James E. Clapp jeclapp at WANS.NET
Thu Dec 16 16:37:56 UTC 1999

Fred Shapiro wrote:
> It turns out that the 1914 citation in the OED is erroneous (the actual
> date of the source cited is 1941).  So my real question is, can anyone
> produce evidence for the term _founding father_ earlier than 1918 (there
> is a reference to a 1918 usage by Warren Harding in Safire's New Political
> Dictionary)?

I *wondered* about that 1914 cite!  I'd been looking at the same phrase, and
couldn't find it in Lexis before 1935--and in Supreme Court opinions not
before 1945.  I'm surprised to hear it existed as early as 1918.  "Father of
the country" was associated with Washington early on; I have the feeling
that it was a long time before anybody conceived the idea of multiple
paternity for the nation (the "founding fathers").

James E. Clapp

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