Monday, June 6, 2016

Dodgers and Dips - the Dark History of the Dunk Tank

Lelands.Com, Lot 862, August 31, 2001 (it's not what they thought it was).

In 1895, sportswriters first referred to the National League’s Brooklyn baseball team as the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers.  The happy-go-lucky name masks a grim reality; numerous deaths at the hands of the new electric trolleys; which were more powerful, faster and more dangerous than the slow, plodding horse-drawn trolleys they replaced.  By some accounts, Brooklyn’s electric trolleys caused nearly 150 deaths, and four times as many maimings, during its first three years of operation (see my
earlier post, The Grim Reality of the Trolley Dodgers).  The name was not, as some sources suggest, a reference to a network of streetcar lines around Brooklyn’s baseball stadium.  There were, in fact, no electric streetcar lines near the stadium (see my earlier post, Rail Service to Eastern Park, Brooklyn).

In 1895 (and earlier), there was another baseball-related game that used the name, “Dodger.”  The origin of that name is arguably even more disturbing and darker than the “Trolley Dodgers.”  But despite its ugly origin, a reformed, uncontroversial version of the ugly game persists today.  You can see it at county fairs, fundraisers, fraternity and sorority parties, church picnics, and even Buddhist temple fairs in Thailand.  It’s fun, it can be titillating, a nice way to be cooled off on a hot summer’s day; or get revenge on a teacher, boss or other victim without actually harming them, and without getting in trouble.

It’s the “Dunk Tank.”  

[NOTE: For more information on dunk tanks and the "African dodger" game, along with more history of carnival throwing games, see my new post, "Cockshy, Aunt Sally, Roly Poly and Doll Racks - a Dodgy History of Carnival Throwing Games."]

Dunk Tanks

A dunk tank is a large tank of water with a collapsible seat suspended several feet above the water, with a victim or dunkee sitting in wait.  Contestants throw balls a target; and when they hit the target, the seat collapses and the dunkee drops into the water – hilarity ensues.  As currently practiced, it is a game of skill (accurate baseball throwing) and fun – the pleasure of seeing the dunkee dunked.  In may cases, the dunkee is a teacher, local politician or celebrity, or the parents, sibling or friends of the thrower; adding an extra dimension to the fun.

But one-hundred years ago, before “fun” became the main point, the innocent-sounding game masked a darker past.   The first dunk tanks were generally known as “African Dips”; and the dunkee was traditionally a black man.  A less common variant of the game, with women in the seat, was known as the “Sappho Dip.”  The “Sappho Dip” ran afoul of the morals of the time, however, what with the public display of women in wet, clinging clothing.  The “African Dip,” on the other hand, as distasteful as it may seem now, was widely accepted for many decades.

But as distasteful as it was, it was a vast improvement over its predecessor – the “African Dodger”; a carnival “game” in which participants paid for the questionable pleasure of throwing baseballs at the unprotected head of a black man.

African Dodgers

During the first week of July, 1895, New York City’s German Schuetzen-Bund (shooting club) held a days-long Schuetzen Fest; with sharpshooting contests, a bowling tournament, a beer garden, and a “Negro Who is a Target.” 

Beer girls were a popular feature of the fest:

The beer and sandwiches were served by a dozen good-looking young women.  They were German, all of them, and they wore bright-colored dresses that reached just to their knees.  Their stockings were of many colors and were well filled out.  Their arms were bare, and on their heads they wore target caps.

The Sun (New York), July 3, 1895, page 3.

Another popular concession was the “African Dodger.”  Contemporary newspaper accounts give a sense of how it was played, the attitudes of some of the white customers, and the danger involved; as well as a taste of some some good old-fashioned trash-talk:

Some mention has already been made in The Sun of the popularity of the “coon dodger,” but he came to grief yesterday.  This negro has a big mouth, filled with white teeth, and a voice that invariably runs into a chuckle when he speaks.  His methods are unlike those of other “coon dodgers.” As he sticks his head through the canvas background and invites the spectators to hit him with a baseball thrown from a stand about twenty-five feet in front, he begins to talk.  He sizes up the man who is throwing at him and indulges in personal remarks about his dress and his style.  He is very quick to pick out a man’s weak points.

