When Harrison Gray Otis originated the Times letters column in 1882 he 

made it clear that contributors could offer their thoughts provided they were 

brief, clear, timely and on "live topics."  Trivia apparently had no place in 

his daily.  Letters that dealt with the inane were occasionally published, but 

were accompanied by a scolding editorial admonition designed to remind other 

writers that his paper wasn't the place for silly questions or comments. 

    Despite the editor's warning, Times readers and the editorial staff would 

sometimes set aside the more weighty issues of the day and turn their attention 

to momentary trivia, initiating an exchange of letters and editorial replies on 

a matter of less than earth-shaking proportions.  While much of the humor in 

such cases was intentional, some of it resulted from the fact that a few 

correspondents treated the subject with a seriousness that far exceeded the 

importance of the topic.  Even Editor Otis must have blushed when he reread 

some of his editorial replies.

                           A) THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

    What Otis called "The Century Question" was one such topic.  At issue was 

not prohibition, the railroad, a harbor or paved streets but a matter that 

would also puzzle both readers and editors of a much later generation.  Well 

before 1900 readers of the Times wondered just when the new century would 

begin.  For several days in November and December, 1883, the op-ed page was 

crowded with letters and editorial replies, the former written by readers whom 

Otis labeled "Centurions." 

    When two readers innocently asked in November, 1883, when the new century 

would begin, Otis, who regularly answered serious questions, curtly dismissed 

their query with a sneering editorial postscript.  That Otis had badly 

misjudged what his readers considered a "live topic" was evident the next day.  

    In a running exchange, correspondents and editor passionately argued their 

opinions and, in response to opposing arguments, sometimes reversed themselves.  

Otis pulled a double reverse, arguing himself out of giving what would be an 

incorrect answer in favor of the correct one, followed the next day by an 

editorial that retreated to his earlier erroneous position.  A somewhat 

confused "P. M." incorrectly thought Otis' first printed answer was wrong and 

called him on it, only to be swayed by further argument that led to a second 

letter supporting the position that Otis had in the meantime rejected.  "20th 

Century" was excited enough by the question to write two letters, both 

published the same day.  Only Miss Grundy {Is this Clotilda Grunsky again?} got 

it right, even though "Esor" relied on "mathematical and scientific 

calculations" in an attempt to demonstrate her error.  

    The letters that follow are unedited.  The original question from E. D. 

and C. R. appeared on Nov. 29 although some of the correspondents imply that it 

ran on Nov. 30.  

                         {Times, Nov. 29, 1883, p. 3}

                             19th or 20th Century?

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Will some of your 

         readers tell us in what century January 1st, 1900, will be?

              One of us claims that it will be in the 19th century, 

         the other in the 20th.


                                       E. D. and C. R.

              Los Angeles, Nov. 27th, 1883.

              [In the 19th century, obviously.--Ed. Times]

                         {Times, Nov. 30, 1883, p. 4}

                             19th or 20th century?

              In yesterday's Times, replying to a couple of 

         correspondents who asked, "In what century will January 1st, 

         1900, be?" we replied, "In the 19th, obviously," although at 

         first blush we had decided in favor of the 20th, and so 

         wrote, but subsequently yielded to the opposite view.  We are 

         now satisfied our reply was erroneous.  The following 

         demonstration, handed to us by a friend, is clear and 

         conclusive, we think:

              The 1st century is from 1 to 99, inclusive.

              The 2nd from 100 to 199, inclusive.

              The 3d from 200 to 299, inclusive.

              The 19th from 1800 to 1899, inclusive.

              The 20th from 1900 to 1999, inclusive.

         Or this way:

              The 1st century from 1 to 100, not including the 100.

              The 2d from 100 to 200, not including the 200.

              The 3d from 200 to 300, not including the 300.

              The 19th from 1800 to 1900, not including the 1900.

              The 20th from 1900 to 2000, not including the 2000.

                          {Times, Dec. 1, 1883, p. 4}
                             19th or 20th Century?

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Did you not make a 

         slip in yesterday's paper?  We are now living in the 19th 

         century, and it ends on the 31st of Dec., 1899.  

         Consequently, the 1st day of January, 1900 is the first day 

         of the 20th century.

                                             P. M.

              Santa Monica, Nov. 29, 1883.

                          {Times, Dec. 1, 1883, p. 4}

                             19th or 20th Century?

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  In yesterday's issue 

         of the Times, "E. D. and C. R." ask:  "Will January 1st, 

         1900, be in the 19th or 20th century?"  To which you answer 

         very briefly,  "In the 19th century, obviously."  I think I 

         have taught mathematics long enough to know different from 

         that.  January 1st, 1899, will be the last January in the 

         19th century.  The next January will commence the new year, 

         and the first year of the 20th century.  1899 will be the 

         last year of the 19th century; hence, January 1st, 1900, will 

         be in the 20th century.    

                                                  20TH CENTURY.

              Los Angeles, Nov. 29th, 1883.

                          {Times, Dec. 1, 1883, p. 4}

                 19th or 20th Century?--Another Demonstration.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  In yesterday's Times 

         two correspondents ask: "Will January 1st, 1900, be in the 

         19th or 20th century?"  You answer: "In the 19th, obviously."  

