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The Open Board of Trade

Months ago one of The Journal readers suggested a story to be found down on Market street near the Hobart building. Many times since when passing there I have thought that those street hawkers must have a certain picturesque and even humorous value, and hoping to find it I have stopped to listen. But the moment I stop they win me with their everlasting logic, and then blessed if I can write them up. They have the same effect upon others. I have seen chambers of commerce and stock exchangers and professors from Berkeley passing with a supercilious glance which did very well so long as they kept moving. But once let them step into the magic ring and they too became mesmerized and stood there gaping in spellbound interest. "Logic is logic, that's all I say."

Those hawkers are artists, skilled in the arts and wiles of persuasiveness. There is one with a long, horse-hair wig which he occasionally brushes back from his eyes with a dignified flourish. This man has found the supreme elixir and the secret of perpetuity. He is the only man in the world, this modern Ponce de Leon, who knows the secret. Surely we need not blush to listen to its exposition, $2 is a small sum to pay for such a bonanza. Forty thousand people have used it in the last thirty-nine days. Think of it. "Take it right out into the crowd and sniff it for yourself," he urges and somehow that breaks the spell, and strong men look foolishly at each other and move a-way.

Horoscopes, suspenders, iron watch charms, brown cakes that may pass for maple sugar, ironing wax, laundry soap or penuchia, a book on Prohibition, mending wax and books of magic are all there. They are not things which we particularly want, but that's the point. Anyone can sell things that people want. But these men are professional persuaders of men against their will whose mission it is to make people want what they don't want. That's Art.

The horoscope seller must have taken his degree from some college of venders, his call has such finesse. I cannot reproduce the lilt of it - "Here's where you get your horoscope, a dime, ten cents." It is suggestive of the midways of country fairs, shooting galleries on the Board Walk, and circuses in the springtime. "Here's where you get your horoscope, a dime, ten cents."

The little, old, blind man sitting there with one hand outstretched and the other holding a book, his white hair and beard neatly combed, reminds me of something Biblical and prophetic like pictures in old churches. Alas! no one seems to buy his story of prohibition. I think he would do lots better in Kansas or Iowa. A particularly fascinating one is the man of mending wax who stands before his table like some professor of chemistry with a tiny flame and saucers of mysterious powders and, I almost said, a blow pipe.

But, pshaw, I can't write them up. I take them too seriously. "Logic is logic, that's all I say."

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