Old Chip or Brother Chip

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Dec 1 21:21:34 UTC 2005

The OED has for these expressions:
6. a. fig. Something forming a portion of, or derived from, a larger
or more important thing, of which it retains the characteristic
qualities. Usually applied to persons.   [1658 OSBORN Adv. Son (1673)
221 As most of the small Princes beyond the Alps, are themselves, or
their wives, chips of the Cross.] 1815 Scribbleomania 2, I rank with
the Nine a true chip of Apollo. 1822 W. IRVING Braceb. Hall xiii. 116
A dry chip of the University. 1873 Slang Dict. s.v. Chip, Brother
chip, one of the same trade or profession. Originally brother
carpenter, now general.

I can't beat the bracketed quote, but I have the following.  All 5
that contain the term "brother chip" antedate the OED's quotation from

        Whereas Abraham Fincher, an old Chip, has taken upon himself,
at his house in Beaver-Lane, near the Bowling-Green, to sell most
Sorts of Strong Liquors by retail, he finding himself incapable of
performing a Day's Work, and therefore gives Notice, that those who
have a Mind to spend their Penny with him shall meet with good
Entertainment.  New-York Evening Post, July 24, 1749, p. 3, col. 2

        An industrious mechanic . . . was robbed . . . , but by whom,
no one could tell.  Suspicion, however, was lately fixed upon a
brother chip. . . .  N-Y E Post, September 25, 1823, p. 2, col. 2

        [a letter referring to "a scurrilous little print"]  . . . the
Editor whereof is a brother chip of mine, having been brought up to
the profession of a Baker. . . .  **  I do hereby request [him] to
meet me any time he may think proper, at Mr. John Notter's bake oven,
armed with his own peel or swob, or any other instrument belonging to
our trade. . . .        N-Y National Advocate, August 3, 1825, p. 2,
col. 4, from Juniata Gazette

        [A newspaper editor is sued.]  . . . the manuscript was . . .
sent to the printer's as a legal advertisement.  ***  Alas, for our
brother chip!  Commercial Advertiser, August 31, 1827, p. 2, col. 3

        Is there any Editor in this city who is well off, and has no
little-uns of his own, and who would help a brother chip by taking two
or three of the little batch off his hands?     Evening Star, December
6, 1833, p. 2, col. 3  [The editor of an out-of-town paper has become
father of quadruplets.]

        A compositor employed on the Broadway Belle . . . meeting a
brother chip in Broadway. . . .  Broadway Belle, October 15, 1855, p.
4, col. 3


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

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