         In this I think you have made a mistake.  We know that the 

         year 190 was in the 2d century.  This being admitted, we have 

         the ratio, 190 is to 2 as 1900 is to x.  Multiplying 1900 by 

         2 gives 3800, which, divided by 190, gives 20.  Hence: 190 : 

         2 : : 1900 : 20; and proves that 1900 will be in the 20th 

         century.  So, of course, must January 1st of that year be.

                                                 20TH CENTURY.

              Los Angeles, Nov. 29th, 1883.

                          {Times, Dec. 1, 1883, p. 4}

                             The Century Question.

                      MISS GRUNDY ON THE KNOTTY PROBLEM.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  The agitation of the 

         century question I see is engaging the columns of the Times.  

         It's a question that I am interested in, as what woman isn't 

         when the question of years comes up for consideration?  Mr. 

         Times, I take issue with your conclusions and with those of 

         your correspondents.  According to my arithmetic, you are 

         both wrong, and are cheating the world out of a full year's 

         time in the matter of centuries.

              What is the definition given in the dictionary of the 

         word century?  Is it not "a period of one hundred years?"  

         Not ninety-nine years, as your correspondent claims when he 

         says: "The first century is from 1 to 99, inclusive."  How is 

         a hundred years embraced within that period?  By no amount of 

         logic or mathematical reckoning can you make of ninety-nine 

         years a full, perfectly-rounded century.  The year 100 must 

         pass, and not until Dec. 31, at midnight, will the century be 

         completed, and the first one hundred years be told.  At the 

         beginning of the 100th year I am not one hundred years old, 

         any more than I am twenty-one on my twentieth birthday, 

         though you then say I am in my twenty-first year.  As I am 

         one year old at the end of the year 1, so I am one hundred 

         years old at the end of the year 100.  Then, if I am not one 

         hundred years old until midnight of Dec. 31 of the year 100, 

         tell me, if you please, how I can commence my second century 

         before 12 o'clock midnight of the year 100?  

              The conclusions arrived at by your correspondent, and 

         accepted by yourself, were based upon the proposition that 

         "the 1st century is from 1 to 99, inclusive."  If, by any 

         amount of logic or imagination you will demonstrate that 

         ninety-nine years make a hundred, I'll own up that I am 1900 

         at the beginning of my 1900th year rather than at is close.

              But, as yet, it is not given me to see how the 20th 

         century can begin before the close of the year 1900.  If 

         modern science will bring in the 20th century for christening 

         before the dawn of the new year 1901, may I be there to see 

         and to give it welcome.                     

                                          MISS GRUNDY.

                          {Times, Dec. 2, 1883, p. 6}

                        Another Centurion to the Fore.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Apropos of the 19th 

         century discussion, now raging in the Times columns, permit 

         me one question:  How old were you on your 40th birthday?

              [Thirty-nine years, of course.--Ed. Times.]

                          {Times, Dec. 2, 1883, p. 6}

                     A Convert to the 19th Century Theory.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  I regret having sent 

         you the postal today, as, on looking at the thing again, I 

         see that you are right and that I am wrong.  Please excuse 


                                                  P. M.

         Santa Monica, Nov. 30, 1883.

                          {Times, Dec. 2, 1883, p. 6}

                             19th or 20th Century?

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Suppose we change the 

         wording of the proposition, just a little:  "The first 

         century is from 1 to 99 inclusive."  We would like to make it 

         thus:  From the first of the first century to the end of the 

         99th year (Dec. 31, at 12 p. m., A. D. 99) would be one 

         century or 100 years.  Hence Jan. 1st, or one minute after 12 

         p. m., Dec. 31st, 1899, would be the first minute in 1900, 

         and in the 20th century.  Sabe?

                                                    RE VERA.

                          {Times, Dec. 2, 1883, p. 6}

                         That Century Question Again.

              To the Editor of the Times--Sir:  Do not, I pray you, 

         allow the gentle sophistry of Miss Grundy to mislead you on 

         the now popular century question.

              We agree with that excellent lady that a century must 

         comprise 100 years.  Be it known to her, however, that in 

         mathematical and scientific calculations an era never really 

         begins, as is apparently the case, with the year 1, but just 

         365 days before, the term of year 0, or time previous to the 

         era, having achieved a year to count as No. 1.  Hence:

              0 to 1--1st year

              1 to 2--2d year.

              00 to 100--lst century.

              100 to 200--2d century

              1800 to 1900--19th century.

              1900 to 2000--20th century.

              Therefore it is plain that we are now in the 19th 

         century, and, on Jan. 1, 1900, we will be in the 20th 

         century.  Quod erat demonstrandum.

              Should your fair friend Miss G. wish for "more light" on 

         this question, show her the article on Chronology in 

         "Encyclopedia Brittanica."


    Esor had the twentieth century and the current millennium ending with Dec. 

31, 1999.  By his logic, and that of Otis as expressed in the editorial in 

which he reversed his first printed position, Jan. 1, 2000, would inaugurate 

both a new century and a new millennium.

    We do not know how the debate ended in 1883 since there are no copies of 

the paper extant for several months after Dec. 2.  But as the 1890s came to an 

end, Otis accepted Miss Grundy's argument.  Perhaps recalling the old debate, 

he opened his editorial on January 1, 1900, with a greeting to his readers 

"upon this, the first morning which has dawned in the last year of the 

nineteenth century."  

