whistle-jack, n.; sweat, n.

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Feb 6 01:24:45 UTC 2008

MW3 defines "sweat" as a precise synonym of "chuck-a-luck" (OED: 1836). That  could explain the "sweat cloth" and perh. the "board" that Bardeen set up in 1863.

George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: George Thompson
Subject: Re: whistle-jack, n.; sweat, n.

Can this be related to a gambling game called "sweat cloth"? Not that I know what that consisted of, either. Don't find it in OED.

The Black Legs and the Patent Swindling Bag. *** Long, who carried the cash, made his escape from the sheriff. . . . [The Sheriff finds false dice], numerous packs of artful marked cards, together with a sweat cloth and two boxes for dealing cards at the Pharo bank. [One of the pharo boxes is said to be the invention of] the noted gambler Baily, who had a patent for the same, from the patent office of the United States. *** We have heard of many patents . . . , but this is the first time we have heard of a patent for an improvement in the art of swindling – [the patent is said to have been] obtained through the influence of a conspicuous member of our national legislature. . . . Commercial Advertiser, March 24, 1815, p. 2, cols. 4-5, from the Bedford, Pa., Gazette of March 16

[street gamblers are caught] in the act of gambling on a certain cloth, commonly called a “Sweat Cloth”, with dice boxes, &c New York Daily Advertiser, April 30, 1833, p. 2, col. 4; Morning Courier & New-York Enquirer, May 1, 1833, p. 2, col. 2

[sweat cloth gambling: in "a small shantee, where liquor and provisions are sold, and where in a small back room, the boys and men day and night, carried on their gambling operations to the loss of their money and ruin of their morals." Matsell, the landlord, gives a good character to the proprietor] New York Daily Advertiser, February 7, 1835, p. 2, col. 3-4; NY Transcript, February 5, 1835, p. 2, col. 4.


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

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan Lighter
Date: Tuesday, February 5, 2008 10:37 am
Subject: whistle-jack, n.; sweat, n.

> Not on OED, but some kind of (card?) game they used to play:
> 1862 in Alan D. Gaff _On Many a Bloody Field_ (Bloomington: Indiana
> U. P., 1996) 107: Play poker, casino, dominoes, whist, old sledge,
> eucher, whistle jack and muggins.
> Or you could play "sweat" instead:
> 1863 in Bell I. Wiley _The Life of Billy Yank_ (Indianapolis:
> Bobbs-Merrill, 1952) 251: Aug. 28: Lost $5.00 at Sweat this morning
> but won it back again at Bluff....Aug. 30...Lost $10.00 at Bluff &
> Sweat and set up a board winning more than I lost.
> JL
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