Yesterday, the New York Times ended their TimesSelect program and opened up the previously subscription-only portions of their website to anyone. This means free access to all news and op-ed columns, as well as archives from 1987 to the present, and from 1851 to 1922. I love looking through old newspapers, so those early archives made me wonder: what were people writing about accordions back in the late 19th century?
Turns out that accordion jokes are nothing new. In an editorial titled “The Concertina” (August 18, 1877), the author rails against this “so-called musical instrument which is variously known as the accordion or concertina” as the “favorite instrument of the idle and depraved.” He goes on to compare its sound to the screams of a squeezed cat.
Another piece, “A Noble Act” (May 18, 1885), is a fictional account of three “public-spirited young men” who grab an “habitual and reckless accordion player” off the street and punish him by forcing him to listen to his own accordion.
“They have struck a lasting blow at the crime of accordion playing, and a service such as this can hardly be overestimated.”
Fortunately, accordion players are a resilient bunch; we survived that early resistance, the Lawrence Welk era, and Urkel from Family Matters. Like it or not, we’re here to stay!