    "Esor" would have taken solace, however, in a page two news item reporting 

that "The discussion in regard to the commencement of the twentieth century 

rages with unabated vigor."  Germany's Emperor officially declared that the new 

century had opened, a position that had strong support in the Church of 


    A year later, at the beginning of 1901, Otis wrote that "the nineteenth 

century ... passed into history last night with the stroke of the midnight 

hour.  We stand, today, within the portals of the twentieth century."  From 

page one of the second section a scantily clad youngster with top hat greeted 

Times readers with "Good Morning To All---I'm The 20th Century."

    As the 20th century neared its end Times readers once again raised "The 

Century Question," although focusing on the beginning of a new millennium 

rather than a new century.  Rejecting Esor's theory that the first year was 

numbered 0, the Times' Science editor decreed that the beginning year of the 

first millennium was A.D. 1 and the thousandth year A.D. 1000.  Thus, the first 

year of the third millennium would begin on Jan. 1, 2001.  Furthermore, the 

paper's style manual noted that the 21st century would "begin Jan. 1, 2001, no 

matter how many parties are held a year early."  That no doubt would make Miss 

Grundy smile, and it might put the question to rest for another thousand years.  

                               B) MT. KINNEYLOA

    Towering over Pasadena, with a view spanning Southern California from Mt. 

Palomar to Catalina, stands Mt. Wilson.  Rising abruptly from the valley floor 

to over a mile high, and with its unobstructed vista at the front of the San 

Gabriel range presenting an ideal location for television antennas, the 

mountain is one of the most readily identifiable peaks in Southern California.  

First accessible by trail, then by toll road, and finally by a state highway, 

the mountain became the site of observatories and a mountain park.

    For years it was known locally as "Wilson's Peak" in honor of Benjamin 

Wilson, who built a trail to the top in the 1860s to obtain timber for his Lake 

Vineyard Ranch in what became the Annandale section of Pasadena.  The 

mountain's name became a subject of debate in early 1887 when a government 

survey party mapping that portion of the range announced that it would formally 

name the peak "Mt. Kinneyloa," to honor another local resident.

    Abbot Kinney - advocate of social reform, heir to a cigarette fortune, 

confidante of Helen Hunt Jackson and developer of Venice - also happened to be, 

in the mid-1880s, the first chairman of the state Board of Forestry.  An 

activist in many fields, Kinney used his position to work for flood control, 

along with restrictions on timber cutting and grazing in the local mountains.  

After a brief stay in 1880 at Sierra Madre Villa for his health, Kinney bought 

land north of the villa at the base of the mountains between Sierra Madre and 

Pasadena, creating an estate that he called Kinneyloa. 

    The first public notice that a name change was imminent appeared in the 

Times on Feb. 18, 1887, in this brief news item:

                                Wilson's Peak.

              A party of government surveyors, accompanied by a 

         photographer, are at work on a new government map of this 

         section.  They have mapped Wilson's Peak as Mount Kinneyloa, 

         and there is great wrath in all the foothill country thereat.  

         Mr. Wilson--for whom the peak was named--was an old pioneer, 

         a member of the Legislature and a respected citizen.  At an 

         expense of thousands of dollars he constructed the famous 

         Wilson's Trail leading up to the peak.  The people do not 

         take kindly to a scheme designed to rob an old and well-known 

         landmark of an ancient and honored name and clothe it with an 

         absurd new one.

    While the number of angry responses to the proposed name change was not 

great, many influential residents, especially in the San Gabriel Valley, were 

outraged.  Don Benito, as Wilson was often called, had been a popular figure in 

Southern California during his lifetime.  A pioneer who arrived in 1841, Wilson 

married into a prominent Mexican family and served a term as mayor of Los 

Angeles early in the American period.  Before his death in 1878 he had 

subdivided his Pasadena holdings just west of the Arroyo Seco.  Those who had 

known him were disturbed by this proposed name change, as noted by this letter 

signed "Wilson's Peak."

                         {Times, Feb. 19, 1887, p. 6}

                         Wilson's Peak Let it Remain.

              Los Angeles, (Cal.), Feb. 18--[To the Editor of The 

         Times.]  The bedaubing of that old sentinel, Wilson's Peak, 

         with an absurd title coined from the name of a man, as 

         mentioned in today's Times, is worthy of an expression of 

         indignation from those who do not care to see old land-marks 

         and titles eliminated in the interest of some one's ambition.  

         It has been called Wilson's peak by common consent because 

         one of that name performed acts which entitled him to that 

         distinction.  Does anybody know the reason why the government 

         surveyors assumed to redesignate it by a not at all worthy or 

         euphonious title?  Why did they choose the name of Kinney, 

         with an alleged poetic suffix?  Why not Smithsonian, 

         Robersonian? or, if they wished to perpetuate to our 

         posterity a name, why didn't they choose that of something 

         decent, or better than all, have left it alone?  Unhappily, 

         their action being official, the mountain will now bear the 

         title they have, upon consultation with one person, given 

         it--at least, upon the government maps, but the people can, 

         and will, disregard the innovation stuffed down their throats 

         and continue to remember it by its old name--a name bestowed 

         long, long before its present appropriator sniffed the air of 

         Southern California.


