Famous quotation about the weather in San Francisco (Duluth in 1900) and a mystery volume with restricted access in Google Books

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Jul 11 22:57:46 UTC 2011

" If someone wishes to offer an interpretation for the term "open winter" I
would like to hear it. My
guess is that the phrase refers to the existence of a large number
of competitive race horses."

Your guess baffles me.

My guess is, that it refers to rivers that usually would have been frozen
over, being open to boat traffic.  the NYC papers in the early 19th C paid
careful attention to how far south below Albany the Hudson had frozen in the
early winter, and how far and how soon the ice was retreating in the early


On Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 6:35 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>wrote:

> The periodical "The Sporting Magazine; or Monthly Calendar of the
> Transactions of the Turf" was the first English sporting periodical,
> and it was published between 1792 and 1870 according to Wikipedia an
> occasionally reliable website. So why is the following digital volume
> locked up in Google Books?
> http://books.google.com/books?id=qRQGAAAAQAAJ&
> The images were created from a copy at Oxford University. GB does not
> give a date or any other bibliographic data about this mystery volume.
> I cannot find the volume at HathiTrust. I do not know how to search
> for it at the Internet Archive because I have been unable to extract a
> date. The volume interests me because it contains the following
> excerpt:
> All admit this to have been the most open winter in their remembrance.
> Beresford, when asked if he ever knew such a Winter, replied with his
> usual quickness, "Yes, last Summer."
> http://books.google.com/books?id=qRQGAAAAQAAJ&q=Beresford#search_anchor
> I sent a message to Google to request the full display of "The
> Sporting Magazine" volume. If some list member can extract a date from
> this book or has a suggestion for obtaining access please let me know.
> Here is some additional background for this topic. I am exploring the
> following well-known saying attributed to Mark Twain: The coldest
> winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.
> Multiple references state that there is no compelling evidence that
> Twain is responsible for this saying. However, the references also
> note that Twain did write a letter containing the following:
>  ...anywhere is better than Paris. Paris the cold, Paris the drizzly,
> Paris the rainy, Paris the damnable. More than a hundred years ago
> somebody asked Quin, "Did you ever see such a winter in all your life
> before?" "Yes," said he, "Last summer." I judge he spent his summer in
> Paris.
> - letter to Lucius Fairchild, 28 April 1880, reprinted in Mark Twain,
> The Letter Writer
> http://www.twainquotes.com/Paris.html
> The quotation in "The Sporting Magazine" may help to illuminate the
> history of the quip used by Twain. If someone wishes to offer an
> interpretation for the term "open winter" I would like to hear it. My
> guess is that the phrase refers to the existence of a large number of
> competitive race horses.
> I am also tracing jokes matching the template of the San Francisco
> saying. Here are the two earliest I have found so far in 1900 and
> 1901:
> Cite: 1900 June 17, Duluth News-Tribune, [No article title], Page 12,
> Column 3, Duluth, Minnesota. (GenealogyBank)
> One of these days somebody will tell that mouldy chestnut about the
> finest winter he ever saw being the summer he spent in Duluth, and one
> or these husky commercial travelers, who have been here and know all
> about our climate, will smite him with an uppercut and break his
> slanderous jaw. The truth will come out in time.
> Cite: 1901 June 17, Morning Herald, Interesting Experiences Of Local
> Man Who Deals in Weather - Exciting Incidents That Do Not Appear In
> His Records, GBK Page 6, Column 2, Lexington, Kentucky.
> (GenealogyBank)
> Another assignment was to Duluth, Minn., where he learned to
> appreciate rapid changes in temperature. He says the coldest winter he
> ever experienced was the summer he spent in Duluth.
> Over a span of more than one hundred years many locations were
> substituted into this joke including: Milwaukee, Two Harbors, Grand
> Marais, Puget Sound, Buffalo, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.
> Thanks for any help
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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

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