So, What’s The Big Noise???

While collating a microfilm reel of the Coos Bay Times from 1912, our student assistant, Sommer, came across a mysterious item billed as The Big Noise. It looked a lot like an issue of the Times, but the title was different, and there was no date or issue number. A glance at the paper’s masthead quickly revealed its humorous intent.

Coos Bay, Oregon's answer to Mad Magazine or The Onion - Circa 1912!

A little more digging through this issue’s contents told more of the story. Billed as “A Foolishhouse Paper Printed Once in a Lifetime–That’s Enuf,” the Big Noise is in fact a satire of the Coos Bay Times that seems to have been produced as a unique promotional handbill/program for the “Vaudeville and Minstrels” variety show staged for charity by the local chapter of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks. The paper makes it clear that this event was to be held on the evenings of December 5th and 6th, 1912, at the Masonic Opera House in Marshfield.

The Big Noise was printed on the presses of the Coos Bay Times, and was evidently designed to parody that respectable local journal. Scattered among the “joke” ads printed in the Noise are many for actual, local businesses that regularly advertised in the Times — Ekbald & Son Hardware, Hub Clothing and Shoe Company, Owl Prescription Pharmacy, the S.S. Breakwater, etc. — but with the standard marketing copy altered to gently tease the proprietors. It can be assumed that many of these local businessmen were members of the Elks Lodge. Other prominent local figures are parodied in the ‘news’ articles and humorous cartoons that fill the paper, such as the two reproduced below.

On page 4, the ‘Editor’ of The Big Noise explains: “This paper was published to inform, instruct and amuse, make glad and mad the various members mentioned herein… The paper contains some information, bits of wisdom, and numerous scandalous lies and misrepresentations of our friends, who will have to stand for it… There will be no mud slinging in this paper. Only the very best quality of Coos River bottom soil will be used.”

We were surprised and excited to find this early predecessor of satirical papers like The Onion or National Lampoon produced in small-city Oregon just after the turn of the last century. What a unique document… and what irreplaceable insight into the “lighter side” of life in 1912 Marshfield!  —Jason A. Stone

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