Cobb X Shinn, Witt and other Model T Ford Post Cards

This week we will have the privilege of seeing a lot more vintage post cards depicting humor that involved America’s most popular automobile – the Model T Ford. Truly the king of Model T comic post card illustrators was Cobb X Shinn, but he was not alone. Many of the cards we see today are signed “Witt”, we don’t know who Mr. Witt was but clearly he was quite talented too. Other Model T joke cards were, like the example above, not signed at all but very funny.

The cards seen here are primarily from the collection of Erwin “Irv” Plagman. Mr. Plagman is no longer with us, but we hope he is looking down upon us and enjoying what his son is sharing with us here today.

The card above is one of the most iconic Cobb X Shinn images. At the time Charlie Chaplin was the world’s most recognizable celebrity.  And the Model T was the world’s most successful car. Chaplin’s first film as the “Tramp” was Kid Auto Races At Venice. It is worth watching – here’s a link:

Kid Auto Races At Venice

In the decades prior to the Model T many European immigrants came into the United States through legal ports of entry like Ellis Island, New York. Even in the Model T era, towards the end of mass waves of European immigration, comedians often segued into German sounding accents which were “funny sounding”. The immigrants clothing was considered odd and humorous, as were the strange “weiner dogs” that they brought with them into the United States. In our politically correct world 100 years later many don’t have the ability to enjoy such humor.

The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison. In the era of the Model T, a phonograph was the equivalent of today’s Apple IPOD. Billy Murray had a hit recording in 1915 titled “And the little Ford Rambled Right Along”. Here are the words:

Now Henry Jones and a pretty little queen
took a ride one day in his big limousine.
The car kicked up and the engine wouldn’t crank
there wasn’t any gas in the gasoline tank.
Just about that time, along came Nord
and he rambled right along in his little old Ford.
He stole that queen as his engine sang a song
and his little old Ford just rambled right along.

His little old Ford rambled right along
and the little old Ford rambled right along.
The gas ran out in the big machine
but the darn little Ford don’t need gasoline.
The big limousine had to back down hill
but the blamed little Ford is going up still.
When it runs outta dope just fill it up with soap
and the little Ford will ramble right along.

Now they ran over glass and they ran over nails,
they ran over pigs and puppy dogs’ tails.
They spotted a cop and shot outta sight,
they rambled all day [till almost night] [and they rambled all night].
They smashed up fences and telegraph poles,
ran into ditches and deep chuck holes.
They bumped into a preacher and the preacher took a ride
then the Ford rambled on with Johnny and his bride.

The little old Ford rambled right along
and the little old Ford rambled right along.
He swung around a corner and he ran into a mule
and the darned old [donkey] [jackass] kicked like a fool
he [brayed and he balked and he kicked]the wheels
but he had to quit kicking to save his heels.
When she blows out a tire, just wrap it up with wire
and the little Ford will ramble right along.

You can smash the top and smash up the seat,
twist it out of shape ’til both ends meet,
smash the body and rip out a gear,
smash up the front and smash up the rear,
bend up the fender and rip off the tires
break up the lamps and cut out the wires,
throw in the clutch to the dickens with the juice
and the little old Ford will go to beat the deuce!

The little old Ford it rambled right along
and the little old Ford it rambled right along.
Now cut that out you naughty tease,
’tis a left hand drive and a right hand squeeze!
Patch it up with a piece of string,
[chewing] [Spearmint] gum or any old thing.
When the power get sick just hit it with a brick
and the little Ford will ramble right along!

Above we see the competition to Cobb X Shinn. This card is by Witt. Again the plucky little Model T Ford easily outperforms the larger, more costly car.

Not sure who the artist is for the card above, but it is a good one!

Typical grammar school desks of the era had bent wood seats, a cast iron base and a slanted desk top with a built in ink well for fountain pens. Cobb X Shinn captures all that and makes it funny and Model T related!

Early roads were not paved, and the potholes and ruts were barely softened by Model T suspension.

Most of the Model T’s shown in Cobb X Shinn post cards appear to be 1913 – 1914 like the one above. Is the Model T right hand drive or is the lady riding on the running board?

Again we have stereotypical immigrants having great fun at the expense of the Model T.

Seems like the low band would not last long if you were plowing a large piece of property.

Today we live in a world where flat tires have become so rare that auto manufacturers often do not even supply a spare tire. In the days of the Model T flat tires were common, the result of poor tire technology and lots of horse shoe nails on every road. This is a Witt cartoon.

Witt drew the Model T in an elongated style that is quite distinctive.

The card above is not by either Witt or Shin. Still a good one!

Poetry was much more popular in days gone by, before we had things like radio, television and the internet to entertain us.

Certainly Charlie Chaplin kissed a lot of girls, and had to pay dearly for that some times.

Witt invoking the spirit of fellow cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

Again we see Shinn using the traditional Dutch boy with his funny hat and wooden shoes, a dachshund, and people with funny sounding English. It was all in good fun! You have to wonder if Shinn sometimes drew the picture of these standard folks around the Model T, then added the text later, knowing it would be funny no matter what they said or did.

Shinn also did illustrations for children’s books and romantic greeting cards. He is not noted for either of those things. Clearly he was in his element when creating humorous Model T post cards.

Today we think of Uber or Lyft as a way to perhaps save a bit of money compared to a slightly less sketchy ride in a taxi cab. In the days of the Model T a Jitney might have been thought of in a similar way.

Old Dobbin was often put out to pasture permanently when the farmer brought home a Ford.

Another Model T poem, suitable for framing.

On a good day Witt could produce some fine cartoons rivaling any of Shinn’s work.

Not all of Shinn’s work was Model T related. Here we see Charlie Chaplin has lost a contest with bull.

Neither Shinn nor Witt, many of these old cards do not seem to be signed.

In the days before email, text messages and Facebook we often sent post cards to let friends and relatives know what we were doing and that we were thinking of them. Notice the address is lacking the kind of detail that the postmaster requires today, but my bet would be that it was delivered to Mr. Terry F King at the Heil Electric Works in Fort Wayne without incident.

Often when the bridge washed out the big car would be stuck in the mud while the plucky Model T Ford continues on to the end of its journey.

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