American humorist and writer Josh Billings (1818-1885) was born Henry Wheeler Shaw on this day in Lanesboro, Massachusetts. His father was a member of the state legislature and U.S. Congress.
"Flattery is like cologne water, to be smelt of, not swallowed," he observed.
Fun-loving Billings traveled the country and worked a series of odd jobs as a farmer, Ohio River steamboatman, and coal miner.
"Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute," he once said.
Called a "crackerbox philosopher," Billings was quoted by Abraham Lincoln at cabinet meetings. Known for his folksy humor and common-sense philosophies, he fractured the language with slang and distorted syntax. He phonetically misspelled words, as evident in his popular Josh Billings' Farmers Almanax (1869-1880).
"Consider the postage stamp, my son," he said. "It secures success through its ability to stick to one thing till it gets there."
An inspiration to Mark Twain and Will Rogers, Billings became a successful journalist and much sought-after lecturer, often performing for crowds of thousands. With formal black suit and shaggy unkept hair, the platform humorist shared his down-home wisdom with playfulness and passion.
"When a man comes to me for advice, I find out the kind of advice he wants, and I give it to him," Billings said.
More Josh BILLINGS Quotations
Go ahead--forgive 'em!