“All Up For ‘Citizenship Day’” (E13)

  • Originally Published: Life Magazine, October 26, 1922
  • First Reprinted: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline: R.C.B.


Even the Apostle of Applesauce had his limits, and RB reaches his in contemplating the proposed advent of yet another Patriotic Holiday. This little Battle Ahem of the Republic suffers greatly from its attempt to confront the abyssal absurdities of American Civic Religion head on. With the gaudy austerities of the roaring twenties in full swing and the tumorous open secret of Jim Crow lynch law pressing heavily upon the nation’s frontal lobe, ol’ Uncle Sam’s huzzah-haunted hypocrisy was just too big to foil at this time (one can only hope the condition isn’t permanent). Benchley’s targets are too self-evident and too painfully unassailable; and his mock allegorical floats of fancy never leave the ground.

On a brighter note, “Citizenship Day” did fail to reach red letter day status on November 4, 1922 – a fizzle RB must have drunk to. However, the concept did eventually gain country-wide traction, metastasizing into Pact With Hell and Covenant With Death (aka Constitution) Day.

Favourite Moment:
“At the other end [of an allegorical float representing the Dignity of the Law] is shown New York City enforcing the Prohibition laws. Someone seems to be accepting money from someone else in this group, but you can’t quite make out who the parties are.”

“A Bas the Military Censor: The Ride of Paul Revere — As It Would Be Featured in Washington Today.” (E1)

  • Originally printed: Vanity Fair, May 1918
  • Reprinted: Chips Off the Old Benchley
  • Original Byline: Brighton Perry


Written under the pseudonymous Brighton Perry byline, Benchley winces waggishly in the gloved grip of Great Wartime public discourse. The piece opens with a knowing nod toward the three thousand war correspondents whose most insightful writing on the conflict will remain under intellectual quarantine until accessed by future scholars looking to find out what the hell actually happened. Benchley gets in a jab at topical super patriot James M. Beck and teasingly begs Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson not to ban Vanity Fair from the mails just for daring to have a little fun with the concept of soft news during hard times.

The remainder of the essay presents an alternate history of the Revolutionary War in which Paul Revere’s wild midnight ride is replaced by a Sunday section puff piece on picturesque stops for Redcoats on a walking tour of New England and George Washington’s trip across the Delaware is stage managed by military police who function like (21st century) movie location security guards.

Research note:
Benchley worked as a military aircraft information censor for the U.S. Government in early 1918, so he knew whereof he joked.

Favourite moment:
“…the great (numerically speaking) American public..”

Reprint Notes:

  • Major excisions from topical preamble on World War One Censorship
  • Topical reference to jingoistic blowhard James M. Beck removed
  • Teasing request not to be banned by the Postmaster General removed
  • Favourite moment (above) was a casualty of the excision process and does not appear in Chips Off the Old Benchley – too anti-patriotic for the HUAC era?