Story of Pigs is Pigs
by Ellis Parker Butler
In 1899 Mr. Ellis Parker Butler was in Cleveland, Ohio, staying at a hotel, and from the lobby window he could see the signs of half a dozen patent medicine houses. He had an hour or two, waiting for his train, and the signs suggested writing a short skit with the advertising man as the humorous character. So he wrote "Mr. Perkins of Portland." Mr. Perkins punched holes in sticky flypaper and sold it as porous plasters. That skit appeared in the Lighter Vein department of the Century Magazine in 1900.
In 1904, Mr. Butler was writing a number of short stories for Ellery Sedgwick, then editor of Leslie's Monthly, and Mr. Sedgwick suggested a series of "Perkins" stories. Mr. Butler did them.
The editor of Judicious Advertising, of Chicago, saw these stories and asked for a series of the same sort, and as the first of the series Mr. Butler sent on "The Injudicious Advertising of Mr. Cyrus Bobbs." That was the story of a man who discovered among his pet guinea pigs a pair with lopped ears -- a great rarity -- and, knowing how prolific guinea pigs are, he saw a fortune ahead and began advertising lop-eared guinea pigs. By the time the money was pouring in, the lop-eared pair died without offspring.
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Mr. Butler had clipped, from a Liverpool, England, newspaper, an anecdote about an Englishman who, returning from Africa with a tortoise, wished to carry it with him free of charge on an English train. Dogs, it seemed by the rules read by the Irish station master, were carried free, but the ruling of the Irish station master was "Dogs is dogs, and cats is dogs, and squirrels in cages is dogs, but that there animal is an insect and must pay." Mr. Butler had this clipping in his purse one day when Ellery Sedgwick said, "Butler, one of the boys at the office was reading your Judicious Advertising story, and he suggested that you could make a story of a man who ordered guinea pigs or rabbits by express and then went away and left them on the express agent's hands."
"So there," says Mr. Butler, "is the story! I wrote it, and rewrote it twice, and the third time I ran in the 'dogs is dogs, and cats is dogs' term, changing it to 'pigs is pigs.'"
Experience with claims against transportation companies while working in a wholesale grocery out West, gave him the red tape idea. Ellery Sedgwick gave him the guinea pig idea, and, finally, some one in the Leslie's Monthly office gave the story its title of "Pigs is Pigs," for Mr. Butler had given it the rather insipid one of "The Dago Pig Episode."
The story was published in the first number of the American Magazine (formerly Leslie's Monthly) in October 1905, and in book form in April 1906.