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A Nigger in the Woodpile (1904)

This is a clever comedy production in several scenes. In the opening scene the hired man is complaining to Farmer Jones that the woodpile is being depleted by thieves. Farmer Jones decides ... See full summary »


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This is a clever comedy production in several scenes. In the opening scene the hired man is complaining to Farmer Jones that the woodpile is being depleted by thieves. Farmer Jones decides to adopt drastic measures and loads one of the sticks with dynamite. In the next scene a colored deacon, one of the shining lights in the African Church, is seen making away with the wood. The next scene shows the home of the deacon, where he is taking his comfort at the kitchen fire, while his wife is busy with the washing. The loaded stick is, of course, put into the fire, and there is a terrific explosion and the building is ruined. Farmer Jones and his man appear at the critical moment and the colored thieves are given a punishment they will not soon forget. Written by Biograph Catalog

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Comedy | Short

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

8 April 1904 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Disznóság See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Biograph production number 2866. See more »

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User Reviews

Come, come people, is your Google broke?
22 September 2013 | by charlesg-629-659286See all my reviews

"I think its ridiculous to decide to use a black person for the villain but as my professor said: "The director was looking for a quick way to symbolize the person stealing the wood with a villain."

"Why was it necessary for them to use a black person? They could have used white people!"

Just a little bit of Googling would've turned up the fact that the title is a play on words of an old figure of speech. A "n_gger in the woodpile" is a no-longer-politically-correct term meaning "some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed — something suspicious or wrong". The sort of thing our modern-day politicians do when they propose a law by playing up all the good points and keeping all the "gotchas" carefully hidden so the public supports it...and only find out all the gory details after the bill has become law. Those hidden, but significant, details are "the n_gger in the woodpile."

According to Wikipedia: "Both the 'fence' and 'woodpile' variants developed about the same time in the period of 1840–50 when the Underground Railroad was flourishing. The evidence is slight, but it is presumed that they were derived from actual instances of the concealment of fugitive slaves in their flight north under piles of firewood or within hiding places in stone walls.[1] Another possible origin, comes from the practice of transporting pulpwood on special rail road cars. In the era of slavery, the pulpwood cars were built with an outer frame with the wood being stacked inside in moderately neat rows and stacks. However, given the nature of the cars, it was possible to smuggle persons in the pile itself; possibly giving rise to the term."

So...there is a Very Good Reason why the thieves could not be White. And it was not intended as political propaganda foisting the notion that all black people were dishonest. While tasteless by the standards of over one hundred years later, the title capitalized on a well-known (for that time) phrase. Entitling the film "Whitey in the Woodpile", or the "Caucasian Firewood Thieves" would've completely negated the (admittedly tasteless) stab at humor. This was, after all, 1904, not 2013.

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