"leatherhead"= "watchman", now 1831

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Mar 2 01:57:30 UTC 2010

My own notes have the following:
        Mr. Editor, As I was going home a fortnight ago, my attention was arrested by one of our "Charlies" whom I discovered in a close confab with a young woman. . . .   [the "leatherhead" was kissing her, invited her to take a "bowl of oyster soup and a glass of gin"; she accepts, they go into an oyster cellar]
        Hawk & Buzzard, April 29, 1826, p. 2, cols. 2-3

For "Charley" = watchman, HDAS has 1749 (English); 1791, 1848 (US).

Unfortunately, I didn't take down the context of "leatherhead" here.  Scattered issues of the Hawk and Buzzard are 1) included on a microfilm collection from the Amer Antiquarian Soc called "Racy Papers; 2) at the N-Y Hist Soc; 3) at the NYPL and 4) at the Staten Island Hist Soc.  I haven't seen the ones at #4, and don't remember where I did see the April 29, 1826 issue -- though I could figure it out.

The Hawk & Buzzard was a weekly newspaper devoted to regulating public morals.  It appeared from 1826 into the early 1830s, with (apparently) long gaps.  It mostly consisted of letters to the editor, as the one above, complaining that someone was failing to pay his debts, or consorting with lewd women, or getting drunk, or the like.  The misdemeanant would be identified by his initials -- never GAT, I'm proud to say -- or by a tag like "a bookseller not a hundred miles from Lispenard street".


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

----- Original Message -----
From: "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
Date: Monday, March 1, 2010 12:31 pm
Subject: Re: "leatherhead"= "watchman", now 1831

> At 3/1/2010 04:52 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
> >The earliest hit for "leather-head" as "watchman" is from 1838.
> >Nothing before 1835, so George's find remains the standard.
> Adding to my previous search the form "leather-head", I find it also
> locates "leather head".  (Apparently EAN treats the hyphen as a word
> separator, identically to space.  I think I once knew that!)
> Farmer's Cabinet [Amherst, New Hampshire]; Date: 10-22-1831; Volume:
> 30; Issue: 7; Page3, col. 1.  Titled (on page 2) "From the New-York
> Enquirer. Riot in New-York.  Theatrical Hubbub. ..."  [EAN does not
> have the New-York Enquirer for 1831, which presumably has an earlier instance.]
> "At about 1/2 past 9 o'clock, some fifty or sixty watchmen were
> brought to the front of the Theatre, and about half a dozen of them
> introduced into the second tier of boxes. This was a most injudicious
> and unadvised measure, and the audience viewed it as an insult. 'Out
> with the leather heads'---'Away with the Police' ..."
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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