                             "WILSON'S PEAK."  

    In response to the criticism, a member of the government survey party 

offered an explanation for the decision to name the mountain Kinneyloa. In an 

editorial appended to the letter, the Times stated its reasons for opposing the 


                         {Times, Feb. 21, 1887, p. 4}

                   Unto Kinney the Things that be Kinney's.

              The Times is in receipt of the following note:

              Los Angeles, Feb. 19, 1887.--[To the Editor of The 

         Times.]  Apparently somebody seems to be having a thorn in 

         his side over our naming the mountain peak after your 

         distinguished citizen, Abbot Kinney.  The action of the 

         Government is in recognition of the ardent services of the 

         gentleman, as the official head of the Board of Forestry of 

         California, in seeking to preserve the water sources and 

         timber lands from spoliation and appropriation by lawless 



              A recognition of the distinguished services of Citizen 

         Abbot Kinney would be all right, coming from the Government 

         or from any other source, were it accomplished without an act 

         of vandalism.  But when an effort is made to set aside a 

         time-honored and universally-recognized name in favor of a 

         new one which contains a Sandwich Island graft upon the 

         cognomen of Citizen Kinney, the proposition becomes odious in 

         the extreme.

              Don Benito Wilson was in his day one of the foremost 

         citizens of Los Angeles county and of Southern California.  

         He was a pioneer among pioneers and a pathmaker no less than 

         a pathfinder.  He was noted for his farseeing enterprises and 

         his rugged integrity.  He reared one of the first orange 

         groves and planted one of the largest vineyards of San 

         Gabriel and he established the first furniture factory in 

         Southern California.  He subdivided a considerable part of 

         Pasadena (Lake Vineyard tract) and opened it for settlement.  

         He was called into places of public and private trust and 

         represented Los Angeles county in the State Legislature.   

         Among his other enterprises he hewed out a trail to the 

         summit of one of the notable peaks of the Sierra Madre chain, 

         and brought out of the mountain fastness timber with which to 

         build houses.  Since that day the trail has been known as 

         Wilson's Trail, and the mountain which it ascends has been 

         called Wilson's Peak.  These designations have been in use 

         among the people of Southern California for upwards of thirty 

         years.  Old Don Benito Wilson earned them, not only by his 

         services to the public as a pioneer and staunch citizen and 

         representative, but by his direct enterprise in opening a 

         pathway to the top of the mountain.  This trail he left as a 

         rich legacy of enjoyment for the generations who were to come 

         after him, and many who have climbed the heights and looked 

         upon the beautiful panorama below have blessed his memory.

              Don Benito Wilson sleeps in the little churchyard at San 

         Gabriel.  A true history of his life would show that he never 

         intentionally wronged any man to the value of anything.  He 

         never even tried to filch a good name or steal one jot or 

         title of the honor due another man's memory.  Such 

         distinction as came to him during his long and useful life, 

         came without his grasping after it.

              If our correspondent "Surveyor" is one of the Government 

         officials who is seeking to wrest away the name from the 

         memory of old Don Benito Wilson, and place the conscripted 

         honor upon the brow of Mr. Kinney, of Kinneyloa, let him 

         think better of it.  He will find that he is planting a thorn 

         in the sides of a good many men in Los Angeles county and one 

         that will prick deeply.

              As to Mr. Kinney himself, he must see that the 

         distinction thus sought will be nothing short of odium.  An 

         honored name is not thus to be handed down to posterity.  If 

         he hungers and thirsts after a mountain, there are many other 

         peaks in the Sierra Madre as yet unchristened.  Let him build 

         a trail to the summit of one of them and climb it and, with 

         chisel in hand, let him cut deep into the face of its topmost 

         granite rock the talismanic word "KINNEYLOA."  Then let him 

         call in a party of Government surveyors to note the conquest 

         and to inscribe the name upon the map; and a Government 

         photographer to take a picture of the eminence, himself 

         included.  With such a fair, square and manly acquisition of 

         fame the public will be in hearty sympathy, and loud paeans 

         of approbation will make the welkin ring.  Kinneyloa Peak 

         shall be a landmark for all the flat country of this end of 

         the State, and shall be pointed to with interest by the 

         people on shipboard far off the coast.  And years hence, when 

         Mr. Kinney shall be asleep in a little churchyard not far 

         away, and some vandal hunter after fame shall seek to take 

         away the name from Kinneyloa Mountain, The Times, then 

         drifted into an honorable and robust old age, and conducted 

         by another generation of men, will champion his cause and 

         hurl defiance into the very teeth of the despoiler.  The cry 

         will then be "Kinneyloa Mountain forever."

    As a means of resolving the dispute, "Wilson's Peak" followed up the Times 

editorial reply to "Surveyor" with a counter proposal.  Otis felt moved to add 

yet another editorial comment and, since the previous letter signed "Wilson's 

Peak" had more than a touch of the editor's own writing style, stressed the 

authenticity of this latest letter.  Elsewhere, the Times reported that 

dispatches from the Sandwich Islands {Hawaii} indicated that an eruption of 

Mauna Loa had apparently ceased, just as the eruption over Mt. Kinneyloa had 


                         {Times, Feb. 22, 1887, p. 4}
                         "Wilson's Peak Let it Remain.

