Re: ECV graffiti on cabins in Strip Butte

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Posted by LeRoy Johnson on October 29, 2003 at 12:57:55:

In Reply to: ECV graffiti on cabins in Strip Butte posted by Pissed off on October 29, 2003 at 09:55:45:

Here is some information on the Clampers. It is from a paper I presented at the 1999 Death Valley Historical Conference. LeRoy

Who are the Clampers? The Clampers, members of E Clampus Vitus, are noted for their commitment to preserving early California history. Throughout the state, they erect brass plaques along roadsides commemorating historical events and places. However, there is a lighter side to this organization.
The history of this quasi-fraternal organization originated in the California gold camps of the 1850s. There were few records kept of the Clampers’ early festivities. In Robert W. Ritchie’s book, "The Hell-Roarin’ Forty-niners" he gives a brief history of the organization:
The spirit of horseplay and the zest for comedy which ran a strong current through all the riotous life of the California gold camps has never been duplicated in any time or community since.... Moreover, even in its present outposts the world has become too sophisticated, too self-conscious to let the play impulse ride high: that play impulse which is deep down in the subconscious of every boy grown a man.... Men with no homes [and] no responsibilities ... simply had to blow off steam. When it wasn’t done in drinking the explosion took the form of hazing or practical joking.
From this simple psychological reaction was born the ancient and honorable Society of E Clampus Vitus....
E Clampus Vitus was the noblest wheeze ever launched under the guise of a fraternal brotherhood.
Sam Hartley of Sierra City, “a feller so wild you had to harness him with a pitchfork,” is credited with the fatherhood of E Clampus Vitus in 1857. What Sam started ... lived on for fifty years....
Beginning as a specially built Whizzer of the first water to be perpetuated upon a single luckless individual in Sierra City, the joy of a night built upon its own success ... became the Society of E Clampus Vitus....
Victims of E Clampus Vitus were the casual stranger....
Membership in the “Clampers”—convenient foreshortening of the hog-Latin name—became a patent of nobility in the chivalry of the mines.
When California outgrew the knee pants of its riotous youth and came to the self-consciousness of chambers of commerce and culture clubs, E Clampus Vitus passed....

Their motto is Credo quia absurdum: “I believe because it is absurd.” Or more loosely translated: “Faith rests upon absurdity.” One Clamper wrote me that his brethren “enjoyed a good ‘spoof’ along with ... serious history.”

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