More than two centuries ago, a teenaged boy, presumably very bored, doodled a chicken wearing pants in his math notebook. Sometimes the past feels so real you could almost reach out and touch it, or perhaps throw a crumbled paper ball at it behind the teacher’s back.
Over the weekend, the Museum of Rural English Life—which you might remember from their previous viral hit, the “absolute unit” sheep—once again entertained Twitter with treasures from their archives. This time, they went into their collection of diaries of the Beale family of River Hall Farm, Biddenden, Kent, and pulled out young Richard’s book of equations from 1784, when he was 13. Apparently, in between copying out math problems, Richard doodled constantly. This dog appears numerous times:
But the best doodle was the trouser chicken, which is both a mystery and a true archival delight.
Some more digging revealed that the town of Hensbroek, in the Netherlands, has a famously punny coat of arms, featuring a hen in pants, because the town’s name sounds like the words for “hen’s pants.” Whether Richard would have known any such thing is a very good question, though. Maybe he just though putting pants on a chicken was some funny shit.
The Guardian spoke to the man behind the viral thread:
Koszary said that “archives are full of this kind of stuff”, and that he hoped the popularity of his tweets would “get people to come and use them”. “When you see a 13-year-old from the 18th century doing the kind of doodles that kids are doing today, it is so relatable – there’s an instant connection,” he said.
“Also, there’s the fact it’s just so stupid,” he added, revealing why he’s so very, very good at Twitter.