              The Times has received the following up-and-up letter 

         opposing the vandal scheme to obliterate the time-honored 

         name of Wilson's Peak and substitute the "strange device" of 

         "Kinneyloa"--an attempt that has aroused no small measure of 

         indignation among those who recognize the eternal fitness of 

         things, and who feel that Don Benito's honestly-won laurels 

         should not be snatched away, now that he is dead, and 

         conferred upon another, even though he be a statesman of 

         Citizen Kinney's columbiad caliber, and even though the act 

         be performed by so high and mighty a power as a party of 

         Government surveyors:

              Los Angeles (Cal.), Feb. 21.--[To the Editor of The 

         Times.]  The Times this morning has said sufficient, in its 

         reply to an alleged Government surveyor's defense of Citizen 

         Kinney's high-handed appropriation of the title to Wilson's 

         Peak; sufficient, I repeat, to cause any reasonable man in 

         that gentleman's unenviable position to retire to the 

         solitude and under the shadow of the old mountain, and their 

         kick himself soundly for his conceit and absurd ambition, but 

         whether Citizen Kinney does perform this act of needed 

         penitence, one thing he should and ought, by the united voice 

         of the people of this valley, be compelled to do, and that 

         is, withdraw his selfesh request, see that the proper title 

         of the mount is inscribed upon the Government maps, and then 

         if he craves so much notoriety and fame (?), look up some 

         other mountain upon which to daub his dulcet and euphonious 

         cognomen.  Peace to old Don Benito's ashes!  We will defend 

         him against the onslaughts of the appropriators of his 

         honored name, even if they have wealth, a big house and 

         belong to the Forestry Commission, and therein lies the 

         "distinguishedness" of our esteemed friend, as expatiated 

         upon by "Surveyor."  Are these sufficient recognitory ground 

         for the Government (?) hurling the Don's name from its lofty 

         height and substituting that of Citizen Kinney, with the 

         Sandwich Island suffix?  Well, no, not by any means,  

         therefore, we demand unequivocally the restoration of the 

         spoils of this unwarranted, high-handed proceeding, and the 

         title, "Kinneyloa" relegated to, and kept where it belongs, 

         viz: on Citizen Kinney's own house and grounds.  Yours,

                                        "WILSON'S PEAK."

    Within a week Kinney withdrew his name from consideration.  Before that 

occurred, however, one of the city's eccentrics seemingly got in a last dig at 

Mt. Kinneyloa.  A well-recognized figure in Los Angeles in the 1880s was 

Savariej, described by Harris Newmark as "a simple-minded freak of the freakish 

eighties, who dropped into Los Angeles - as such characters generally do - 

without anyone knowing much about his origin."  The letter was probably written 

by a Times staffer or some other local wag.  For more on Savariej see the 

chapter on "Crazy Shaw."

                         {Times, Feb. 26, 1887, p. 6}

                               "Savariej Peak."

              "Savariej Peak," Feb. 23.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         I claim the name "Savariej Peak," for the mountain top next 

         to Mr. Kinney's new mountain.  "Savariej Peak" and 

         "Kinneyloa," side by side, will commemorate the names of two 

         great men.  I, the great violin player and walker, and he, 

         the great cigarette maker.

                                      Yours Truly,

                                  PROFFESSOR SAVARIEJ.

                           C) THE TIMES LAYS AN EGG

    The brilliance exhibited in serious correspondence also appeared in 

letters dealing with the mundane.  Such was the case with responses to the 

brain teaser submitted by Times reader V. C. Chaplin.  How Chaplin came across 

the original piece in the Chicago Tribune is unknown, but Illinois was the 

former home of a large number of Angelenos who arrived in the 1880s and an 

Illinois Society, founded in that decade, was active for many years thereafter.  

Eastern and Midwestern newspapers circulated widely in California among the 

recent immigrants.

                         {Times, April 30, 1888, p. 3}

                           A Lay for Mathematicians.

              Los Angeles, April 29.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         The Chicago Tribune published the following problem, and it 

         is quite amusing to read the many and various solutions sent 


              The problem is this: "If a hen and a half lay an egg and 

         a half in a day and a half, how many eggs will six hens lay 

         in seven days?"

              Some answer 24, some 28, some 30, some 42, one 84 and 

         one 6 1/2.

              Let us have the correct solution from some of your 

         mathematical readers.

                                                  V. M. CHAPLIN.

    The dates of the first letters printed in response to Chaplin's question 

indicate that readers were quickly taken with the mathematical challenge, 

although it seems unreasonable that a letter written in Ventura on May 1 

arrived in time for publication on May 2.  Otis ran the first solutions two 

days after printing Chaplin's letter.  The earliest responses were fairly 

straightforward attempts to resolve the problem, although "B. E. H." initially 

challenged the premise before offering a solution.

                          {Times, May 2, 1888, p. 6}

                                The Hen Racket.

              Los Angeles, April 30.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  I 

         send you mental solution of "egg problem" in Monday's Times.  

