Nov. 26, 1861: Humorist Artemus Ward (1834-1867) makes his debut as what today would be called a stand-up comedian, in New London, Connecticut.

Ward, whose real name is Charles Farrar Browne, was born in Waterford, Maine, and used Yankee speech mannerisms and deliberately misspelled words in his columns published under the “Artemus Ward” pen name starting in 1858. He became a key figure among America’s Bohemian writers and entertainers and a close friend of Mark Twain.

Abraham Lincoln regales his Cabinet with a humorous story from a Ward anthology, reminding the Cabinet members afterward of the restorative powers of humor. Then, changing the subject, he announces his intention to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Reports of what happened in the 1862 meeting assure Ward’s fame.

His career is short, however. He goes on the lecture circuit in England, where he dies of tuberculosis in 1867.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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