Thoughts on the International Cotton Exposition – Bill Arp, 1881

“All hail to the chief.” We used to sing that song to Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun in the halcyon
days of peace, and next to Jeff Davis and General Lee in the rip roaring times of war. But it’s all played
out now, and we have nobody to sing to. We have got no chief, and so far as I am concerned we don’t
want any. Bob Toombs has retired, Alek Stephens is serenely waiting for the summons, Ben Hill has
seen his best days, and Joe Brown is on the down grade. There seems to be no new crop coming to
the front to take the places of the grand old men of the olden time. Well, maybe we don’t need them
that is to say we don’t need great statesmen nowadays, fur all the great questions of government are
settled and agreed on. This is an age of business now, and not of theories. It’s work, work, all the
time. If a man has any doubt about it, let him go to the exposition. He will see more work done there
in one day than he will see at home in a lifetime. The exposition is an index of the times-of the age
we live in, and it is the biggest show I ever saw. They say Mr. Kimball debervesall the credit of it, but
my opinion is that Mr. Kimball never conceived tilt half of it. It has just grown up, and kept growing, and
made itself, until Mr. Kimball is astonished, and everybody else. But Mr. Kimball is a great man. He has
great ideas, and executes them. He reminds me of George Train’s speech at Chicago, when he said
he wanted the government to issue a hundred thousand millions of paper currency so that everybody
could have a pocket full and then we would build railroads and canals and fine churches and hotels and
everybody be happy. Some feller rose up and asked Train if there wouldent be a big collapse afterwhile.
“Of course, of course, there would,” said he “but the railroads and canals and churches and hotels
wouldent collapse.”

They would all be there. And, jesso, Mr. Kimball will get up big things and when the collapse come,
the big things stand fast, money or no money, for there is the opera house and the Kimball house.
The exposition is a success. I don’t know whether it will pay out or not, but it is a success. it is the
best school and the best show in the land. Every man and his wife and his children ought to go. If.
all can’t go then some of the family ought to go and come back and tell the rest all about it. It beats
all the schools in the land for instruction for the time you are there. It beats a circus for amusement.
I saw Mr. Jim Camp, of Floyd county, a tip-top fanner, and he told me he had been there several days;
that be came to learn, just like boys go to school, and he said be had learned more in those few days
than he would have done in five years by staying at home. It is a school of applied science-you see
how things are done. I saw some little show of esthetics, but not much, just enough to spice the concern,
which is all right. Mr. Moser has got a good lot of it in the Judges’ hall. It . is a splendid picture-that
large one over the stage. Mr. Jactard showed us his diamonds worth ten thousand dollars, and I told
him to put ’em in my hand, but he made me turn my hand over and put ’em on the back thereof,
which I dident like, for it was a reflection on my hand. I should like to see a man steal anything on
the bark of his hand. I dident care anything about the diamonds no how. We couldent eat ’em nor
drink ’em. They cant work nor do anything. If there is anything in this. world that I have a supreme
contempt for it is diamonds. I know folks who lock up their genuine diamonds in their trunks and
wear paste diamonds on the street. Mr. Jaccard told me that there wasent one man in ten thousand
that could tell the difference between the paste and the genuine.

I was a thinking about diamonds and what they were good for, and a man told me that in case
there was a war they were good things to hide in one’s clothes and run the blockade. Jesso, jesso.
I like diamonds during a war. As for their beauty and brilliancy, I have seen the dew drops shine
on a May morning more brilliant than diamonds, and they never cost a cent. But the exposition
is a big thing and I wish everybody could go to it. There will not be such an opportunity perhaps
for twenty-five years to see how things are made that we use in everyday life. I paid my money
at the gate and I got the worth of it, and I am going again, and take Mrs. Arp and the children
so that we will have something to talk about all the winter. I saw old Joe Brown there, and they
told me he came every day. His head is level. He is always drinking in knowledge. He aint much
of an original genius, but he is the greatest absorber I ever knew. He is a regular sponge.

Last Updated on January 13, 2021 by Bill Arp

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