Annals of silliness: from the Medford [Oregon] Daily News, June 23, 1929, a story about one man’s quest to save space by replacing the word the by a single symbol:
Note the wry conclusion to the jocular piece:
Its general use should prove a great boon to newspapers, facilitating composition and reserving space now given over to “the’s” for more comic strips and letters to the editor.
Maybe Mason was just an eccentric whose ideas never caught on. Or maybe Mason was the invention of a mischievous journalist; notice that we hear nothing about Mason except for his campaign to replace the.
(Hat tip to Ben Truwe, who operated the Medford typography firm ProType for 22 years. The image of the newspaper page is the one he sent me; I understand that it’s not easy to read, even when you click on it to embiggen it.)
(I’m not experienced in dealing with newspaper archives and haven’t been able to find this story, datelined New York, in any other publication.)