The "Know Nothings", 1853

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri May 9 00:24:59 UTC 2008

I have not tried to search 19th Century U.S. Newspapers -- it's
amazing how many people knew nothing about so many things, and said
so in the newspapers! --but a secondary source asserts that the term
"Know Nothing" (OED2 [and on-line], sense 2, 1854-; the two
quotations below are one A. noun, one B. adjective) "apparently made
its public debut in November, 1853."

"through the instrumentality of a mongrel ticket termed the '_Know-Nothing_'".

"the Know-Nothing organization" "but a new dodge of protean nativism".

New York Tribute, 1853 Nov. 10 and 16 [respectively, I think]; no
page/column cited.

This was Horace Greeley's paper, but my source infers [presumably
from the first quotation] that he did not actually coin the term.

In Tyler Anbinder, _Nativism & Slavery: The Northern Know-Nothings &
the Politics of the 1850s_ (Oxford University Press, 1992), page 21.


The American Dialect Society -

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