, that's right. He was a red-headed lad and came to school to me. Say, show me where they live."

"And," I remarked, "another name I remember; the son of one of these families is Willard."

"Was it Willard Luce?" he asked.

"That's it?"

"My ——, is it possible all those families have moved here?"

I then said:

"Do I look any like that Perry Johnston?"

He looked me over carefully and said he believed I did.

I then explained that I had recognized him at first sight and decided to have a little sport with him. After a short visit I went on my way rejoicing.

After one week's time I left Brainerd for Fargo, Dakota, where I had requested my mail to be sent. I had cleared thirty-three dollars over and above expenses during that time. After sending ten of it home to my wife I reached Fargo with twenty-three dollars, having made the trip with my pass. Here I received a letter from the wholesaler expressing sympathy for my loss, and saying he had sent me a large package of goods on sixty days' time.

After spending two dollars for a few necessaries which left me just twenty-one dollars, I accompanied three traveling men to the theatre, one of whom had a pass admitting himself and friends to a box. During the evening this gentleman mentioned the fact that an actress who would shortly sing was an old school-mate of his, and as she had had all her wardrobe burnt at Bismarck, a few days before, suggested that we each throw a silver dollar on the stage when she appeared. We all agreed.

I had forgotten that I had that day accommodated a gentleman by giving him four five-dollar bills for a twenty-dollar gold piece, and when the time came I carelessly reached my hand in my pocket and taking out the gold piece, threw it on the stage and was unconscious of what I had done till I saw it bound and heard it ring and received a bow of recognition and thanks from the actress. It was too late, however, and managing to instantly recover myself from the shock of having fully realized the awful fact that I was again totally collapsed, I shook hands with my three friends who were very enthusiastic over my generosity, remarking that they hadn't the slightest idea of my intention of giving so much. I told them I didn't believe in doing things by halves.

At the hotel the next day I was introduced to the pretty actress who thanked me for my generous gift, and declared that success was sure to reward men of such liberal principles, but added that she had always noticed, however, that those who gave the most freely were those who had the most to give, or at any rate, those who experienced but little difficulty in making money fast.

I had but little to say in reply to her assertion, but took special pains to jingle the last three twenty-five cent pieces I had in my pocket, and assumed an air of independence sufficient, no doubt, to convince her that I possessed my share of this world's goods.

When I took the train at Brainerd for Fargo, who should make his appearance as conductor but my old friend Johnny, whom the reader will remember as being my partner and companion at the neat, nice, tidy boarding-house while selling auction goods.

The moment I discovered his identity I pulled my hat down over my eyes and turned up my coat collar so he would not recognize me, and as he approached me I began talking very loud as though in conversation with some one near me and said: "Well sir, the place where I stopped was a neat, nice, clean, tidy boarding-house, the children were well-bred, the old lady a good conversationalist, a mighty good cook, and everything was so home-like."

Johnny seemed almost paralyzed on hearing these remarks and instantly began to scrutinize me very closely, but as I had raised quite a moustache and goatee since our dissolution, he failed to recognize me. He then demanded my ticket, and without turning my face towards him, but rather turning it from him I declared I had no ticket. He asked where I was going. I answered: "Well sir, I am going to Fargo, and if I can prevail upon my wife to sell another house and lot and send me the money, I am going to either start a stave and barrel factory, or go into the auction business."

At this he began laughing, and taking hold of my hat and raising it from my head, said: "Well you infernal vender of the Incomprehensible compound, double-distilled furniture and piano luster, what are you giving me? Produce your ticket, or off you go, bag and baggage."

We had a nice visit, and when I related my experience of a few days before about the stolen trunk and the final collapse, he said he had heard all about it, but was surprised to hear that I was the unfortunate loser. He frankly confessed that the last house and lot had been sold and the money spent before he had settled down to business. The last I heard of him he was still holding his position and working hard for a promotion.

A few days after my arrival at Fargo, I received over two hundred dollars' worth of goods from Chicago, which came at a very opportune time.

The few days I had to wait there I put in with the "Incomprehensible," with good results.

The holiday trade was now approaching and I made money fast. I again adopted my old tactics of opening up to every one, from the hotel porter and chambermaids to the merchant of the highest standing; and I never lost an hour or even a minute when there was the slightest prospect for making a sale. The result was, that after closing out my stock just before Christmas and returning to Chicago, I brought back over nine hundred dollars, which left me six hundred clear after paying the wholesale house the last bill of two hundred and an old account of one hundred dollars.

A few weeks after my arrival in Chicago, I made over six hundred dollars in one day in a way that will perhaps be worth relating. An old acquaintance of mine who was in the auction business was in the city buying goods. I accompanied him to a large wholesale house to buy notions, and while picking out the stock, a messenger-boy delivered a telegram to the manager of that department. After reading it he said to us that it conveyed the information that the manufacturers of cheap shears had formed a combination and had advanced the price nearly one half. I excused myself immediately and started on the run to the different wholesale houses with which I had previously dealt, and bought all the shears they had at the old prices, and after making a payment down took a receipt as payment on a certain number of dozen shears at a certain price to be delivered on a certain day. I made the rounds as rapidly as possible and bought out several dealers before they had received their telegrams. The next day all I had to do was to call at their stores and sell out to them at the advanced price, receiving my money back and a good round profit besides.

