The following article was found on page 1 of the April 7, 1905 issue of The Weekly Commoner, a newspaper in Colfax, Washington:
A NOVEL PARTY
Colfax Ladies Turned an April Fool Joke
“One of the most novel and amusing parties in the history of Colfax was held last week at the residence of Mrs. Leon Kuhn, and thereby hangs a tale. Mrs. Kuhn had issued instructions to a number of her most intimate friends for a party Saturday afternoon. All unsuspecting they arrayed themselves in their best gowns, and repaired to the Kuhn residence. When they arrived they found the house deserted, the door locked and on it a card bearing the hateful inscription ‘April Fool.’ At first their chagrin was too deep for utterance and they were turning away disconsolate, while Mrs. Kuhn was enjoying their discomfiture from the window of a neighbor’s house. But one of the more daring among them refused to be sold and going around to the back of the house, found an unfastened window and climbed in. It was the work of a moment to open the door and admit the crestfallen guests, and then a sudden change came over the spirit of their dreams. In a moment a dozen merry women were decking the tables with snowy linen and shining silver. Others were searching the larder, while the telephone was kept busy with orders for ice cream, cakes and confections, all to be charged to Mrs. Kuhn. One lady had brought flowers to present to the hostess, and these were quickly arranged in vases to grace the table. In a short time an elaborate repast had been prepared and the guests surrounded the festive board, having first taken the precaution to bar all the windows and doors.”
“It was a merry party, despite the absence of the hostess, and when the eatables had disappeared they played progressive five hundred, selecting prizes from the pretty china in the closet. Mrs. Kuhn came home but was denied admittance. The home was turned topsy turvey and a momento was left for the absent hostess in the form of a card bearing the inscription: ‘He laughs best who laughs last.’”
We still have the Northwest card file, a finding aid resulting from decades of indexing by WSL staff before the online era. An entry for the junior Leon Kuhn led me to With the colors from Whitman County, 1917-1918-1919, which was an alternative title for An Honor roll containing a pictorial record of the loyal and patriotic men from Whitman County, Washington, U.S.A., who served in the world war, 1917-1918-1919. Not only did this book tell me about Frankie’s son’s military record, but a portrait was included as well. This card file is currently in the process of being converted to an online delivery. It will take awhile to get all the data completely on the screen, but once it is finished it will be an amazing resource for Pacific Northwest historians and genealogists.
But wait! There’s more! The Heritage project also has a photograph of Frankie with the Athenaeum Club, most likely the same mob that took over her house! And, get this, it was taken in April, 1905– the same month as the story!
The Weekly Commoner had a run from 1892-1911, and is part of a family tree of newspapers that led to the formation of the current Whitman County Gazette. WSL has a strong collection of Colfax newspapers on microfilm. Also, thanks to our Digital and Historical Collections unit, The Colfax Gazette from the years 1900-1912 is available online.
I couldn’t resist and took a peek at The Colfax Gazette online for April 7, 1905 (page 7). Their version of this story is a bit different, but it does confirm that several of the women pictured in the Athenaeum Club photograph were present at the party:
First of April Hoax
“Mrs. Leon Kuhn entertained a few ladies on Saturday afternoon April 1st. The guests were bidden to come promptly at two o’clock, the hostess leaving home a half hour before. The guests were forced to gain entrance through a window several feet from the ground and considerable amusement was afforded the hostess and those bidden to watch the performance, as the ladies, in beautiful party gowns, made the entrance, the younger ladies lending a helping hand to the matrons. A prize for the most graceful climber was awarded Mrs. Julius Lippitt. Refreshments, which the hostess had prepared, consisting of bread, boiled tripe, and buttermilk, were served in the afternoon. Those present were Madam Woodward, Mesdames Eugene Woodin, Howard Bramwell, Jas Cairns, J.A. Perkins, W.J. Davenport, Julius Lippitt, R.F. Banker, J.H. Ewart and Miss Stine.”
Boiled tripe?! Yipe!