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Posts Tagged ‘Dwight Eisenhower’

Whistle-Stop Campaign

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 9, 2015

Every once in a while, you’ll hear or read about a whistle-stop campaign, and it’s usually in the weeks leading up to an election (although not always).    A whistle-stop campaign refers to a series of brief appearances in a string of stops along a set route.

Of course, whistle-stop campaigns left the railway and took to the highways in 1992 when Bill Clinton decided to he and Al Gore would run with a whirlwind intercity bus tour to meet the people.  But the more traditional whistle-stop campaign had a good run — and continues to have good runs from time to time — with the railroads that criss-cross America.

On May 15, 1976 the Gadsden Times reported on the showdown battle between Ronald Reagan (6 February 1911 – 5 June 2004) and President Gerald Ford (14 July 1913 – 26 December 2006).  It was part of the “red, white and blue Presidential Express” train and the headline read, “Ford On Whistlestop Campaign.”

On September 14, 1964 the Lawrence Journal World newspaper announced that wife of Lyndon B. Johnson (27 August 1908 – 22 January 1973) would be making the first ever whistle-stop campaign by a First Lady.  The train was aptly named the “Lady Bird” and was scheduled to travel 1,682 miles from start to finish.  The editor okayed the headling, “Mrs. Johnson Plans Whistle-Stop Campaign.”

On March 1, 1956 the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph announced that President Dwight Eisenhower (14 October 1890 – 28 March 1969) stated that leading up to the election, he wouldn’t engage in “whistle-stop” talking while Democrats trumpeted the fact that their candidate would be making multiple personal appearances in a vigorous campaign.  The article was entitled, “Whistle-Stop Campaign Ruled Out By President.”

Back in 1948 when Harry S. Truman (8 May 1884 – 26 December 1972) was running for President, he decided to visit Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California by train.  A special platform was set up at the rear of the train and it was from that Pullman railway carriage platform that Harry Truman gave speeches, sometimes as often as eight speeches each day.

Time magazine compared the campaign to a vaudeville act, and in Seattle, someone in a balcony shouted out, “Give ’em hell, Harry!

SIDE NOTE 1:  This phrase entered politics as a slogan meaning blunt, straight-forward campaigning.

Senator Robert A. Taft (8 September 1889 – 31 July 1953) stated to the media that Truman was “blackguarding Congress at every whistle station in the West” during his campaign tour.  Taking the Senator’s comments in stride, Truman stated that Los Angeles was the biggest whistle-stop he had visited on the tour.

While it’s true that campaigning via the railroad wasn’t new when Truman ran in 1948 (it had originated in 1896 with Democrat William Jennings Bryan (19 March 1860 – 26 July 1925) who traveled 18,000 miles by rail and gave 600 speeches in an attempt to unseat President William McKinley (29 January 1843 – 14 September 1901) who chose to campaign from his front porch in Canton, Ohio), after his comments about Los Angeles, such campaigns were noted in the media as being whistle-stop campaigns.

Four years later, on October 11, 1952 the Associated Press sent out a story to the newspapers titled, “Whistle Stopper Truman Pours It On In New York.”  The article began by stating this:

Whistle stopper Harry S. Truman lends a hand to Adlai Stevenson here today in the biggest “whistle stop” of them all.

He turns his “give ’em hell” technique from the rear platform of his 16-car campaign train to a park in Harlem to try to help build up a big enough Democratic margin in New York City to overcome normal Republican majorities upstate.

Two years before the first whistle-stop campaign, George Taft and Ava Gardner starred in a 1946 movie entitled, “Whistle Stop” that was based on the novel of the same name written by author Maritta M. Wolff (25 December 1918 – 1 July 2002).  When her novel was published in 1941 at the tender age of 22, it was declared a literary sensation, and critics referred to it was the most important first novel of the year.  She went on to write five more novels.

When George Bush ran for office in 1992, he did so by taking a page out of Harry Truman’s whistle-stop campaign handbook as he campaigned by train in Ohio and Michigan in a whirlwind trip before returning to Washington, D.C.

Originally, the term whistle-stop meant any small towns along the railroad lines that were of little to no importance to anyone except those who lived there, and those who visited there.  Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to refer to any town or city on a political whistle-stop campaign as being of little to no importance to anyone, most especially the candidate!

