Drawn by John Hassall, with text provided by C.E. Farrow, it is one of those little slices of global children's literature that today smacks of racism, but 100 years ago was considered perfectly socially acceptable by everyone - except the Japanese, if they even heard of it.
The Ten Little Jappy Chaps book follows the same premise as the other classic racist children poems: Ten Little Niggers, which was later updated to Ten Little Indians. Heck... I can actually recall singing a song of the Indian one (feather not the dot) back when I was a kid."One little, two little, three little Indians..."
I don't I ever knew or even heard more than that first verse... which is good, I suppose.
Needless to say, my generation declined to pass it down.
Both titles were also used by murder mystery writer Agatha Christie, though later editions relented to social change with the book nowadays being known as And Then There Were None.
In the Agatha Christie book, there is a framed copy of a nursery rhyme, "Ten Little Niggers" (called "Ten Little Indians" and even the non-offensive "Ten Little Soldiers" in later editions), that hangs in every guest's room, and ten figurines sit on the dining room table - hence the title.
While we can certainly judge our ancestors - harshly even - in their defense, rightly or wrongly, such things were the societal norm of the day.
I have a small collection of Black Americana (back before I got married and had money for such things), including a View Master reel featuring Little Black Sambo from 1948, I think, a bank giveaway of a "savings bank" featuring a young Black child sitting on a box eating a watermelon, and other such stuff that if you didn't see it, you'd never believe it.
|An stereo image from that 1948 View-Master Little Black Sambo reel.|
It's why I can look at the Ten Little Jappy Chaps book and say "I've seen worse."
Here are some of the pages from the book:
Here's the dialogue:
10) Ten Little Jappy Chaps hoped it would be fine, the rain it pelted, one was melted, then there were but nine.
9) Nine Little Jappy Chaps learning how to skate, the ice was thin, one fell in, and then there were eight.
8) Eight little Jappy Chaps played cricket (not eleven), a ball hit one, then he was done, and there were only seven.
7) Seven little Jappy Chaps at football tried some kicks, one caught the ball, and that was all, then there were only six.
6) Six little Jappy Chaps declared they’d learn to dive, one stayed below, alas! Then there were only five.
5) Five little Jappy Chaps went sailing to the Nor, the boat capsized, don’t be surprised, but then there were only four.
4) Four little Jappy Chaps went climbing up a tree, a branch gave way, and for that day, but then there were only three.
3) Three little Jappy Chaps unto a goose said BOO!, the goose caught one, the mother’s son, but then there were only two.
2) Two little Jappy Chaps a fooling with a gun, the gun was loaded and exploded, then there was but one.
1) One little Jappy Chap all a-loney lone, off to Pariee, Soonee Marriee then there’ll be none.
PS: One bookseller of Ten Little Jappy Chaps is currently selling a copy, asking for US$404.55, but I have seen poorer condition copies selling for about US$150. I would imagine that owing to the possibility that it, and the rest of the items I have mentioned above, you might not see such things blatantly advertised in antique stores, and as such, you might have to inquire discreetly. I had to when I bought racy Japanese ukiyo-e artwork depicting sexual positions et al. I had seen such artwork in Playboy magazine, whereby funny commentary in English was placed below. By the way, I think I bought the Sambo View-Master reel for $1, and it was sitting in a box of other reels... so while not hidden away, it was mixed in with other material. I believe that Black Americana material is quite collectible - as long as you are doing it for the right reasons. I believe such materials (even Ten Little Jappy Chaps) are under-valued and under-priced, and as such, get'em while you can.