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Uncle Joe: 1922

May 8, 1922. "Cannon & Brennan at Capitol." Former House speaker "Uncle Joe" Cannon, congressman from Illinois, accessorized with Michigan lawmaker Vincent Brennan and a big cigar. National Photo Co. glass negative. View full size.

May 8, 1922. "Cannon & Brennan at Capitol." Former House speaker "Uncle Joe" Cannon, congressman from Illinois, accessorized with Michigan lawmaker Vincent Brennan and a big cigar. National Photo Co. glass negative. View full size.


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What do your cats look like?

Fancy meeting you here!

Uncle Joe really was my Great-Grand-Uncle.
My Great-Grand-Mother was Joseph Gurney Cannon's Sister.

Maybe our Grand Mother's traded cats too!

Cheers Cousin!

Uncle Rip and Uncle Joe

Harold Austin Ripley, my mother's sister's husband, was one of Joe Cannon's page boys. I recall some of his stories about Uncle Joe -- not the least of which involved running to a nearby cigar store to restock the Speaker's humidor. You might imagine my total surprise, then, on coming upon this photo of Cannon, cigar in hand. What a flashback trigger!

Rip tried to enlist when the U.S. signed on to the war, but his parents (Rip's father worked for the U.S. Mint) wouldn't sign off -- Rip was 16 in 1917. So Rip asked his boss to write a letter of recommendation on his behalf, making up some story about why he needed it. I cannot recall the exact wording, but it began: "I highly recommend Master Ripley etc etc." Rip took the letter to a D.C. recruiting station. The master sergeant in charge took one look at the letterhead and the signature at the bottom -- and sat up ramrod-straight in his chair, as Rip liked to tell it. No questions asked. The next thing my uncle knew, he was on a troopship bound for Europe.

The army discovered his real age in France and assigned him to the Graves Registration Dept, out of harm's way. Rip and his buddies stayed drunk on cheap French vin; there was no other means of confronting the awful stench of no-man's land. Gas masks, he said, proved worthless.

Master Ripley returned to the U.S. a devoted though albeit functional alcoholic, and remained so until 1940 when he imbibed his last distilled spirits (from Crown Royal to Royal Crown cola -- Rip has cases of the latter in his basement). He became, in the following order during those intervening years: the first territorial salesman for LifeSavers; crime reporter for The Chicago Tribune; the author of Minute Mysteries (read in a minute/solve in a minute) syndicated in over 150 daily newspapers; the longest continuous columnist (Photo Crime, 13 years) in Look magazine; and finally the founder of Guest House, a retreat for alcoholic priests located in the grandiose Scripps estate at Lake Orion, MI, and which recently celebrated its first half-century of drying out Catholic clergy from all over the world. The Catholic hierarchy -- totally befuddled -- simply ignored and abandoned their alcoholic priests, so Rip stepped in and devoted the rest of his life to their rehabilitation and recovery.

For all his imagination, crime-plotting ability and investigative skills, Austin Ripley could never have imagined the greater crime now tearing apart Catholic dioceses around the world. I'm glad he never lived to see it.

Proper attire

In 53 years, standards of senators' dress fell off a cliff.

Michigan not Maine

Vincent Brennan was a congressperson from Michigan, not Maine. But both states do start with M.

[Wups. Thankew! - Dave]

Who rolled that cigar?

Personally I'd put my money on Cheech and Chong.

Oh ME, Oh MI

Congressman Brennan represented Michigan rather than Maine. This was probably about as close as he came to meaningful power during his two-year tenure in Congress.

Speaker Cannon

TR had a small brass cannon at Sagamore Hill, his house in Oyster Bay, which he would fire off every day to entertain his children. Roosevelt named the artillery piece "Cannon Speaker." I am sure that there were a number of other quips that he made when putting the piece to work.

The beginning of Time

Uncle Joe was Time magazine's inaugural cover boy -- he appeared on the front of its very first issue, in 1923.


I wonder if anybody ever slipped him an exploding cigar. Need a light?

The Wit and Wisdom of Uncle Joe

Also known as "foul-mouth Joe".

"I am g**damned tired of listening to all this babble for reform. America is a hell of a success."

"Not one cent for scenery."

"Teddy Roosevelt has no more use for the Constitution than a tomcat has for a marriage license."

"I am one of the great army of mediocrity which constitutes the majority."

Cigar and Attitude

A big cigar and attitude to match.


In this case a cigar is only a torpedo.

Formidable Stogie

When "Uncle Joe" said he was going outside for a smoke, his colleagues knew they wouldn't see him again for a couple of days.

Modern Pharmacology

This looks like it could be a pharmaceutical ad for an anti-aging drug.

Yikes ... now that's a "stick"

Cigar smokers sometimes refer to a cigar as a "stick." In this case that "stick" is more like a branch! That said, I've seen pictures of the hand-rollers in Cuba with similar "big smokes." Apparently, they are allowed to smoke "one cigar a day" and roll themselves something large and long, a sort of "all day smoker."

Big cigar indeed

Where's Freud when you need him?

Uncle Joe Says

Theodore Roosevelt "has no more use for the Constitution than a tomcat has for a marriage license."

Cannon retired from the House in 1923. He was first elected to the House from Illinois in 1872. He had served, with a couple of interruptions, 'til March, 1922. He had been Speaker from 1903 to 1911.

Joe was so old in 1922 that his personal history included support for Abraham Lincoln for president in 1860. Little wonder Brennan looks a little awed.

Joe died in his bed at age 90. Don't make 'em like that any more. Nor them cigars, neither.

[He's also namesake of the Cannon House Office Building. - Dave]

Tired of Byrd Bashing

Sen. Byrd seems a frequent target of comparison of any elderly politician pictured on Shorpy. While I cannot defend every position the honorable senator has taken, he has done well both for the interests of his state and for upholding the constitution and tradition of the Senate.

The following is a snapshot of me as a child on a visit to the Senator's office in July 1975.

[A nice photo. But -- although that comment was digit-related, the digit has nothing to do with age. - Dave]

Later known as ...

Senator Byrd.

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