Monday, January 14, 2008
News of Yore: The New Orleans Picayune Frog
New Orleans—Tradition lovers sent up a mighty cheer this week when The Picayune Frog emerged victorious over Pogo the Possum in a stormy "weather derby."
Frog's the winner by a 5,170 to 4,087 count. He thereby earns squatter's rights as official illustrator for weather stories in the Times-Picayune. Pogo will continue to entertain readers of the Times-Picayune with his comic strip antics. And, in case of an emergency, he'll substitute for The Picayune Frog.
The Picayune Frog vs. Pogo weather derby proved again just how newsworthy the weather really is.
2,839 Votes Cast
The contest ran for one week. On the final day of balloting, 2,839 votes were cast. It started quite innocently.
Some weeks ago, Pogo—with an occasional assist from Albert, the alligator—began helping the weather editor. His appearance immediately brought letters from readers who, invoking the power of tradition, wanted this usurper Pogo ousted and The Picayune Frog reinstated.
Frog was guessing the weather in the Picayune back in 1894, and for 20 years thereafter. He was one of the many inspirations of Mrs. Eliza Jane Nicholson, co-owner with her husband, George Nicholson, of the Picayune at that time.
One of the great newspaper-women of her day, the late Mrs. Nicholson decided her readers should have a weather prophet capable of tickling their funny-bones as well as passing along predictions.
Posture Gives Clue
She inspired cartoonist L. A. Winterhalder to create a dapper, pot-bellied frog with rolling eyes and a swagger rear. With a top hat and cane, smoking a cigar, holding a fan or an umbrella, his rakish posture told what to expect that day in a weather way.
The Picayune Frog was an immediate hit from his first appearance on Jan. 13, 1894. He became the theme for dancing academy programs, was borrowed for book store campaigns and rode on a Carnival float. Later he achieved fame on the Children's Page when he organized a Frog Circus. He was even the model for souvenir spoons. With his crafty look and debonair appearance. Frog reigned for 20 years.
And the current weather derby proved his loyal followers haven't forgotten him.
From "The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans", 1903, available on Google Books:
THE PICAYUNE FROG
When the "Frog" first made its advent in New Orleans as the "Weather Prophet" of the Picayune, and appeared daily at the head of our "Guide to the Weather" column, arrayed in various garbs, indicating the kind of weather one might expect for- the next twenty-four hours, enthusiasm for the "Picayune Frog," as our prophét was immediately dubbed, was very great.
Not only did the great popular heart go out to Froggie, but the most exclusive circles caught the idea, and "Picayune Frog Teas," "Picayune Frog Pins," "Picayune Frog Calendars." menu cards, etc., with the pictures of Froggie in his amusing garbs became the fashion of the hour. No entertainment, no reunion, no fair, or children's party was considered complete without the presence of the Picayune Frog. The Frog soon became the "mascot" of every charitable and philanthropic entertainment, the booths at which he was invited to take up his headquarters generally carrying the fair. Cakes and drinks and fashionable dishes were named in his honor, and so great was his popularity that a famous old chef in the French Quarter, unable to control his enthusiasm for the little frog, who had left the bayous and swamps of this old Creole State to take up his abode in a great newspaper office, complimented him with an original dish named in his honor. "Picayune Frogs il la Creole." Froggie, always ready to adapt himself' to circumstances, at once responded the next day by appearing as a waiter serving the dish.
Subsequently, on occasions of great festivals in New Orleans, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc., Froggie always appeared in this conventional garb, ready, as he said, for duty. And so when the Picayune published its Creole Cook Book, Froggie., who, as distinguished critics aver, "is able to do all things and do them well." delighted the public by offering to serve the dishes which the old Creole Cook so faithfully portrayed in the cut presented for their delectation.
Labels: News of Yore