         If a hen and a half lay an egg and a half in a day and a 

         half, then, three half hens lay three half eggs in three half 

         days, and one-half hen lays one-half egg in one-half 

         day--consequently, one hen lays one egg in one day, six hens 

         lay six in one day, and six times seven are 42 eggs in seven 



                          {Times, May 2, 1888, p. 6}

                         LISTEN TO THE LAY OF THE HEN.

              San Buenaventura, May 1.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         In answer to V. M. Chaplin's lay question in your issue of 

         the 30th ult., I have to say that in the sense that half a 

         hen cannot lay any part of an egg, the problem is incapable 

         of solution; but granting that a hen and a half lay an egg 

         and a half in a day and a half, a hen will evidently lay an 

         egg a day (provided, of course, she does not lose her lay); 

         hence, six hens in seven days will lay 42 eggs.

                                               B. E. H.

                          {Times, May 2, 1888, p. 6}

                               ANOTHER SOLUTION.

              Los Angeles, May 1.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  I 

         notice in the columns of your paper a problem, and I venture 

         a solution of the same.

              If a hen and one-half lay an egg and one-half in a day 

         and one-half, how many eggs will six hens lay in seven days?

              If a hen and one-half lay an egg and one-half in one day 

         and one-half, then a hen and one-half in one day and one-half 

         will lay two-thirds of one and one-half, plus one.  Then if a 

         hen and one-half in one day will lay one egg, in seven days 

         they will lay seven eggs.  If one and one-half hens lay seven 

         eggs in seven days, then six hens would lay as many eggs as 

         one and one-half is contained in six, which is four.  Then in 

         seven days they would lay 7x4 which is 28 eggs.

                                           JOSEFETA BONITA.

    Chaplin wrote a second letter, printed May 2, suggesting an answer to the 

problem {omitted here for obvious reasons.}  Despite this, readers continued to 

flood the Times with possible solutions.  They were evenly divided between 

those convinced that the answer was 28 and those who arrived at 42 as the 

correct solution.  Even those obtaining a similar answer arrived at that figure 

by diverse methods, as noted by the replies printed on May 3.  

                           {Times May 3, 1888, p. 3}

                              The Lay of the Hen.
                               THE LITTLE JOKER.

              Orange, May 2.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  The catch 

         in the hen problem is in the statement of it.

              "If a hen and one-half lay an egg and one-half in a day 

         and one-half" means simply, if a hen lays one egg per day.

              Multiply number of days by number of hens--6 multiplied 

         by 7 equals 42.

                                            ROBERT E. TENER.

                          {Times, May 3, 1888, p. 3}

                                  HIC JACET!

              Los Angeles, May 2.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  One 

         and one-half hens lay one and one-half eggs in one and one-

         half days; six hens lay six eggs in one and one-half days; 

         six hens lay 24 eggs in six days; six hens lay 28 eggs in 

         seven days.                          

                                       Q. E. D.

                          {Times, May 3, 1888, p. 3}

                                DOES HE STRIKE?

              Los Angeles, May 2.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  For 

         the sake of the science of mathematics, please give the 

         correct answer to your problem of the hens and eggs.

              If the conditions are to be taken mathematically, which, 

         of course, must be the case, as any other supposition is 

         obviously absurd, then it follows by analysis: If 1 1/2 hens 

         lay 1 1/2 eggs in any time whatever, then 6 hens, which are 

         equal to 4 times 1 1/2 hens, will lay 4 times as many eggs in 

         the same time, or 6 hens will lay 6 eggs in the given time.

              Now, by the conditions of the problem, the 6 eggs will 

         be laid in 1 1/2 days, but it is proposed to make the time 7 

         days, so 4 2/3 times 1 1/2 days; hence, the result must be 4 

         2/3 times as large, or 4 2/3 times 6 eggs, or 28 eggs.


    By May 4 readers had gone beyond the simple brain teaser and complicated 

the matter with all sorts of extraneous observations.  In his second letter, 

presenting the problem's solution, Chaplin had assumed that the hens laid their 

first eggs at 6 a. m. on a Monday morning, and spoke of "ripe and mature" eggs.

                          {Times, May 4, 1888, p. 3}

                           AN EGGSHAUSTIVE SOLUTION.

              Los Angeles, May 2.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  I 

         was not aware of the possibilities of complication in the 

         egg-and-a-half problem (apparently a simple one in 

         proportion) until reading the solutions in today's Times.  

         The ingenious author does not appear to have considered all 

         the conditions of the problem.  He assumes a week's steady 

         laying at long hours, beginning at 6 o'clock and ending at 6 

         o'clock, much longer than a hen's legal working day, not 

         counting holidays.  Then it is well known that among six hens 

         of average ability at least one will be found to go dry 

         within the week.  The half hen is evidently a pullet, and 

         cannot be depended upon to lay an egg oftener than, as 

         newspaper men would say, e. o. d. t. f., and the half egg is 

         one of the doubtful specimens to be obtained at any Los 

         Angeles restaurant--as Mr. Chaplin would say, "ripe and 

         mature."  My solution is as follows:

              If a hen and a half lay an egg and a half in a day and a 

         half, not counting Sundays and legal holidays, and omitting 

         the three days of grace, then two-thirds of one and a half 

         hens, plus one, will in one-third of two and a half days, 

         plus one-half, lay four and a third "ripe and mature" eggs, 

         and the half egg, which, as I said before, the restaurant 

         gets--the hens taking an hour off at noontimes.  This will 

         take them until Wednesday at 3 o'clock in the morning; five 

         minutes for refreshments.  One hen, as I suggested above, is 

         side-tracked at this station, and the remaining hens and 

         their fractions proceed to lay themselves out, arriving on 

         time Saturday night with a score of eggs measuring 6x4 2/3 to 

         their credit--no errors.

