hide binders (high binders)
george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed May 19 18:02:28 UTC 2004
HDAS says of "high binder" (noun, 1a) "in pl. app. orig. the name of a criminal gang, . . . but the reason for its choice is unknown" Its first citation is from 1806, taken from the Dictionary of Americanisms.
Here is a passage from 1807 that perhaps opens a explanation for the origin of the word:
It was testified on the trial that Pitt and Noah belonged to the association of Hide Binders. Public Advertiser, January 24, 1807, p. 2, col. 5
Nicholas Pitt and William Noah, and a half dozen others, were tried for inciting a riot on December 25, 1806, by attacking a Catholic church or the worshippers leaving it. Perhaps "Hide Binder" is the correct form and indicates that that these louts all worked at a trade that involved hides. There were tanneries in NYC in these years; or perhaps they were butchers. Butchers had a reputation in NYC in the early 19th century for thuggishness -- I dare say the journeymen and apprentice butchers who worked on the killing floors, rather than the brokers who bought the cows and sold the beef.
George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.
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