And now for a little history lesson:  For those who aren’t aware of the history of how railroads came to be, it was in 1851 that the Illinois Central was chartered to build a railroad to open up the entire state of Illinois to development and commerce, with an eye on transcontinental travel.  It required that federal legislation be enacted to allow for the first land grant railroad, and it set a precedent for all other railroad routes stretching back and forth across the United States.

SIDE NOTE 2:  The first presentation to Congress on the subject of a transcontinental railroad for the U.S. was made by Asa Whitney  (1791 – August 1874) in 1845, after returning from a trip to China from 1842 to 1844.

Back when the railroad was stretching across the country, not every town with a station could count on the train stopping.  In fact, most often, if a passenger wanted to disembark, he had to ask the conductor to inform the engineer to stop and let him (or her) off at the specific train station.  The conductor would pass along the message to the engineer by pulling on the signal cord, and in return, the engineer would sound the whistle twice to let the conductor know he’d gotten the message.  This is how some town became known as whistle-stop towns.

So while there were whistle-stop towns for decades before Harry S. Truman ran his campaign in 1948, it was indeed in 1948 that the idiom whistle-stop campaigning was coined by Harry S. Truman, with a considerable amount of help from Senator Robert A. Taft.

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Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Head Over Heels

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 19, 2013

You may have heard someone you know say he or she is head over heels in love with someone or something. They may be standing right before you making it obvious they are literally head over heels, but what does the idiom mean? What it means is that they are completely enamored with a person or an idea or an item. They may be obsessed or infatuated or engaged or any number of things when it comes to that person, idea or item, but whatever the emotion may be, it’s intense and encompassing. In other words, it has turned the speaker’s world upside down … the opposite of what he or she is used to feeling.

When it comes to love, no one seems immune.  Of course, rumor has it that the bigger they are, the harder they fall!  On April 18, 2008 the New York Daily News ran with a story by feature writer, Nicole Carter, that made the world sit up and take notice of what was going on in Russia. It seemed that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was divorcing his wife at the time, was involved with an Olympic Gymnast named Alina Kabayeva. As with many scandals that erupt at the most inopportune time, it came with a snappy headling: “Why Vladimir Putin Fell Head Over Heels In Love With Gymnast.”

Considering that the words in love are added to the idiom indicates that there are times when someone can be head over heels and the expression has little (or nothing) to do with love.  As we have all heard, politics makes for strange bedfellows and back on January 25, 1956 the Lewiston Evening Journal shared the news that something odd was going on in the world of American politics. While few details could be pulled from the article entitled, quite simply, “For Nixon” it began with this eye-opener!

For whatever a poll is worth — the California Republicans are head-over-heels for Vice President Richard Nixon if President Eisenhower doesn’t rerun. So says the daily newspaper, Los Angeles Times. If Ike should run, majorities in both parties are for him.

Back in April 1922, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation released a movie to theaters that starred Mabel Normand, Hugh Thompson and Russ Powell. The movie told the story of three men involved in the life of a perky Italian acrobat who has come to America at a theatrical agent’s bidding. Interestingly enough, because the acrobat is such an adorable spitfire, there’s mayhem a plenty, and maybe more than even she expected when she falls for the theatrical agent’s partner. While it’s true this movie is from the silent movies era, the intertitles didn’t detract from the movie that was known as “Head Over Heels.”

The New York Times has always published articles of political interest to a wide cross-section of its readership. It’s a long-held tradition that can be seen in this article dated May 9, 1860 dealing with the American Anti-Slavery Society and it’s 27th anniversary held at the Cooper Institute. Most of the attendees who half-filled the institute were women. The gathering put forth resolutions condemning slavery. When Wendell Phillips stepped up to the podium to speak, he had a great deal to say about the situation including this quote attributed to a Mr. Seward:

Let it be marked that they (the Abolitionists) didn’t know anything, that they were turned head over heels with their passions — couldn’t see an inch beyond their own ignorance and mistakes — were mere boys — madmen — strong-minded men and women, who did not know anything.