              As a science, mathematics is not only exact but 


              In return, I propound to Mr. Chaplin the following 


              Why does a hen lay eggs?

              But, fearing you will not give any more space to the 

         matter, I give the answer myself:

              Because if she dropped them they would break.              

                                                C. A. M.

              P. S.--If the editor of The Times wishes my name as a 

         guarantee of good faith and sincerity, as well as for 

         reliability of the data above furnished, I will send it to 

         him, provided he will let the secret die with him.

              [All new egg problems sent to this office must be 

         accompanied by samples of the eggs (raw), not for 

         publication, but as a guarantee of good faith.--Ed.]

    Within a week after Chaplin's original letter the solutions had become more 

complex even though the answers were now uniformly 28.  

                          {Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3}

                               The Hen Problem.


              Los Angeles, May 4.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         Commencing with eggs: If three half eggs are laid by three 

         half hens, what would one half hen lay?  She would lay one-

         third of three half eggs, which would be one-half egg, and 

         two halves or one whole hen would lay two times one-half egg, 

         or one (1) egg; but it takes her three half days to do this; 

         now, what would she lay in one-half day?  She would lay one-

         third of two half eggs, which would be two-sixths of one egg, 

         and in two halves, or one whole day, she would lay two times 

         two-sixths of an egg, which would be four-sixths of one egg.  

         Now we have got what one hen lays in one day; now what would 

         six hens lay in one day?  Why, six times four-sixths of one 

         egg, which would be twenty-four-sixths eggs, or four eggs, of 

         course.  Now if six hens lay four eggs in one day, how many 

         would they lay in seven days?  Seven times four eggs, of 

         course, which are 28 eggs.  By the simple method of 

         cancellation the true result is reached.  Very truly,

                                          M. W. CONNOR.

                          {Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3}


              Los Angeles, May 4.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  If 

         one and a half hens lay one and a half eggs in any time, then 

         half a hen lays a half egg in the same time, and one whole 

         hen lays one whole egg.  The time given is one and a half 

         days.  Then one hen lays one egg in one and a half days.  If 

         she lays one egg in one and a half days, she lays two-thirds 

         of an egg in a day, and six hens lay six multiplied by two-

         thirds, or four eggs, in a day, and in seven days they lay 

         seven multiplied by four or twenty-eight.

                                               SUSAN JONES.

                          {Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3}

                             TWENTY-EIGHT TAMBIEN.

              Del Mar, May 3.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  I 

         herewith lay before you for an egg-sample a mental solution 

         of your hen and egg problem:

              If a hen and a half in a day and a half lay an egg and a 

         half, then four times as many hens (six) of equally vigorous 

         constitution, will, in the same time, lay four times as many 

         eggs, which is six.  Now as seven days are four and two-

         thirds times one and a half days, then six multiplied by four 

         and two-thirds is equal to 28 eggs as the fruit of seven days 

         of hen labor.  As the statement does not necessarily imply 

         seven consecutive days, the maturing of the eggs is the hen's 

         part of the problem.

                                            A TOURIST ROOSTER.

    B. C. Whitlock presented a new version of the puzzle, and readers 

responded.  One took him seriously; another did not.

                          [Times, May 4, 1888, p. 3]

                                A Fresh Racket.

              Los Angeles, May 3.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  I 

         see you have gone into the egg business.  Please give them 

         the inclosed, and oblige.

                                                B. C. WHITLOCK.

              A man comes in with a basket of eggs, counting them out 

         two at a time, three at a time, four at a time, five at a 

         time, six at a time.  He has one left each time, but counting 

         them out seven at a time, they come out even.  What was the 

         lowest number of eggs he could have had in the basket?

              [Here is a new scheme to promote insanity, and the 

         author is gently but firmly informed that he will not be 

         permitted to go behind the returns; he must confine himself 

         to the question before the house, or the previous question 

         will be called and the bill brought to a vote.--Ed.]

                          {Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3}
                                 LOFTY SCORN.

              Los Angeles, May 4.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         Solution to the fresh racket:  The lowest number that will 

         contain 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 exactly is 60.  Now, 61 would give 1 

         remainder each time, but is not exactly divisible by 7. The 

         lowest multiple of 60, with 1 added, that is exactly 

         divisible by, is the fifth.  The fifth multiple of 60 is 300, 

         and 301 is the number.

                                               EGGS ACTLY.

              P. S.  Give us something hard.  We hate to be solving 

         problems in lowest common multiple for full-grown people.  

         What can you expect from a man who has to count eggs over in 

         twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes and sevens before he can 

         tell whether he is right or not.

                          {Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3}

                              SHORT AND DECISIVE.

