Antedating of Hall of Fame

Sun Jul 5 05:07:58 UTC 2009

The OED and M-W have 1901 for "hall of fame," referring to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, which was completed the previous year.  That now-forgotten institution was the original American hall of fame.  
Before the American institution, however, there were two German establishments:  the Walhalla Ruhmes- und Ehrenhalle, near Regensburg, Germany, completed in 1842, and the Ruhmeshalle auf der Anhöhe, in Munich, completed in 1853.  Both of these, and especially the latter, were occasionally referred to in English-language publications as a "Hall of Fame," which I suppose is a calque of "Ruhmeshalle."
For years previously, however, there were poetic and metaphoric references to "halls of fame," of which the earliest I see on Google Books is from 1792.  In a sonnet addressed to the Scottish poet William Dunbar, dated June 14, 1792, and published in the July 25, 1792 issue of The Bee, or Weekly Literary Intelligencer, Alexander Thomson wrote:
<<Dunbar, whose mystic Rose and Thistle twine,
     Unfading glory may so boldly claim,
Whose Golden Terge*, enrich'd with forms divine,
     Shall hang for ever in the hall of fame!>>
Thomson adds the author's footnote:  "*The Thistle and Rose, the Golden Terge, (shield) both allegorical poems, and esteemed the best of Dunbar's compositions."  The actual footnote call is not an asterisk, but one of those printer's symbols that looks like a cross or dagger (I'm not sure of the name).  However, I don't have that on my keyboard.
John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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