At 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon a stolid-looking German was throwing himself red in the face in his vain efforts to hit the negro on the head. 
“Why, yo’ ole fahmer,” commented the target, “yo’ ain’t no good.  Too high there, hi-yi-yi! Yo’ clo’s don’t fit yo’.  I know yo’re tailor in Hoboken.  That’s the ideah! Hit me in the head! Hit me! Yo’ can’t do it, yo’ Hoboken farmer!”
The man who was throwing the balls didn’t like the guying and he got angry.  That was what the negro wanted.  His throwing became wilder, and he finally gave it up after offering to punch the negro’s head.

A well-dressed, smooth-faced young man, who wore on his waistcoat a college society pin, had been sizing up the game, and as he stepped forward to try a throw or two the negro opened his mouth wide and emitted a loud laugh.
“Get yo’ money furst from dat-dude, Petey!” he called to his partner. “Ow! Wow! He’ll break his arm, shore, ef he t’rows hard!  Just look at those clothes, yo’ Hoboken, good-for-nothing farmer.”

The young man stepped back, and with a run of two or three steps he delivered a straight overhand ball that struck just above the negro’s head with a whack that made the eyes of the target roll until they seemed to be all white.  “Yo’ didn’t do it, smarty,” he called out jeeringly.  “Just yo’ try it again.  Yo’ll get a cigar that’ll make yo’ sick ef yo’ hit me.”

The young man threw two more balls, one an in curve that puzzled the negro and struck close to his chin.  They were swift balls and the target stopped guying.  His eyes seemed to be popping out of his head as he watched the throwers.

The young man bought three more balls.  Again he stepped back, and as his arm shot out the ball left his hand with speed.  Before the negro could size it up the ball struck him square on the head.  There was a loud yell, and his head disappeared.  A second later the negro came out from behind his screen.  He was mad clean through.

“Don’t yo’ sell any more balls to that dude!” he shouted to his partner.  “Don’t yo’ do it, yo’ heah me?  I won’t stand it.  My head’s busted wide open now!”

“All right,” said the young man, “I’ve had enough if you have,” and he walked off, followed by the Hoboken man, who wanted to buy him beer.  It was the only time during the day that the negro was hit, and it gave him something to think about.

The Sun (New York), July 3, 1895, page 3.

The following day, the Schuetzen Fest’s resident “African Dodger” nearly came to grief again  when customers threatened to bring over a major league pitcher, Amos Rusie, who had won the triple crown of pitching (wins, ERA, Ks) the previous season.  Rusie threw the ball with unprecedented speed and is considered one of the major reasons that baseball moved the pitcher’s mound back from 50’ to 60’ 2” before the 1893 season.[i]  Like The Sun had a couple days earlier, The New York Times presented the story using “ethnic” dialect spelling, as was common at the time (for example, “brack man,” meaning “black man,” is in the original; it is not my typo):

The African dodger was very much subdued by an event during the only big rush he experienced all day.  He had successfully dodged the spheres thrown by a Brooklyn trio.  The balltossers being urged by him to keep on trying to “break his black skull,” they told him they would bring Rusie, the baseball pitcher, to-day.  This alarmed the loquacious colored man, and with tears in his eyes he exclaimed: “Fo’ de law’s sake, white man, don’t bring dat Giant pitcher ober heah, please.  He shuly kill dis n[-word].  Ef you fotch dat big feller heah I gibs up my job; sartain and shuh.  Please hab some ‘sideration fo’ a poo’man, though he only am a brack man, please.”

The New York Times, July 5, 1895.

