This legend was called “The Rebuke” in the California Folklore Quarterly (3: 319, 1944; 4: 86-87, 1945) and “The War Profiteer” by Jan Brunvand (The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story, 149-50). An item in Western Folklore (7: 60, 1948) noted a Civil War variant. Thanks to Bonnie Taylor-Blake for the CFQ and WF references.
Carleton B. Case, Funny Stories Told By the Soldiers: Pranks, Jokes and Laughable Affairs of Our Boys and Their Allies in the Great War (Chicago: Shrewesbury Publishing Co., 1919), p. 13.
TOO BAD SHE HADN’T MORE SONS
Two men riding in a street car were talking about the war. “Well, how much longer do you think this thing will last?” asked one of the men of his friend. “Pretty hard to tell,” was the answer. “But as for me it can go right on for years. I’m making big money out of it all right.” And he looked it!
A well-dressed middle-aged woman sat next to the man who had just spoken and, as he finished his speech, she took off her gloves, stood up and hit the man a stinging blow across his face. “That is for my boy in France,” she said; and before he could recover she hit him another one, and added: “And that is for my other boy who is about to sail.”
Then she sat down, while the red-faced man looked about at a carful of people whose approving glances of the woman’s act led him to feel that he had better leave the car. — Ladies’ Home Journal.