skid row(1931) and "skid road"

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Sep 10 14:29:53 UTC 2006

The earliest citation for "skid road" that I know of is in Mathew's
Dictionary of Americanisms and refers to the Adirondacks of New York, not
Seattle or British Columbia:

1880 N.Y. Adirondack Survey 7th Rep. 176 Advised that lumbermen had cut
'skid roads' on which logs were drawn..., I changed the route.

Mathew's also has a 1928 cite for "skid road" being used as a neighborhood
of cheap bars and flophouses (no clue what city is being referred to in the

1928 Survey 1 Aug 457/2 He then drifted into that part of the city called
the skid-road, and heard a man speaking from a box.

--Dave Wilton
  dave at

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Victoria Neufeldt
Sent: Saturday, September 09, 2006 9:40 PM
Subject: Re: skid row(1931) and "skid road"

Here's what the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (1967)
has to say about 'skidroad':

For the lumbering term ("a prepared road having greased skids ... over which
logs were dragged by teams of mules, oxen, or horses. See also *jumper road*
and *skidway*"), the first cite is "ca. 1889", quoted or reprinted in 1956.

For the extended meaning, ("5a ... Hist. a low-class district of drinking
and gambling houses ..."), there's a 1906 cite.  Then there's sense 5b ("a
city district characterized cheap lodging houses, second-hand stores ...
mission soup kitchens, etc. ..."), for which the first cite given is from
1936.  There's also a note:  "The original *skidroad* (def. 5a) was Yesler's
Way in Seattle, Wash., built in 1852. Certainly the term was in use in
British Columbia before 1900, having been used of the Vancouver derelict
district for many years.  The districts so named in Seattle and Vancouver
appear to have grown up near the terminus of actual skidroads (def. 1),
becoming gathering places for loggers when unemployed or seeking employment.
After the logging operations receded inland, the name for these districts
was retained, becoming a general term for such districts even in cities
having no connection with logging."


Victoria Neufeldt
Editor, DSNA Newsletter
727 9th Street East
Saskatoon, Sask.
S7H 0M6
Tel: (306) 955-8910

----- Original Message -----
From: "David Lonergan" <C60DFL1 at WPO.CSO.NIU.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, September 09, 2006 9:32 AM
Subject: Re: skid row(1931) and "skid road"

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       David Lonergan <C60DFL1 at WPO.CSO.NIU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: skid row(1931) and "skid road"
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> You are right about the earlier edition; there's also a 1980s version.
> It has been a long time since I read it, but I believe he wrote that the
> Seattle skid road was the original--the skids that logs rolled down on
> their way to the bay--and it obtained its present meaning due to the
> homeless people sleeping in its vicinity.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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