Here Now Some History #24 — Defining the WRIMJOB

By Zak Nelson

The Civil War in the United States was a horrible bloody affair, a conflict that pitted families against one another, and is generally considered unpleasant. The war is mainly known for its archaic tactics, bloodshed, and the number of things you can use “state’s rights” as an excuse for. Many, however, do not recall that the Union used Washington State as a medical center for research and development from 1862-1865.

The Washington Research Institute for Medically Jumping Old Bushwackers (WRIMJOB) was established in the Southern Washington territory on August 31st, 1861 in an effort to preserve and revive the lives of potential soldiers formerly employed as bushwackers or corpses . The Native American tribes living in the area were fine with it, supposedly. 

Establishing WRIMJOB was arguably Lincoln's greatest accomplishment. It's not a winning argument, but it is technically arguable.
Establishing WRIMJOB was arguably Abraham Lincoln’s greatest accomplishment. It’s not a winning argument, but it is technically arguable.

The institute was the brainchild of presidential beard Abraham Lincoln and professional alcoholic, sometimes soldier, Ulysses S. Grant. Both Lincoln and Grant were immensely hopeful that the WRIMJOB would help the Union turn the tide of war. Robert E. Lee tried to get the Confederacy a WRIMJOB of his own, but was sadly rebuked by Jefferson Davis.

During its first six months, the WRIMJOB became incredibly popular, but neither Lincoln nor Grant had time to oversee all that the WRIMJOB had to offer. A medical director had to be appointed. Finally, in March of 1862, Lincoln appointed Margaret Pennywaggle as chief medical director at the WRIMJOB. Pennywaggle was an odd choice for some, mainly because of her lack of a medical degree. No one made their displeasure known quite as much as straight white males, though their anger was not directed toward Pennywaggle’s lack of a relevant degree, but rather her lack of testicles. Pennywaggle felt immense pressure during her first year as medical director as Lincoln was desperate for a breakthrough and straight white males, as history has shown, don’t shut up about anything.

Some were more vocal than others, and A.P. Woodridge was chief amongst them. Woodridge was balding, had an unkempt beard, and probably didn’t even understand what the WRIMJOB was. Although he worked in the mailroom and did not possess any qualities that would have made him an appropriate fit for the position, Woodridge felt he had been passed over for the role of medical director at the facility, Pennywaggle confided in a journal retrieved by our staff following her first meeting with Woodridge:

When he talks, it is like someone let the air out of a balloon inches from my ear so the only sound I can hear is that of a farting bee.

This is a straight white male artists rendering of what Margaret Pennywaggle may have looked like. Its probably accurate
This is a straight white male artists’ rendering of what Margaret Pennywaggle looked like. It is not accurate.

However, despite his general oafishness, Woodridge had significant support at the WRIMJOB and conspired to fight Pennywaggle at every turn. Along with pressure from Lincoln, the constant struggle to get things done began to wear on Pennywaggle. She journaled:

I feel my stomach knot into a bow each time I walk through those doors. My skin puckering at the wonder of what fresh new hell will be served at my desk.

Although frictions were great at first, Pennywaggle slowly gained the respect of those at the WRIMJOB. In January of 1863, Pennywaggle resolved to “grind til’ I own it,” and proceeded to fire Woodridge and his compatriots. Without their obstructions, Pennywaggle’s WRIMJOB began to turn out medical advancements like no one’s business. With medical advancements like hand-washing and moving latrines away from drinking water, the WRIMJOB became a symbol of medical advancement in 19th Century America.

By 1865 the war was over, and the luster of the WRIMJOB was beginning to fade. Lincoln was having trouble convincing Congress the funds were still necessary, while Grant wondered if bourbon paired better with gin or vodka. Pennywaggle had already seen the writing on the wall and resigned in January of 1865. A.P. Woodridge passed away later that year after drunkenly falling on a rake. After Lincoln’s death, the WRIMJOB fell into a state of disrepair. It was later turned into a brothel after the “W” fell off the facility. That same brothel later gained notoriety for a very specialized kind of pleasure, missionary position. Still, many historians will be quick to tell you how important the WRIMJOB was to the Union winning the Civil War.     


The Pacific Tower used to be exclusively used for WRIMJOB work
The Pacific Tower used to be used exclusively for WRIMJOB work.

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