The Schuetzen-Bund’s “African Dodger” was not the first one on record.  An earlier description of such a ball-throwing carnival concession, albeit without the name “African Dodger” (or its less common variants[ii]), dates to 1884:

Fair Notes: A colored man, with a piece of canvas hung on boards which he supports perpendicularly with his hands, is covering himself with glory and overwhelming his manager with nickels.  Sambo puts his head through a hole in the canvass and invites the public to hurl base balls at it for a charge of three shots for five cents.  He dodges most of the balls with wonderful alacrity and the “gentleman” who manages and exhibits him, challenges base ballists and other experts to try their best.

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), September 4, 1884, page 2.

The earliest description of the game I could find was told in children's verse in 1882, in a storybook about a trip to Coney Island:

Escaped from this, they next espied, 
   Where fluttered in the wind
A painted canvas, with a hole, 
   Thro' which a negro grinned.

But ev'ry time a ball was thrown,
   He dodged away his face,
And downward turned his wooly crown,
   To suffer in its place.

Johnny Hedstrong's Trip to Coney Island, New York, McLoughlin Bros., 1882.

The earliest example of the game by its proper (improper?) name, “African Dodger,” that I could find dates to 1887.  If this “dodger’s” trash-talk is to be believed, the game dates back to at least 1880:

White Plains Fair. 

Just at the west of Floral Hall was a small tent.  On one side was painted a large sunflower with a hole in the centre.  Above the hole was the inscription, “The African Dodger,” and below, “The Patagonian Baby.”  Through the hole appeared the grinning countenance of the negro whose head was the target for the hardest of base balls.  The show was not new, but the negro had had a political education.  As business grew dull he shouted: “Come, all you good people.  Try your luck.  I’ve been in the business seven years, and have got as thick a skull as Henry George.  Step up now and tell me why I am like Gen. Butler.  Nobody guesses?  Well, it’s because I take lots of hard cracks and come up smiling every time.”

The Sun (New York), September 29, 1887, page 2.

The writer’s surprise that a carnival baseball dodger’s “political education” might include familiarity with General Butler was perhaps misplaced.  General Butler commanded “colored” troops during the Civil War, and was later the author of the Ku Klux Klan Act (Civil Rights Act of 1871), and proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations.  Henry George was an economist who had run for mayor of New York City the previous year, as a member of the United Labor Party in 1886; he beat out a young Teddy Roosevelt for second place in the balloting.

Sadly, however, the same man had a different type of education the following day:

The White Plains Fair

Thursday the morning opened wet and gloomy. The flag on the top of Floral Hall drooped limp, and the spirits of the Treasurer drooped in unison. A few people straggled in at the gates, and it seemed as though Westchester patriotism was a thing of history. Everything seemed to go wrong. The African Dodger was disabled. A very hard ball had explored a very soft region of his cranium and he was laid up for repairs. However, things soon brightened, people began to pour in, a north breeze unfurled the damp folds of the flag, and another negro was procured to do the African Dodger's act.

The Brewster Standard (Brewster, New York), September 30, 1887, page 2.

Although live “dodger” acts persisted at least into the 1920s, they did have their critics; even if the criticism was more about how the game affected the thrower instead of the dodger:

Tricksters at Agricultural Fairs.

Wherever large numbers of people gather, a class of persons is usually found who make a living by deceiving the public.  They have schemes and tricks innumerable that appear to be easy and simple; but in reality they are quite difficult and in some cases impossible to successfully perform.  They have wheels and machines that are doctored to turn as the proprietor may wish to make them.  They have cocoanut headed negro dodgers to arouse the brutality in men and boys. They have tented shows [(presumably a reference to hoochie coochie dancers)] which are disgusting in coarseness and vulgarity.

The Progressive Farmer (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), August 24, 1897, page 1.

Whether out of humanitarian impulses or by the economics of staging the show, more humane options were available on the market by 1893. “Hit him, and make him laugh and ring” – at least it was cast-iron and not flesh and blood:

The New York Clipper, July 8, 1893, page 292.