When David Crockett wrote his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee” which was published by Carey, Hart & Co. in 1834. As he wrote about his early days as a young man, fond memories surfaced including this one:

The next day, I went back to my old friend, the Quaker, and set in to work for him for some clothes; for I had now worked a year without getting any money at all, and my clothes were nearly all worn out, and what few I had left were mighty indifferent. I worked in this way for about two months; and in that time a young woman from North Carolina, who was the Quaker’s niece, came on a visit to his house. And now I am just getting on a part of my history that I know I never can forget. For though I have heard people talk about hard loving, yet I reckon no poor devil in this world was ever cursed with such hard love as mine has always been, when it came on me. I soon found myself head over heels in love with this girl, whose name the public could make no use of; and I thought that if all the hills about there were pure chink, and all belonged to me, I would give them if I could just talk to her as I wanted to; but I was afraid to begin, for when I would think of saying any thing to her, my heart would begin to flutter like a duck in a puddle; and if I tried to outdo it and speak, it would get right smack up in my throat, and choak me like a cold potatoe.

But he certainly wasn’t the first to use the idiom. In fact, the idiom in years leading up to Davey Crockett’s autobiography was usually intended to mean that an individual had been hit with such force that it toppled him over as evidenced in Herbert Lawrence’s book, “The Contemplative Man, or The History of Christopher Crab, Esq., of North Wales” published by J. Whiston in 1771. Rather than describe a romantic encounter, Herbert Lawrence wrote this:

He gave such a violent involuntary kick in the Face, as drove him Head over Heels.

Oddly enough, an earlier variant of the idiom head over heels appears to be heels over head as seen in the Medieval poem, “Patience” from the 14th century:

ORIGINAL TEXT
He [Jonah] glydez in by þe giles, þur glaymande glette … Ay hele ouer hed hourlande aboute.

TRANSLATION
He [Jonah] passed in by the gills, through sticky slime … All heels over head tumbling about.

In the end, however, the idiom seems to originate in Ancient Rome when Roman poet, Gaius Valerius Catallus (84 – 54 BC) wrote his seventeenth poem in “Catulli carmina.” It reads in part:

quendam municipem meum de tuo volo ponte
ire praecipitem in lutum per caputque pedesque,
verum totius ut lacus putidaeque paludis
lividissima maximeque est profunda vorago.

The passage per caputque pedesque translates to over head and heels. So while the more modern romantic version goes to Davey Crocket in 1834, while the original idiom goes to Catallus

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Idioms from the 19th Century, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Clean As A Hound’s Tooth

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 20, 2013

The saying clean as a hound’s tooth means that an individual or group of individuals is above-board and honest, transparent and forthcoming. It can also refer to cleanliness and spotlessness … immaculate, in fact.

On February 16, 1971 the Lewiston Morning Tribune printed an article about the efforts put into bailing out the Penn Central railroad the previous summer, when it was experiencing financial difficulties. It came to light that Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans had a substantial amount of his own money at stake in having the railroad subsidized with a federal loan guarantee, and since he was involved on both sides of the fence, a conflict of interest existed. The article was entitled, “Not As Clean As A Hound’s Tooth” and ended with this sentence:

It must be most embarrassing to President Nixon, who once made the old phrase, “clean as a hound’s tooth,” famous all over America.

The old phrase was also a favorite of Dwight Eisenhower according to the Spokesman-Review, in an article published on June 24, 1958 entitled, “Phrase-Makers Relax; Use Up Reserve Stocks.” The story, republished from the New York Times, referred to the previous week as one that would be remembered for its metaphor glue, and perhaps as the great cliché festival.

On that day in Chicago, Adlai E. Stevenson, who in 1952 came to prominence as an eschewer of the ready-made phrase in favor of originality, accused Adams of “holier-than-those self-righteousness.”

Stevenson also made contemptuous reference to President Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign promise of government “clean as a hound’s tooth” which, of course, was the President’s phrase, not Stevenson’s.

The expression was used in a newspaper advertisement in the Vancouver Sun newspaper on March 19, 1931 promoting the “utterly odorless” Canadian made Bon Ami powder and cake. It read in part:

Just try it. You’ll be amazed. A little Bon Ami — a damp cloth — a few months’ time — and your woodwork will be clean as a hound’s tooth.” It won’t be scratched either, nor will your hands be reddened.