              Santa Ana, May 4.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  The 

         answer to B. C. Whitlock's problem is 91 eggs.

                                                J. G. WELCH.

    On April 30, the day the original puzzle was printed, Chaplin had 

submitted a second letter, offering a solution to what Otis called, in a 

footnote, an "exasperating problem."   Despite Chaplin's explanation, Niven 

Namwol found yet another way to resolve the dispute with a number that no other 

Times correspondent came up with.

                          {Times, May 2, 1888, p. 6.}

                              THE AUTHOR'S IDEA.

              Los Angeles, April 30.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  

         My answer to the "egg problem" would be this:

              Take the six hens Monday morning at 6 a.m., just after 

         each hen has laid.  Then at 6 p. m. Tuesday we get six eggs, 

         at 6 a. m. Thursday we get six eggs, at 6 p. m. Friday we get 

         six eggs, and at 6 a. m. Sunday we get six eggs, which must 

         be 24 eggs.

              Would get six more at 6 p. m. Monday, but the seven days 

         are up at 6 a. m. Monday.

              The other six eggs are 24 hours old, or two-thirds 

         grown, but they are not ripe yet.

              One solution:  There are 14 half days and each hen lays 

         one egg in three half days, or 4 2/3 eggs in the seven days; 

         and six hens would lay 6x4 2/3=28.  But the last six eggs are 

         actually only two-thirds formed, and can hardly be counted 

         yet as equal to four ripe and mature eggs.

              Most of the answers given are 28 eggs.  None of those 

         answering introduce time just as I have in first solution.  

         Yours truly,                                

                                     V. M. CHAPLIN.

                          {Times, May 4, 1888, p. 3}

                               The Hen Problem.
                           THE LAY OF THE LOGICIAN.

              Los Angeles, May 1.--[To the Editor of The Times.]  At 

         the risk of rousing your righteous indignation [Hear! hear!] 

         by the further discussion of the "hen problem," I rise to 

         remark that the fractional elements of that question seem to 

         mislead many into the conclusion that if a hen and a half lay 

         an egg and a half in a day and a half, of course one hen lays 

         one egg in one day.  On this false assumption they 

         immediately go to work and get 42 eggs as the result of the 

         week's work on the part of the hens.  Leaving the half hen 

         out of the question altogether a hen laying an egg a day 

         would alone lay in the day and a half of the problem the egg 

         and a half; and the hen and a half would, in the day and a 

         half, lay, at this rate, two and a quarter eggs.  The fact 

         is, the element of time in the problem is stationary, and 

         expressed in its simplest form the question reads: If a hen 

         lay an egg in a day and a half, what will six hens lay in 

         seven days?  Relieved of the fractions this problem is shorn 

         of its terrors, and the solution then becomes simply a 

         question of the exercise of one's practical common sense.

              This is finely brought out in V. M. Chaplin's letter in 

         The Times of Wednesday, and bearing in mind the fact that a 

         period of a day and a half can be repeated but four times in 

         a week, and that you can't force "hen fruit" so as to have 

         it, as Mr. C. felicitously put it, prematurely "ripe."  

         Spencer, of yesterday's Times, and the host of others who 

         have dislocated their brains over this weighty problem, may, 

         "for the sake of the science of mathematics" and your own 

         peace of mind, rest assured that the only correct answer is 

         two dozen eggs.  [So?]


                                        NIVEN NAMWOL.

    After several days Otis and his staff could not resist the opportunity that 

Chaplin had so innocently presented to them.  A half-column of fictitious 

letters to the editor appeared on May 7.  After that all the hens went dry.

                          {Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3}

                           Voices from the Barnyard.

                            A FEW MORE EGGS-AMPLES 


              Ed. Times:  If a healthy hen can lay a quarter of an egg 

         in four days, how many can an average rooster lay in four 



                             THIS WILL STUMP YOU.

              Ed. Times:  If an able-bodied crowd can throw 75 ripe 

         eggs at a green candidate in 30 minutes, how many eggs-

         clamations can said candidate get off before he says his "Now 

         I lay me?"

                                         AMERICAN EAGLE, JR.


              Ed. Times:  If a soft-boiled egg will digest in one and 

         three-quarter hours, how many hard-boiled eggs must a poet 

         eat for supper to dream that he is riding through the nebula 

         of Orion, mounted on a pea-green dragon with pink eyes and 

         blue horns cut bias?

                                            COCHIN CHINA.

                              THE MINSTREL'S LAY.

              Ed. Times:  If a hen can lay four eggs in seven days, 

         how many years must a minstrel lay to earn as much as a hen?


                         THE EASTERN QUESTION.

              Ed. Times:  If a turkey can sit 14 days on 10 eggs, how 

         many weeks can Greece keep a ministry without change?

                                              CRESTED POLAND.

                               PLEASE EGGSPLAIN.

              Ed. Times:  If a brown Leghorn cockerel can lay seven 

         eggs in 15 days, how many songs can a black Spanish cavalier 

         sing in three evenings, with one leg off.


                            A PERTINENT HEN-QUIRY.

              Ed. Times:  If one ripe egg will make five boarding-

         house omelettes, how many more egg problems will it take to 

         transform every reader of The Times into a howling maniac?

                                              PERTURBED PULLET.