"Yesterday is history..."

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 1 20:58:14 UTC 2011

Barry Popik wrote an entry about this saying that is dated June 20,
2009. He updated it today with Jon Lighter's excellent information.

Here is a link to Barry's entry: http://goo.gl/dTghB

Here is a weak but popular precursor.

A poem that was published in a periodical dated November 9, 1901
included verses that shared a theme and some words. However mention of
the past was absent. These verses were quite popular and were
reprinted many times. But the surrounding poem varied substantially.
Our paper: Volume 17 - Page 717
Massachusetts Reformatory (Concord, Mass.)

[Begin excerpt]
We live but in the present,
The future is unknown;
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is all our own.
[End excerpt]

Here is another weak precursor.
1909, Wisconsin Baptist anniversaries - Page 80

[Begin excerpt]
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is prophesy.
[End except]

Here is stronger precursor: Unverified item in Google Books with a GB
date of 1942. Date probes show snippets for 1941 and 1942 that are
consistent with the 1942 date. The wordplay of gift-present is absent.

1942, Canada lumberman: Volume 62
[Begin extract]
Speaking of the future I can't do better than say Yesterday may be
History, Tomorrow is Mystery and Today is our Golden Opportunity!
[End extract]

Here is an unverified item in Google Books with a GB date of 1944.
There is a 1944 edition held at Duke. Most libraries have a 1978
edition. A probe with 1944 shows a copyright notice of 1944.

1944, The long house of the Iroquois
Spencer Lionel Adams

[Begin extract]
Once in recalling this thought gleaned from a magazine article: "I am
not afraid of tomorrow, for I have known yesterday, and I have today,"
I devised from such a sentiment this worded-plate for the sun-dial:
"Yesterday, but history; Tomorrow, only mystery; Today, golden hours
set between!"
[End extract]

Apparently the modern expression evolved over decades.

On Tue, Nov 1, 2011 at 11:16 AM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      "Yesterday is history..."
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I've heard this two or three times in the past year or so, most
> recently yesyerday:
> "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and the present is a
> gift.  (That's why the ycall it the present.)"
> I alluded to the part about the present here in 2010.
> 1967 _Altoona Mirror: Family Weekly_ (July 11) 13: You must forget the
> past. Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery. Follow the AA
> philosophy of quitting one day at a time and seeking divine guidance.
> 1994 "Abigail Van Buren" in _Indiana [Pa.] Gazette_ (Oct. 27) 12: If
> you read only one book this year, make it "Real Moments," by Barbara
> De Angelis (Delacorte Press). ...Another gem from this philosophical
> little book: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a
> gift. That's why we call it 'the present.'"
> The '94 "Dear Abby" column appeared in many papers.  The quotation
> appears on p. 28 of Dr. De Angelis's 1994 book.
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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