The New York Clipper, July 7, 1894, page284.

NEW COON. Takes the place of AFRICAN DODGER for Fairs, Beaches, Shooting Galleries, Summer Resorts, Etc.  Ball amusement.  Hit him and make him laugh and ring.  made of cast iron.
The Independent (Hutchinson, Kansas), August 19, 1893, page 3 (Note: the name of the game, "New Coon," may have been borrowed from a song entitled, "A New Coon in Town," which had become popular a few years earlier).

Ty Cobb proved that he was more than just a great hitter at what was presumably a static or mechanical “African Dodger” booth in 1911:

Cobb arrived at the amusement resort [(Glen Echo)] and the first thing he did was to look up the African dodger booth.  No one there seemed to recognize the great ball player, and he took three balls.  These went true to the mark, and he repeated seven times in succession before every one became nervous and inquired who the man was.   When it was discovered that it was the one and only Cobb quite a crowd gathered.  Cobb was offered ten cigars, which he did not smoke, but moved away and soon returned to the city.

The Washington Times (Washington DC), June 2, 1911, page 15.

In 1917, a table-top version enabled children to enjoy the dubious thrills of pretend-hitting grown men in the head in the comforts of their own home:

In 1912, you could catch Clinton and Nalon’s skit, The African Dodger, at The Kimmel Theatre in Cairo, Illinois:

The Cairo Bulletin, November 25, 1912, page 3.

Another version of the game, while perhaps not actually being more humane, at least did not threaten the lives of humans – just monkeys:


Although safer alternatives were coming onto the market, the traditional live-dodger games continued apace; and the injuries mounted: 

New York Tribune, January 27, 1896, page 12.
New York Times, August 31, 1897.
Semi-Weekly Interior Journal (Stanford, Kentucky), September 7, 1897, page 2.
Numerous additional baseball dodging injuries are documented on the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia website, hosted by Ferris State University.


The gradual development of non-human options may reflect changes in the public’s taste for blood-sport; but disturbingly, the earliest report of an attempt to punish a live baseball-dodging act was designed to protect monkeys – not people:

An ill-treated monkey and its enterprising owner were in the police court yesterday morning and a fine of $20 and costs was assessed against the latter by Judge Wilcox.  Nakatana, as already related in the Advertiser, used the monkey for the amusement of his customers.  These threw rubber balls at a basket attached to the right fore-shoulder of the grimacing ape, which dodged right and left to escape being hit in the face.  Five rubber balls were sold for five cents, and for every ball that was thrown into the basket a prize of five cents was given.  Nakatana was shrewd amusement monger and reaped many nickels during the day and evening.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) July 20, 1900, page 5.

In 1911, a New York newspaper mocked the $25 fine assessed against the operator of a monkey dodging concession at the Kentucky State Fair:

After an hour and a half of testimony and legal oratory about Darwin, “monkey prostration,” “nervous fatigue” and other things that the ordinary layman would not believe a monkey was heir to, the magistrate decided that the owner should pay a fine of $25 for letting the visitors at the fair make his monkey a target for rubber balls.

The Sun (New York), April 9, 1911, page 15.

Four years later New York banned baseball dodging outright.  But the law was not universally applauded.  It made the news in one of those annual articles about ridiculous laws:

The Freak Legislator

Every year sees the introduction of freak bills into the legislatures of one or more states, but the spring of 1915 seems to have capped the climax.  The freak legislators have run mad. . . .

Prohibiting free lunches. Neb.

Compelling churchgoers to leave their firearms outside. Texas.

Prohibiting the smoking of cigarettes by school, normal and university instructors. Wis.

Prohibiting a man from becoming a “ball-dodger” i. e., allowing persons to throw base balls at one’s head, for hire. N. Y.

The Glasgow Courier (Glasgow, Montana), March 26, 1915, page 6.