In the story “Whirligigs” by American author, O. Henry (1862–1910) and published in 1910, the following passage can be found:

“My precinct is as clean as a hound’s tooth,” said the captain. “The lid’s shut down as close there as it is over the eye of a Williamsburg girl when she’s kissed at a party. But if you think there’s anything queer at the address, I’ll go there with ye.”

On the next afternoon at 3, Turpin and the captain crept softly up the stairs of No. 345 Blank Street. A dozen plain-clothes men, dressed in full police uniforms, so as to allay suspicion, waited in the hall below.

Jumping back just a few more years, when the November 9, 1897 edition of the New York Times reported in the article, “Street Cleaning For The Next Four Years” that:

The department must be kept as clean as a hound’s tooth.

Now American frontiersman, Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868) lived in Taos, New Mexico from 1828 to 1831, and according to PBS and the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau at least one of Kit Carson’s acquaintances said that Kit Carson was clean as a hound’s tooth.

And in fact, American military officer and explorer, John Charles Fremont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890) hired Kit Carson as a guide (at a $100 per month) to take his expedition through the South Pass in Wyoming. When asked his opinion of Kit Carson, he was quoted as saying that Kit Carson was as morally clean as a hound’s tooth.

In the “Journal of Llewellin Penrose: A Seaman” written by William Williams, and originally published in 4 volumes in 1783, the following is found:

I thought every minute of their absence an hour, so great was my anxiety. In about four hours they returned, and gave the following account of their expedition  Bell said he found her to be Bermudian built sloop; she mounted guns, and had altogether a warlike appearance; her bottom was as white as a hound’s tooth. As they drew near her, he plainly heard some one say i English, “a rope for the boat,” with an oath tacked to the end of it. He then hailed them in Spanish, and was answered in the same language.

The date for the expression clean as a hound’s tooth is therefore pegged at some time between 1783 and 1800, allowing for a few years so the new version could make its way into the English language.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Peanut Gallery

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 30, 2013

As with the lunatic fringe, the peanut gallery found its way into the popular jargon of the 20th century quickly and easily. It’s an offensive term made before an audience of one or more observers that quickly dismisses any opinion made by an individual (or group of individuals) that calls into question the veracity of an opinion being put forth by another individual (or group of individuals).

For example, if someone from Political Party A gives a speech in which he states that Program A will have a specific benefit to all people, someone from Political Party B may call out from the crowd that Program A has deficits or will benefit only a specific segment of the people. The opportunity then presents itself for the original speaker or someone else to refer to the person from Political Party B as being from the “peanut gallery” thereby dismissing the comment.

Andrew Button wrote an article for the CBC News entitled, “The Peanut Gallery Rules The House” that was published on December 13, 2010. After spending 4 days observing the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly in action, he included this observation in his story:

“Although the house of assembly is still shy on women, it has diversity where it really counts: in the maturity levels of its members. From stiff professionals like Steve Kent and Lorraine Michael to jokers like Roland Butler and Tom Hedderson, the house represents everyone from the go-getters to the peanut gallery.

But, if the days I spent observing the house are any indication, the peanut gallery has more representation than anyone else in our province’s legislature. With the non-stop heckling that goes on there, the house of assembly evokes the detention hall more than the hallowed offices of the Queen’s own chamber.”

The Deseret News published an article written by Jack Anderson on the June 1, 1976 that addressed the issue of whether Jimmy Carter was the “trust-me candidate” and “a phony” in his bid to become the President of the United States of America. A quick snapshot of the then-governor of Georgia revealed interesting facts and was entitled thusly:

The Peanut Gallery‘s View Of Carter

On August 20, 1959 the Portsmouth Times newspaper of Portsmouth (OH) ran an article about James C. Hagerty, presidential press secretary. It was said that he had been working “around the clock for many days setting up President Eisenhower’s schedule for his trip to Europe.” While the details were to quick and to the point, it appeared that the point of the article was actually to promote the concept that the job of a U.S. President was “24 hours a day, 365 days a year” and that all the overtime was free of charge to everyone living in the U.S.  The title of the article — with a hint of a dare to Eisenhower’s detractors —  was none other than:

Comments From The Peanut Gallery?

