Monday, July 1, 2013

See the Japs

The headline is at once offensive to modern eye: the Japs? And yet curiously, the word "Japs" was usually used in the nineteenth century in a complimentary context; it wasn't until WWII that the term became intensely, hatefully, prejudicial. This particular "village" had appeared at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and was then taken on a tour of the country by the peripatetic showman Rufus Choate Somerby. The display was meant to convey the industrious abilities and beautiful crafts of Japan, although the 'road trip' version was a bit more "entertainment" than "education," as it was accompanied by a Punch & Judy show and the Shaffers, a couple known for their playing the glass harmonica, along with facial contortions (another curiously popular stage show of the day).

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