All of these changes coincided with and reflected changing social and political conditions of the “Progressive Era,” which was marked by political reform, labor reform, and increased concern for health, safety and public welfare.  There was one more reason that made the time ripe for banning live baseball dodging (other than the fact that it was distasteful, dangerous and demeaning); the emergence of a new, less dangerous alternative in about 1910 – the dunk tank.

African Dips

The earliest reference to a dunk tank that I could find is in an advertisement for Tazewell, Virginia's – “best exhibit west of Richmond”:

About the very funniest thing, though, will be the “African Dip.” Everybody wants to know just what an “African Dip” is – whether it’s a kind of an animal, a piece of machinery, a game, or just an ordinary “colored person.”  If you were to guess any one or all of these things, and more, you might not be very far wrong.  But the “African Dip” will be demonstrated, shown, played or exhibited, or all, and if you want to find out just what it is, go to the Fair September 13, 14, 15.

Tazewell Republican (Tazewell, Virginia), August 25, 1910, page 1.

If you didn’t make it to the fair, you could see what the fuss was all about in the November 1910 issue of Popular Mechanics; although they used a different name:

In 1911, you could purchase an entire set-up for only $45:

Billboard Magazine, July 23, 1911, page 84.

An actual photograph reveals a more forlorn looking, portable model installed on a beach in Southern California in 1912:

An article about the purveyors of the “African Dip” at Coney Island gives a sense of the business model of the “African Dip,” as well as the “African Dodger” game it displaced:

New this year among sideshow attractions at Coney Island and elsewhere is the African dip ball game, which is a variation, expansion, elaboration of that familiar game known as the African dodger.

In the African dodger game a negro sticks his head through a hole in a netting or canvas and lets people throw balls at it.  There are lots of people in all parts of the country who think it is fun to throw things at a negro’s head.  It is the negro’s business to dodge the balls if he can and be jolly about it.

In the African dip ball game the negro is wholly protected by a net.  He can’t be hit at all, but something else can happen to him.

. . . The object of the ball thrower is not to hit the negro’s head, but to hit that disk, and if he does hit it the impact releases a clutch connected with the mechanical attachment running down to the chair and then the chair itself comes apart and the negro is dropped into a tank of water below; he takes a dip.  Then the crowd shouts, the negro stands up dripping and smiling and climbs back into the chair again and the game goes on.

Both the dodger and the dip game are hard work and in the dodger game the negro must be very alert.  In the dodger game to stay in the business and to give what he himself would consider a fair deal to the ball throwers the dodger must keep his head through the hole or behind it in line, where the throwers will have at least a chance to hit him, and sometimes they do hit him, though it is not so easy to do this as it might seem.

The balls regularly supplied are soft and cannot do serious injury; but other missiles are sometimes worked in.  Occasionally some man in the crowd may throw a brickbat at the negro’s head, or may think it is funny to throw a tomato or something of that sort.

While a dodger may sometimes get hurt, he is likely to go on through the season free from injury.  One New York man in the show business who has put dodger games on the road for years had in his employ one dodger who followed this business regularly season after season for ten years and was never seriously injured.  He made this his regular occupation.  Probably half the colored men in the dodger business are interested in the same way and the pay is good.  A good dodger or dip man gets $5 a day and all his expenses paid.

With the rough and tumble character of the business it might be supposed that the men employed in it would necessarily lead hard lives; but the fact is that the men are constantly looked after about as carefully as if they were prizefighters.  It takes some money to equip a dodger show and more for a dip, and space concessions to set up the show cost more or less money everywhere, depending on the place.  Obviously it is to the show owner’s interest to keep his men in good condition and fit and he looks after them always as carefully as he can. . . .

[S]howmen say the people like them [(the "African Dip" games)].  There is more action in them than in the dodger game and more fun; and apparently the people like action and sheer fun better than fun mixed with brutality. . . .

