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story.lead_photo.caption The New Tread Tire Co. of Little Rock advertised its partnership with Dan Cupid and Father Time in the April 13, 1919, Arkansas Gazette. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Daniel Cupid is not a celebrity, not in 2019. But back in the day, Cupid had a first name, and it was Dan.

If we didn't already know this, we could catch a clue from the All Over Arkansas column published on the Arkansas Gazette's editorial page 100 years ago Sunday.

"The flu is bad again in Manning with both old and young. But Cupid has certainly hit the youngsters of the frying size a hard blow here."

— Manning Correspondent of the Sparkman News

Obstacles don't stop little Dan.

All Over Arkansas was a daily humor ... hmm. Make that "attempted humor" column — humor in homeopathic doses. Every day it snipped a score of clippings from the native press and reprinted them, usually with comment.

It was, to quote a man adept at making enemies of everyone, C.L. Edson (1881-1975), the only local news in a Gazette crammed with Associated Press and cliche shipped by mail from a New York press syndicate. (Read Edson's hilarious and insulting 1923 profile of the state, "Arkansas: A Native Proletariate," on Page 355 here.)

The syndicate provided matter that had been prepped for a "metropolitan polyglot booboisie" and thus was "as Greek when laid before the Arkansas rustic," Edson opined, adding that All Over Arkansas was "the one column for which the people took the paper."

All Over Arkansas was unsigned by its well-known author, the gregarious Fred Heiskell. It appeared directly above C.T. Davis' Jes' Ramblin' Roun' poetry column, and often went to war with it.

It's fun imagining why Heiskell picked out the particular items he quoted. Maybe he was waving at his friends.

"We need a marshal to look after our street stock. Some pig is going to wander in front of an auto some fine morning, and commit suey-cide, or 'Old Pide' will steal a dish-rag out of some kitchen, and choke to death, to say nothing of other accidents that might happen. Some self-sacrificing citizen should come to town's aid and take the job mentioned."

— Sheridan Headlight

(My guess is the Headlight knew a poem about a pig of a pied breed and was poking fun at local dialect with "Pide.")

In some cases the reason for selecting a particular item is so obvious Heiskell didn't bother to add his wit. Some things were self-satirizing.

"Ralph Hudson is up and going again after shooting himself through his foot during the holidays."

— Union Correspondent of the Boone County Headlight

Here are a few of the column's better sallies from the week of Feb. 11, 1919. For clarity, I have boldfaced the quote and put Heiskell's remarks in italics.

Wiley Daniel is going to fence his farm. He has one post set up and one roll of wire set up against the post.

— Sulphur Springs Correspondent of the Boone County Headlight

And he has the necessary air in which to string the wire.

An airplane flew over this community Sunday and frightened our chickens nearly to death. They evidently thought it the biggest hawk they had ever seen.

— Roland Ridge Correspondent of the Boone County Headlight

Just between us now. Were only the chickens frightened?

Our young friend Henry Yeager did a wise thing recently by choosing Miss Susie McKinney for a wife and they have gone to housekeeping.

— Ozark Democrat-Enterprise

Lady, you have been endorsed.

Wonder where Clovis Edge and Finis Raper went Sunday?

— Snookum Valley Correspondent of the Grand Prairie Herald

Maybe those is boys went down to the was neighborhood.

Mose Jarratt purchased a new pair of shoes last week and said he was not going to stink them up with sulphur, even if he did catch the flu.

— South Hermitage Correspondent of the Warren Eagle-Democrat

You're right, Mose. Good shoes deserve better than that.

It won't be long until the regular Saturday night dance will turn into a moonlight 'possum hunt or watermelon party.

— Pine Bluff Graphic

Nix. Nix. Possum and watermelon do not ripen in the same season.

We haven't heard from the dance given by Charles Short Friday night, therefore can't say whether it was an old-time dance or not. For the benefit of those that do not know the usual customs of an old-time dance at Mountain Valley will say that a person may get off with a black eye or two and maybe an ear knock down or his neck chewed or some other slight casualty. But a lot of the good old time has passed with John Barleycorn.

— Mountain Valley Correspondent of the Hot Springs New Era

We judge from this that society editors in Mountain Valley cover the hospitals.

Dan Cupid can't do his thing without good candy, according to this ad in the Feb. 6, 1913, Arkansas Gazette. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Dan Cupid can't do his thing without good candy, according to this ad in the Feb. 6, 1913, Arkansas Gazette. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)


The Sparkman News item stopped me. "Little Dan" seemed to refer to Cupid, and it did. I found many similar references in the archive. So where did Dan Cupid go, and more to the point, where did he come from?

Charting the name "Dan Cupid" with the Google tool Ngrams, which rakes through "lots of books," it appears Dan Cupid, name, took wing circa 1595, about the same time sculptors began to represent the little god as a winged, bow-toting baby. Thereafter the name lay low until 1730, 1759 and 1798. Then it rose and undulated, remaining very, very slightly in common use through the Ngram cutoff date 2008.

Three guesses who invoked Dan Cupid in the 16th century?

This wimpled, whining, purblind, wayward boy,

This Signor Junior, giant dwarf, Dan Cupid,

Regent of love-rhymes, lord of folded arms,

Th'anointed sovereign of sighs and groans ...

The above is from, who else, William Shakespeare in Love's Labour's Lost (1595).

In 1919, Dan Cupid was an infrequent and yet familiar figure in the popular press, used to sell tires as well as chocolate. My guess is his fame was helped along by humorists like Charles Trumbell Grilley, who performed on Chautauqua circuits and had a hit with his 1907 collection of verses Jingles of a Jester:

Have you heard of that little fly, sly little man, Dan Cupid by name, or diminutive Dan?

A marksman or hunter whose one aim in life is to change youth and maid into husband and wife.

And then there was the briefly best-selling Cupid's Cyclopedia, which was available in Little Rock. This dictionary of gender-obsessed assertions is, by modern standards, substandard stuff. See for yourself here.

Part of the currency of the name in the 20th century, though, is surely due to the brief career of an actor named Daniel Cupid who strutted and fretted onstage in the 1930s and '40s.

And then there was Dan Cupid, horse, sired by Native Dancer, horse. Dan Cupid, horse, had a mildly successful career as a stud animal, producing Sea-bird, a real goer. This Dan Cupid was French and once met Queen Elizabeth while she was in France. Photos of that encounter can be found online, the little queen unusually casual but holding her typical handbag, the large animal's hindquarters leaving the scene.

But none of that has anything to do with what was in the newspaper on Feb. 11, 1919. (Sigh.) So much of my labor, so lovingly lost.

Drat you, Dan Cupid.


Style on 02/11/2019

Print Headline: God of Desire? Oh, you can call him Dan


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