The St. Petersburg Times ran a story by Whitney Martin entitled “Low Scoring Orgy In Golf Due To Putting, Says Jones” on February 3, 1940. It was a sports article about golfer Bobby Jones who told the reporter that the reason for consistent low scaring from then-present-day golfers wasn’t “just a case of the golfer making the putts, but of the putts making the golfer.” But the article wasn’t long enough to fill the entire column, and so additional information on what was going on in baseball was also included, beginning with this paragraph:

“If the hecklers in the peanut gallery will refrain from heaving over-ripe cracks to the effect that it needs it, it might be pointed out that the National league is getting quite a transfusion of new blood this year.”

Just three years earlier (nearly to the day), the News-Sentinel published a story in the February 6, 1937 edition of the paper. The story was out of Seattle (WA) and addressed an ongoing argument between one Mrs. Schultz, owner of the theater, and nine members of the local censor board. She stated that there were no city ordinances requiring her to furnish the members of the censor board with expensive accommodations from which to review the Ballet Russe, and the members of the censor board cast aspersions on Mrs. Schultz’s theater for refusing to provide seats that were more to their liking. The article began with this:

“Seattle’s theater censors, gasping for breath at the mere thought of climbing up to the peanut gallery, peered around cautiously today for a line of attack against Mrs. Cecilia Schultz, who refused them free seats in “bald-headed” row. If the censors don’t find some solution to their troubles by Saturday, they’ll have to view the Ballet Russe from the last row in the highest gallery or pay to get in.”

It can be surmised that negative comments from the members of the censor board would not be welcome, and they would be referred to as comments from the peanut gallery, hence providing some of the earliest current-day references for the phrase.

The Evening Independent of January 8, 1919 also shows some of the earliest current-day references for the phrase peanut gallery in an article entitled, “Hot Shot For Suffpests And Declaration Of War.” The article was short and to the point and taken from the Tampa Tribune.

“An exchange says not a politician in Florida dares come out openly against woman suffrage. Perhaps not. We are no politician, but if this darned foolishness in Washington, this snide way of trying to attract a little peanut gallery applause, this indication of being possessed by seven devils, and this brazen attempt at bull-dozing the country does not stop, you can bet we are going to come out in the open and fight it till hell freezes over.”

The connection between peanuts and politics and political acceptance among the electorate, however, had already taken root earlier in the era, as evidenced by a story published in the New York Times 15 years before that.

But interestingly enough, peanuts and politics were strange bedfellow long before 1903. In a New York Times article dated September 9, 1892 there’s mention of “peanut politics” as evidenced in the article entitled, “It Was New-York’s Day: Good Reports At Democratic National Headquarters.” The former Secretary of State  Frederick Cook of Rochester was quoted as saying this when interviewed at the Democratic National Headquarters the day before:

“THE TIMES said several years ago that I did not believe in ‘peanut politics,’ and I can say now with greater force than ever that no Democrat this Fall can report to ‘peanut politics,’ for if he does he will not only lose the confidence of the electors of his district, but every chance for political preferment. No, Sir: the time is past in this State for ‘peanut politics.'”

The reference to peanut politics (without the italics around the expression) was included in the New York Times 5 1/2 years earlier on February 4, 1887 in an article entitled, “Gov. Hill’s Little Game: Plans To Seize The Constitutional Convention.” The story was from out of Albany, New York and ended with this bit of information:

If the State goes Democratic, the year after a majority of the Senate may possibly be secured during the reign of D.B. Hill, providing he is renominated and re-elected Governor. Then he will have a body in sympathy with him. If he didn’t become the boss of the party during the next three years it would be because there is no power in patronage. Then will peanut politics be played after Judge Muller’s own heart. The first step to be taken in all of this, however, is to capture the Constitutional Convention. If that cannot be accomplished then let there be no convention. It is easy enough for a hostile Governor to frame reasons for refusing to sign a bill.

The phrase peanut politics was used in such a way as to make clear that its meaning was understood by New York Times readers.

