“I believe there’s licker in that ‘ere” — Barber Dime Coin

Today, the Barber Dime Coin remembers a newspaper article from 121 years ago.

Is it fact or a newsman’s humorous fiction during the days of temperance?

From the Lewiston [ME] Evening Journal of April 7, 1896:


It is said to have happened in the wilds of Aroostook shortly after the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad had commenced to exert its “modernizing influence” and bring to the newly established express offices certain commodities, the sale of which or possession with intent to sell, is contrary to the wise laws of the goodly commonwealth of Maine.

A certain deputy sheriff was informed that there was deposited at a certain railroad station within his jurisdiction a package containing matter subject to confiscation.

The railroad station, which also included the express office, was some distance from the village and the minion of the law concluded to reconnoiter little before taking the hard journey, perhaps for nothing.

There was a telephone connection and after communication was duly established the following conversation took place:

“Hello there: Be your the express age?”

“I be.”

“Well, hain’t there a box there marked for Mike Pommerlow?”

“I believe there is. Be you Mike?”

“No, I hain’t Mike, but I’m a dep’ty sheriff and I believe there’s licker in that ‘ere. Say, will ye let me seize it if I come over?”

“Will I let ye seize it, why—”

The agent “tumbled,” to use a horrid slang expression.

He saw at once that the deputy was somewhat ignorant of the habeas rummus nature of the Maine law and “piped him off”:—

“Well, there’s a dollar seventy-five due for charges and if you pay that, seein’ as how you’ve got the law on your side, I s’pose I’ll have to stand by and see you seize.”

“An’ I don’t seize unless I pay the express?”

“Nary seize. Don’t nothin’ go out of this office unless the charges are paid. Tha’s the orders.”

“Wall, w-a-all but ‘sposen I seize the box and tain’t rum after all, do I get my $1.75 back?”

“Nit, nit, nit. We don’t let out rum boxes on approval nor I hain’t got all day to talk either.”

“Well, now look ahere young feller you must think I’m a fool to pay express before I know whether it’s rum or not. I don’t seize nothin’ but pre-paid boxes rum or no rum. Ye can’t fool your uncle Dudley outer no two dollars on unsartanties.”

There was a sharp click on the other end of the line and the express agent turned around with a grin just as a muddy buckboard drove up with the owner of the box in a highly nervous state.

The charges were paid, the contraband disappeared around the bend in the road toward Caribou and the agent took down his fowling piece and started down the track to shoot a few partridges from the telegraph wires.


The Barber Dime Coin shows with an image of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad near Caribou, Maine, circa 1940.

Barber Dime Coin