For a single dip game there are required three men, two dippers and a white man at the front to sell the balls and talk.  Two dippers are required for a single dip for the simple reason that the work, if the throwers are in any degree accurate, is rather more than one can stand continuously; even in warm weather the water may give the dipper in time a chill.  So they have one dipper up for an hour and then his side partner takes the chair, and so they alternate through the day. . . .  With a dip game with two chairs the show would take three dippers, such an outfit carrying altogether four men, three dippers and the man in front.

The Sun (New York), August 27, 1911, page 13.

The “African Dodger” game may have reached its zenith (nadir?) at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915.  In Dave Gilson’s blog post, “The Mysteries of the African Dip,” you can see a photograph of a gigantic, grotesque twenty-foot tall plaster(?) “African” head, with gigantic hoop earrings and nose ring; resting his huge chin on his giant hands; with his elbows cradling the entrance to the “African Dip” arcade at the exposition.  Gilson’s article also discusses a similar storefront, from the same exposition, for a second ball-throwing game, “Soakum”; where customers could knock hats from dummy heads.  Dummies were available for “any nationality that you are down on, be it Irish, German or Chinese . . . .”  At least they weren’t living people – now that’s progress!

Although the danger was gone, the underlying racial attitudes of customers took longer to dissipate.  The dunk tank concession at Chicago’s Riverview Park, by some accounts, was called, “Dunk the N[-word]” in the early 1940s.[iii]  However, “Dempsey Travis, the former president of the Chicago branch of the NAACP, wrote in An Autobiography of Black Chicago that he remembers the now-defunct Riverview Amusement Park had a dunk-tank game called “Dunk the Darky” at least until 1942.”[iv]  The name of the game was reportedly changed to the more conventional, “African Dip,” in the late-1940s; and dismantled in the late 1950s, in response to pressure from the NAACP.

Chicago was not the only city with a dunk tank bearing a patently offensive name.  There were carnival concessions called “N[-word] Dip” in Santa Cruz, California[v] and Fredericksburg, Texas,[vi] in the 1930s and 1940s, respectively.  But those, perhaps, more offensive names seem to have been increasingly the exception rather than the rule; the more neutral name, “African Dip,” being nearly universally used.  That’s something, I guess.

A modern reader may have a difficult time relating with the cultural or societal conditions that made throwing baseballs to dunk black people in water more entertaining than dunking, say, anyone who wanted to cool down in a dunk tank.  It may have been a sort of cultural inertia that made it easier to adhere to the traditional “African Dodger” idiom, than to start fresh with new technology. 

But not everyone wanted to dunk black men.  Some people wanted a more titillating experience; something more akin to a spring break wet T-shirt contest.

Sappho Tips

A sexy alternative was already available during the early days of dunk tanks.  The first devices were marketed under the alternate names of, “African Dip” or “Sappho Tip,” depending on who was to sit on the chair.   

Young women (but not too modest) sat on the "Sappho Tips":

The Tennessean (Nashville), September 1, 1912.

There were very few references to so-called “Sappho Tips” (or “Sappho Dips”) in the databases I searched; perhaps because they were frequently frowned upon by local moralists:

An effort has been made to keep out everything of an objectionable character, and the effort has been successful in a great degree.  The Sappho tips became a little raw in their work on Friday and were immediately closed.  One of them attempted to reopen last night and was promptly arrested.

San Bernardino County Sun (California), February 25, 1912, page 5.

San Bernardino County Sun (California), February 25, 1912, page 4.

If the “Sappho Tip” business was bigger, or more widely known under a different name, I have been unable to find anything.  Or perhaps it just never could compete with the "tent shows" or "hoochie coochie" dancers that were available at many of the fairs or events that also hosted dunk tanks of one kind, or another.