It was my intention to start out on the road again as soon as the dull season after the holidays was over; but I began having chills and fever and night sweats which very soon reduced me several pounds in weight, and I could plainly see was fast reducing my physical strength.

My wife and I then visited her parents at Bronson, Michigan.

And now I am obliged to make mention of one fact that heretofore has not been necessary to speak of. My domestic life had not proved a success, and a separation occurred on the nineteenth of March, 1881, my wife remaining with her parents. Our little boy had been living with my mother at Clyde, during the preceding two years, where we mutually agreed to have him remain; and he has continued to reside there up to the present time. In due course of time the Courts annulled the marriage.

I reached Clyde on the evening of the day of our final separation, and was so ill that my physical system seemed about prostrated.

Our old family physician, Dr. Brown, was at that time down sick, and I chanced to call on a physician who had recently moved there. He seemed much pleased with my condition, and after a thorough examination, informed me that one of my lungs was entirely destroyed and the other one almost gone; and if I had good luck I might live a couple of years.

When I went home and reported my bright prospects my mother began to cry, and said she always thought I would die with consumption. Mr. Keefer looked sad and solemn, and said: "It does beat the devil."



A few days later our old Doctor was up and around, and called to see me. He diagnosed my case, and pronounced my lungs perfectly sound; and declared that if I should live an hundred years I'd never have lung trouble. He informed me that I was suffering from a complication of diseases, and general debility caused by over-work and the general excitement and hus'ling naturally attending my business; and assured me that with the energy and determination I showed in my disposition to get well, he would bring me out all right. He was much surprised, however, when called a few days later, to find me completely floored and suffering terribly. His action showed that the case was more serious than he thought. But he brought me out in very good shape in about three months.

I had previously used a part of my money in paying old debts, and part in supplying my family with suitable clothing; and after paying my doctor and druggist bills, found myself again without a dollar, when ready to start out on the fifteenth of June.

I then wrote to a young man who had lived with my parents several years, and whom I had educated in the polish business and who was then selling it through Indiana, and asked him to loan me twenty-five dollars, if he could spare it.

He immediately sent a draft for that amount, and stated in his letter that he had just eighty-five cents left, but was glad to accommodate me. In reply to his letter I assured him that I was certain of success in the jewelry business, and that as soon as I again established myself in it, and could see a chance for him, I would send for him and give him the benefit of my experience.

About a year later I brought this about; and having established a fair credit myself I had no difficulty in also establishing a credit for Albert, which he used to good advantage by hus'ling and selling lots of goods.

Later on, after I had opened a store of my own, I supplied him with goods for some time, extending all the credit he needed. This same young man is now proprietor of a wholesale jewelry house in Chicago; and I dare say that only for his prompt and liberal action in responding to my request for a loan of twenty-five dollars, there would be no such firm in existence at the present time. Therefore it illustrates how a single instance will prove the turning point in a man's life.

Albert came to our house while we were living at the old homestead on the farm, when he was but a small boy. He was an orphan, and had left a farmer living a few miles away, whom he had lived with for some time.

The night he came there I happened home from one of my speculative trips, and after talking with the lad, asked my folks what they were going to do with him. They said he could stay over night, and after breakfast they would send him on his way rejoicing.

I urged them to let him stay, convinced that he would be of great assistance on the farm. They concluded to give him a trial, with the satisfactory result as stated above.

If the reader will pardon me more for digressing from the subject, I will here relate a little incident that occurred on the day of Albert's arrival in the city. It only goes to show how the average young man will wriggle and tax his brain in order to get out of a tight box.

It often afforded us much amusement when narrating it, as being his initiation into the great city of Chicago. He had written me in answer to my letter, that he was ready to start at any time; and as I had received an invitation to attend a ball to be given in the city on the South Side on a certain day, I wrote him to be on hand at that time and I would meet him.

By this time I had begun selling goods on credit, and very often run a little short for cash; and it so happened that in this particular instance I arrived in the city at seven o'clock in the evening, with less than five dollars in my pocket with which to visit the barber, and pay for our suppers and tickets for the ball.

He had written me that he would have about seventy-five dollars cash, and I felt perfectly secure to start out with him, knowing I could borrow till I could raise it the next day and pay him back.

At the ball we met a couple of young ladies, daughters of a gentleman I had become acquainted with; and as he and his wife were talking of going home early and taking the girls with them, we suggested that they leave them in our care and we would escort them home later.

This was agreed to all around, and about two o'clock, when ready to leave, I said to Albert:

"Let me have five dollars to pay for a carriage."

"I haven't got five dollars, nor even fifty cents."

"But you told me in your letter that you had seventy-five dollars."

"So I have, but it's in a draft."

"Well, what on earth are we to do? I have spent my last dollar. Guess we'll have to take them home in a street-car."

We started, and reached the corner of Randolph and Clark just as it set in to rain. Upon inquiry we learned to our dismay that all-night cars were not running on Randolph street, and that none would be running before daylight.

Just across the street, standing around the Court House as usual, were any number of hack-men.

I was completely non-plussed, and I don't recollect ever having been placed in closer quarters, or in a position where I felt more humiliated. I thought of Albert's draft, and stepping up to him said in a low tone as quickly as possible:

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