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Ossawatomie Brown


An 1859-60 essay by Charles Farrar Browne, writing as Artemus Ward. Digitized by the Antislavery Literature Project.



Two weeks after the State of Virginia hung John Brown, a play by Kate Edwards titled “Ossawatomie Brown, or the Insurrection at Harper’s Ferry” opened in New York City’s Bowery Theater on December 16, 1859.  See “An Old Play on John Brown,” 6 Kansas Historical Quarterly (February 1937) 1: 34-59.  The play provided an occasion for a satirical review essay by Charles Farrar Browne (1834-1867), witing in the famous comic persona of Artemus Ward.  This short essay is unusual in the literature relating to John Brown for its humorous response to a very sober, violent history.  Using the half-literate style that characterized  Artemus Ward’s voice, Browne observed “Ossywattermy had varis failins, one of whitch was a idee that he cood conker Virginny with a few duzzen loonatics which he had pickt up sumwhares, mercy only nose whare.” (157) The essay summarizes the play’s action in highly satirical terms.  

Source:  Charles Farrar Browne, Artemus Ward: His Book (New York: Carleton,  1862)

- Joe Lockard