Picture News #2
The editor of this book, Emile Gauvreau, 1891 – 1956, was an American journalist, newspaper editor and book-writer, associated with early tabloids and yellow journalism. The art director, John Lehti was a talented cartoonist with a long association with pulps and comics. The general tone of this magazine is infotainment, not unlike the light general interest TV shows you can still see today. It’s a comic and it has to have something a little scandalous to compete on the newsstands of 1946 America but what they’re saying about Appalachian snake handlers isn’t true. No Christians worship snakes. No matter what you think of the practice, nobody is worshiping snakes. Handling the snakes is a demonstration that you are in a temporary state of grace as you would be if you were speaking in tongues, but the snakes themselves are not sacred, nor do they heal anything. I’ve done some quick searches for snake handlers in Holiness Churches 1930s – 1940s and can’t find an easy match for this story. I think it’s possible that it was based on a small, local incident and reported on by people who really didn’t know understand what was going on and never really investigated because of classist assumptions about hillbillies, who have often been objectified as childish, superstitious and more out of touch with the modern world than the average citizen.