Useful book?

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jul 29 05:48:02 UTC 2011

History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884 - Google Books
volume 2 of 3

On pp875+ there is a footnote that lists storefront signs in Philadelphia
from 1751 to 1773. The list is taken from Wescott's History of Philadelphia
(Wescott is listed as a co-author on the 1884 volume). Other interesting
information in the text, of course, and not just about Philadelphia, but
that wasn't my primary concern. I did not try to track down volumes 1 and 3.

One other observation. On p. 935, there is a reference to Philadelphia
Mummers and the George Washington foil--Cooney Cracker. I won't quote the
entire passage, but the general idea is that the original Beelzebub of St.
George and the Dragon had evolved into Little Devil Doubt, then to Cooney
Cracker (with St. George replaced by another dragon slayer--Washington).

Then, there is this little comment on Cooney Cracker:

> A character that always accompanied their "Washington" was Cooney Cracker,
> a clown whose costumes and antics make some historians believe he was the
> forerunner of the Uncle Sam of today. This shooter impersonating Washington
> had several poems and speeches to recite, which still survive.

The article is purportedly from the 1950s Mummers magazine. But other
references back up the claim. One 1905 volume gives a slightly different
interpretation of Cooney Cracker being the forerunner of "Yankee Doodle".

Putting these together would suggest that Uncle Sam is a derivative of the
Beelzebub character--certainly would help to explain some of the
distinguishing features. Now THAT would be interesting...


The American Dialect Society -

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