In theater talk, the peanut gallery was made up of the cheapest seats in the house. In Britain, those who sat in the cheapest seats were called the gallery gods. However, it should be noted that in America, the favorite theater snack at the time was peanuts still in their shells.  As such, when theater patrons in the cheapest seats were dissatisfied with a performance, they adopted the habit of throwing the peanut shells at those performers they held responsible for the poor performance. Of all the theater patrons, those in the cheapest seats had the clearest shot at performers on stage. It was for this reason that many performers played to the cheap seats to spare themselves from potential peanut shell attacks.

Therefore, peanut politics was seen as politics that played to the “cheap seat” electorate … those most likely to vote for someone because they liked him, not because his views were necessarily based in good government.

It is therefore the opinion of Idiomation that the expression peanut gallery dates back to 1919 with many nods to peanut references and the expression peanut politics, taking it back to 1887.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lunatic Fringe

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 28, 2013

Have you ever asked yourself where the lunatic fringe really comes from and how someone becomes part of the lunatic fringe? To find those answers, it’s important to understand that people who are fanatical, extremist, or irrational are oftentimes said to be part of the lunatic fringe. Where did this term come from originally?

On 9 May 2009, Jonathan Curling, Executive Secretary for the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Birmingham Post and Mail newspaper in which he discussed the diverse community in Birmingham, and the good relationships between faith communities with the community. The letter was entitled, “Diversity Too Good To Waste By Apathy” and included this comment:

Over the next three weeks, you will hear these voices as the local and European elections approach, questioning the kind of community we seek to build.

It is easy to dismiss such forces as a lunatic fringe that will never gain ground. Such a view would be a serious error. In a time of economic trouble, some claims of the extremists can appear beguiling. In fact, they will lead us down a road towards a bitter, divided, society.

The first step is that we should all vote.

On 1 September 1994, the Middle East newspaper posted an article that was republished in a number of other mainstream media newspapers. The article was entitled, “Believers and Belligerents: Muslims In The UK.” Midway through the article, the following was written:

The third event which raised the hackles of traditionally tolerant British society was a gathering of an estimated 8,000 Muslim fundamentalists at Wembley Arena, avenue more usually associated with rock groups that religion.

Organised by a group known as Hizb-Ut-Tahrir, or HUT, the event typified what many westerners have come to regard as the lunatic fringe of extremism.

Journalists and photographers were banned from attending the conference and some were threatened with violence when they tried to speak to delegates as they left the conference which attracted many Muslim dissidents from the Middle East.

Jumping back 40 years, the New London Day newspaper of New London (CT) published a news article on 10 May 1954 reported on an address given to the National Press Club by the former president that dealt with the need for unity and bipartisanship, and the claim that Republicans were undermining those two issues.

Harry S. Truman urged President Eisenhower today to use vigorous action rather than pious phrases against “political assassins” and a GOP “lunatic fringe” which he said are destroying unity and the basis for a bipartisan foreign policy.

Politics seems to be where most news stories mentioned a lunatic fringe, so it comes as no surprise that in the March 13, 1935 edition of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that the word figured prominently in the headline as well as in the story itself. Entitled, “General Johnson and the Lunatic Fringe” the story began by stating the following:

When a few weeks ago, General Hugh Johnson “cracked down” on Senator Huey Long and Father Coughlin as being demagogues appealing to “the lunatic fringe,” he started something which is likely to last for a while.

It would have been comparatively easy for the general to dispose of the Louisiana dictator and the radio priest by themselves. They are both very vulnerable. But, unfortunately, his reference to the “lunatic fringe” hits the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens who have been following the great promiser from the south and the powerful non-office seeking cleric from the north, who have been sending telegrams and letters to their representatives at Washington.

In reading the archives of the New York Times, I found this passage in an article entitled, “We Can Have Sing Sing And Reform, Too” that was published on February 15, 1916:

Unfortunately there is around this modern conception of crime that “lunatic fringe” to which Colonel Roosevelt once referred as the unavoidable adjunct of every advanced movement and cause, including his own. Sentimentalists have taken it up, as well as men of sense and practicality, and the result has been a somewhat widespread feeling that the tendency of the reformers was toward an offensive, even a disgusting, coddling of criminals, and the complete transfer from them to “society” of all, or nearly all, of moral responsibility for their acts.

