Alexander Edwin Sweet and the Wild West Show
D URING THE LAST HALF OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY MUCH OF THE
news coming out of Texas was in the form of cliched reports of
Indian and Mexican massacres and hold-ups by stage robbers. Then a
fresh and funny column began to appear in the nation's papers that
made Texas appear more civilized. The reporter responsible for this
fresh approach was the once-famous, now nearly forgotten Texas hu-
morist, Alexander (Alex E.) Sweet. It was he who may have done more
for immigration into Texas than all the propaganda distributed by pas-
senger-hungry Texas railroads.
Sweet's humor was urbane and satirical in comparison with many of
his contemporaries who wrote in the vernacular and "misspelled words
and wrote under invented names (which evidently was considered a
funny thing to do) like 'Josh Billings' and 'Artemus Ward' and 'Petro-
leum V. Nasby.'"" Sweet's wry, modern tone is seen in his account of the
battle of the Alamo, which appeared in his column in Texas Siftings,
September 9, 1882, where the tragic affair reads like a script for a Marx
Brothers' film, with the Alamo heroes dying several times in several dif-
ferent places. Sweet's iconoclastic writings were closer to Mark Twain's
black humor, which was "a kind of 'literary' violence, comparable to the
physical violence of the frontier."
Sweet displayed a talent for ethnic dialects. He sometimes filled his
columns with German, English, Negro, Irish, and Jewish jokes. He
made fun of anybody who caught his attention, lampooning lawyers,
Indians, dentists, politicians, Mexicans, the religious, businessmen,
* Mrs. Virginia Eisenhour, a resident of Galveston, is the editor of Alex Sweet's Texas: The
Lighter Side of Lone Star History (1986). She also wrote and published two booklets on Galveston
history, The Strand of Galveston (1973) and Galveston- A Different Place (1983).
iWilliam K Zmsser, "American Humor, 1966," Horizon, VIII (Spring, 1966), 116 (quota-
2Encyclopedsa Americana, International ed., s.v. "Sweet, Alexander Edwin."
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed December 21, 2013.