“Dunk Tanks”

Dunk tanks were known as “dunk tanks” by at least 1950, when the Active Club of Sweet Home Oregon raised money for the swimming pool fund with a “dunk tank,” during Sweet Home Frontier Days.[vii]  Although there was no specific indication, the “dunk tank” was presumably non-race specific.  Four years later, organizers of Albany, Oregon's Timber Carnival used a “dunk tank” to punish violators of “woods law” - people found without “proper Timber Carnival clothes - plaid shirts, jeans and red hats.”[viii]  Local VIPs were the first victims of the tank:

Two past Timber Carnival presidents found walking through Albany streets while not properly dressed will be first culprits to take places in the “dunk tank” Wednesday.

The Albany Democrat-Herald (Albany, Oregon), June 22, 1954, page 2.

Finally, a “dunk tank” I can relate too.  If I remember correctly, when I was young, I was much more interested in being dunked than doing the dunking; but no one really wanted to pay for that.

Thankfully, the “African Dodgers” and “African Dips” are largely forgotten.  So well forgotten that in 2001, Leland's sports memorabilia auction house sold an “African Dodger” baseball (presumably from a static or mechanical “African Dodger” arcade game) as a “1930s African Dodgers Negro League Baseball” - lot 862, auction date August 31, 2001, 2001, sold for $349.33.

It is good to remember or learn about the  past, however, if only to appreciate how far we've come and to acknowledge the momentous nature of the societal upheavals that finally moved us beyond the casual violence and open racism that so freely on public display at the Schuetzen-Bund's Schuetzen Fest of 1895.

Go Dodgers! and the Dodgers went - at last.

[i] Paul Gillespie, Amos Rusie: The Pitcher Who Changed the Game, .
[ii] A search on the Library of Congress’ online historical newspaper archive for newspapers dated before 1922 (Chronicling America), “African Dodger” returned 233 hits; while “Negro Dodger,” “N[-word] Dodger,” and “Coon Dodger” resulted in 17, 6 and 6 hits, respectively.
[iii] “Fun Town: Chicago’s Last Amusement Park,” Jake Austen,, February 13, 2014. See also, (although this account suggests, impossibly, that the game was called, “Dunk the Bozo the Clown” before it was called “Dunk the N[-word] in the 1940s.  Although the word, “Bozo,” for stupid or silly people, had been in existence since the late-1910s, the character “Bozo the Clown” did not exist until 1946 (see my blog post, What Came First, Bozo or Bozo?)).
[iv] “Confronting the Paradox, Facing what we’ve forgotten about race relations could be as important to Illinois’ future as celebrating what we remember,” Maureen Foertsch McKinney, Illinois Issues (a publication of the University of Illinois at Springfield), June 2000, page 13 (text, and link to pdf magazine, available here).
[v] Santa Cruz Sentinal (California), July 7, 1937, page 8.
[vi] Fredericksburg Standard (Texas), August 20, 1947, page 1.
[vii] Albany Democrat-Herald (Albany, Oregon), December 12, 1950, part 3, page 9.
[viii] Albany Democrat-Herald (Albany, Oregon), June 18, 1954, page 1.
Updated on June 19, 2022, to add the image of "New Coon" ad from the Hutchinson Independent.


  1. I was hoping you might know if the dip or dodger were played in the UK?

  2. I could only find a couple examples from the UK, and they do not unambiguously reveal whether it was "played" in the UK (if that's the right word), or how well known it was. The term "African Dodger" appears to have been understood, however. A full-page cartoon in the Illustrated London News in 1910, for example, suggests a new, metaphorical "African-Dodger" "election game," in which political opponents throw stones at each other. The image of the "African Dip" on a California beach (shown above) comes from a British Magazine, The Strand.

    When the "African Dodger" game made its way to Australia in 1896, using cricket balls, it seems to have been new, as the articles about the game describe it in detail as though the readers would be unfamiliar with it. The game is mentioned only a few times in Australian newspapers over the next couple decades, and some of the later references seem to refer to a game with static game targets, as opposed to live dodgers.