Now many sources attribute the phrase to former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), who is citing as having coined the expression in the book “History as Literature” published in 1913.

There is apt to be a lunatic fringe among the votaries of any forward movement.

Apparently, he liked the expression so much, he used it in a number of magazine articles as well as in his autobiography wherein he wrote:

Then, among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it — the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements.

The fact of the matter is that the expression wasn’t something he coined at all, but rather a unique use of an expression that already existed. What Roosevelt appears to have done was take an expression that referred to a specific kind of hairstyle that was considered unconventional at best, and eccentric or bizarre at worst, and modified somewhat.

In a Letter to the Editor published in the New York Times edition of March 21, 1880, a defense of the lunatic fringe was written by someone known only as S.E.K.

“Your article on “Montague” curls this morning is very one-sided, and, to say the least, exceedingly short-sighted; it proves also beyond a doubt that you are very unobserving. In the first place, the much-abused adornments are “flat, odious, hideous, and disfiguring” only when in course of preparation: as soon as the bandoline is dry the curls are combed out into soft, pretty, and graceful rings, making by far the most becoming way of wearing the front hair that young ladies have adopted for years. Every man made a dreadful “fuss” when “bangs” first came in fashion. I am sure “Montagues” are a vast improvement on those straight abominations, or if you prefer a more complimentary and man-like name, “lunatic fringe.” Please may I ask why you do not attack the mode young gentlemen have of wearing their hair and whiskers a la footman, combing them on each side toward their nose as though they designed a happy meeting when the “prolific side-boards” shall have attained their growth. Audi alteram partem.”

First side note:  Audi alteram partem is a Latin phrase that means “to hear both sides.”

Second side note:  Bandoline was a glue-like hair preparation used from 1840 through to the 1880s that was used to smooth, gloss, or wave hair.

In Oliver Optic’s Magazine For Young And Old” edited by Oliver Optic, in Volume 15, No. 247 published in February 1874, the story entitled “Four Days” by Sophie May made mention of the lunatic fringe. This passage appeared under the chapter heading “Independence Day.”

“Well, now, I am glad if Adelaide has been improving her time for the last few weeks in the kitchen; it speaks well for her,” said Mr. Waters, with such an insinuating smile that his niece knew something more was coming. “You have had quite a rest from the store since Jimmy got back — haven’t you Addie? But what think wife? I’ve got an order from Pinkham & Co. to supply a couple of thousand jewelry boxes! ‘Twill be a pretty profitable job, and I shall have to set both the girls at work. Think you can spare ’em for a while?”

“The girls!” exclaimed Miss Lizzie, lifting her eyebrows till they met the “lunatic fringe” of hair which straggled uncurled down her forehead. “The girls! As if I could stop to fuss with that old paste-pot! Why, father, I’m making my black silk polonay, nine flounces, hand-stitched, and puff trimming up and down in front. Of course it’s Addie’s business to help you if you want her to; but you needn’t count on me. Now, mother, can’t you make him understand?”

The reason it’s important to understand the use of the phrase as it pertains to hairstyles, is to better understand how the expression came to mean those who are fanatical, extremist, or irrational.

It’s easy to see why the “lunatic fringe” that was described so well by S.E.K. in her letter to the New York Times could be considered extreme. The name alone implies that those who favor a “lunatic fringe” may have suffered from some sort of intermittent insanity at the time the “lunatic fringe” rose to popularity with teenage girls across the country. And although the original article to which S.E.K. refers isn’t in evidence, based on S.E.K.’s Letter to the Editor, it can safely be assumed that the article didn’t speak well of the “lunatic fringe.”

Even Laura Ingalls Wilder (February 7, 1867 – February 10, 1957) sported a “lunatic fringe” back in 1881 and 1882, as the style was the rage even in the Dakotas. She wrote about it in her book “Little Town On The Prairie.”

While the current sense of the phrase cannot be attributed solely to Theodore Roosevelt, it can be said that he certainly popularized the expression in the 20th century. However, the sense of the phrase traces back to the hairstyle and how it was perceived by society as a whole which, it would appear, was not favorable with the majority of people.

Likewise, those who are considered part of the “lunatic fringe” in this day and age hold opinions that are not favorable with the majority of people.

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