Peas Mean Something

We are frequently asked where we get our ideas for Commonplace Fun Facts. The question suggests a scarcity of interesting topics. In reality, the bigger challenge is “what NOT to write about.” The research for nearly every article sends something to the “Future Article Ideas” folder. Nothing is more likely to generate ideas than a look at old newspapers.

We have already shared the intriguing newspaper stories about the Duke of Dougall Avenue, who caught his wife kissing the electric refrigerator, and how law enforcement broke up a felony turkey smuggling ring. Now we bring you this snippet that greeted the readers of Wisconsin’s Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on April 12, 1904.


Demented Young Lady Calls at the Court House and City Hall.

“Peas Mean Something” from the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, April 12, 1904

Quietly entering the offices of various city officials this morning, a young lady about twenty-five years of age, neatly and attractively gowned in green, opened a paper bag of dried peas, threw a handful on the floor and left after making the statement, “Peas mean something.” Later she went to the court house and repeated the act in the offices of Clerk of Courts Fred Badger and Sheriff M.J. Rounds. She sought out Judge C.D. Cleveland and, after a conversation with him, started to leave the building. She was detained by the sheriff until her father could be located and come after her. Previous to that the young lady had called at some of the business offices and at the police station and offices in the city hall, where she threw peas. At the office of the police she remarked that it was an April fool joke and also remarked that “peas mean something.” At the city clerk’s office she asked where the official could be found who sent people to the insane asylum. She then went to the court house. The young lady is the same one who recently purchased a ticket to Buffalo and then had no money to pay for it. It is said that her home is in Buffalo and that she is demented. She is stopping with her father at the Revere hotel in this city. In the office of Sheriff Rounds, where she was detained, she talked rationally and stated that she was very nervous. She stated that she would like to return to Buffalo, N.Y. The young lady is apparently well educated.

Her conclusion — peas mean something — was unassailable. What, exactly, peas mean has remained unexplained for 117 years.

Perhaps the real issue that is no one gave peas a chance.

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