Benjamin Blifkins Shovels Snow
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Written by SeacoastNH ARchive Presents
Historic Portsmouth #339

Portsmouth-born writer B.P. Shillaber, who published America’s first humor magazine in 1850, also created a series of comic characters. Benjamin Blifkins was Shillber’s middle-aged middle-class man who could do nothing right. Harassed by wife and children, Blifkins could not run a store, put out the cat, or operate any sort of machinery. (Continued below)



In one story Blifkins attends a lengthy funeral ceremony for a man, it turns out, he never knew. In the illustration above, Mrs. Blifkins insists that her husband shovel their front steps as required by city ordinance. Blifkins breaks his own window in the process. Then he borrows his neighbor’s shovel, which is better than his, but as soon as his walkway is clean – he’s buried under an avalanche of snow from his roof. In a fit of rage he snaps his neighbor’s shovel. Then he discovers his own shovel has been stolen. Blifkins tries to hire out the job, but without luck. Finally a passing policeman fines him $3 for failure to clear the public sidewalk.  One scholar has compared the bumbling Benjamin Blifkins to 20th century characters by humorists James Thurber and Robert Benchley. This illustration comes from a collection published by Shillaber in 1873, who, if he were alive today, would certainly wish you a humorous and Happy New Year. (Courtesy of Collection)




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