The Traveler as Outsider

"He has never had the courage to visit Arkansas since."

The Traveler can give a negative impression of the state if one assumes that the Traveler is from outside Arkansas and the Squatter is a typical local.

The taverns of Salem, Ohio, featured "Traveler as outsider" performances early on, and Jose Tosso of Cincinnati and Mose Case from Buffalo, as well as many other performers, presented it the same way. The Case version is "an Eastern man’s experience among the inhabitants of Arkansas," which ends with the traveler leaving the state, and he "has never had the courage to visit Arkansas since!" This is the tone of the Currier & Ives prints – The Arkansas Traveller and The Turn of the Tune – and of Opie Read’s popular humor journal, The Arkansaw Traveler: humor at Arkansas’s expense.

At one time, each state symbolized the frontier. But Arkansas was on the border of the United States for more than 40 years, carrying an "edge of civilization" image reinforced by the bowie knife or "Arkansas Toothpick," as well as the image supported by the Arkansas Traveler. After the Civil War, when Arkansas hoped to shed the old reputation for something more positive, portrayals of the backwoods nature of the state continued to dominate in the public’s perception.

With the Squatter coming to represent the state, the Arkansas Traveler became humor at Arkansas’s expense, and many self-conscious natives came to see the Traveler as detrimental and quite expensive to Arkansas. One of many boosters of the state in post Civil War period, land developer Theodore B. Mills expressed the opinion that the Arkansas Traveler has been "a curse to the State, the dialogue conveying the impression that the native ‘Rackensacker’ is an idle dog that will never fix his leaking roof in this world."

Published in 1903, the most popular jokebook of all time was named On A Slow Train Through Arkansaw. Though most of the jokes in the book were not about the state, the title assumed that the public would associate Arkansas with humor.

Historic Arkansas Museum
200 E. Third Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
Ph: 501-324-9351 - Fax: 501-324-9345
info@historicarkansas.org
Department of Arkansas Heritage
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