"All wool and [greater than 1] yards wide" (1882-1913)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 21 03:41:21 UTC 2013

I've gone out on a limb and suggested that "all wool and a yard wide"
used with respect to people or things to signify "genuine," and,
further, "quality," "exemplary," and "honorable" might go as far back
as the Civil War.  (At least, I'm basing that on the research I shared
in a message sent a moment ago.)

There's evidence, though, that once "all wool and a yard wide" took
hold folks began increasing the number of yards, probably for
exaggerated or humorous effect.  These variants co-existed with the
more standard "all wool and a yard wide."  The idiom isn't used much
now, but you can see remnants of it and of variously other-numbered
forms in easily accessible publications from the 20th century.

Below are some early (1882-1913) examples of this numeral-switching,
which I've sorted in chronological rather than numerical order.  (Note
that some forms additionally substitute "high" and "around" for
"wide.")  I'm pretty much presenting the examples I found most
interesting and I've no doubt I've missed others and haven't thought
to include still more.

I should confess that I wasn't aware of "all wool and a yard wide"
until yesterday morning, when I stumbled on it when trying to figure
out what the heck "She Is All Wool and Nine Yards Wide" was all about
(1890, see below).  I'm tempted to point out that we've seen some
variability in the number of yards (six vs. nine) used in another
expression from about the same period (ca. 1910), but won't risk it
for fear of actually falling off the limb.

-- Bonnie

They promptly brought to the notice of the proprietors of the St.
Louis paper two facts:  First, that the statement Ferris made was a
lie -- a plain lie, "all wool and two yards wide."  Secondly, that the
object of Ferris in writing the article was personal and malicious.
[From "Ferris' Fangs," The Evening Critic (Washington, DC), 16
February 1882, p. 1, via newspapers.com.]

A.P. Charles of Seymour is grand high priest of the grand royal
chapter of free and a [sic] accepted mason of this state.  But that
isn't any evidence that he isn't an all wool and seven yards wide
infidel.  [From The Age (Indianapolis, IN), 28 October 1882, col. 1,
p. 5, via newspaperarchive.com.]

One of the really interesting conventions of the year will be the
grand pow-wow of hoop-pole Democrats in the Sixth District.  This is
the district where more ground is pawed up in making a canvass than in
some of the States.  It has the breadth of beam the size of
Connecticut, and a head on it like the State of Texas.  The man who
knocks the persimmons must be all wool and seven yards high.  [From
"The North-West; A Running View of Congressional Business," The
Enquirer (Cincinnati, OH), 22 May 1886, p. 15, via newspapers.com.]

All Wool and Three Yards Wide [Title of O.S. Hardgrove's very
complimentary letter to the editor of Poultry Keeper.  Mr. Hardgrove,
writing from Streator, Illinois, notes that the editor's "paper is all
wool and three yards wide.  Some say one, but I say three."  The
Poultry Keeper (Parkesburg, PA), May 1887, p. 215, via Google Books.]

George Henderson comes in to Minneapolis and spends Sunday with his
family.  George used to be in the livery and hack business at Anoka,
but he never struck his gait until he went to selling groceries.  He
is all wool and three yards around.  [From "'Ynot's' Batch," The St.
Paul (MN) Daily Globe, 16 July 1887, p. 5, via Chronicling America.]

General Agent George Cook of the Missouri Pacific is all wool and two
yards wide when it comes to skirmishing for business.  [From "News of
the Railways," The Rocky Mountain News (Denver), 8 August 1888, p. 8,
via Gale's 19th-Century U.S. newspapers.]

Mr. E. Mickie, one of Leadville's prominent citizens and a
rock-rooted, mountain-buttressed, copper-riveted, all-wool and four
yards-wide Democrat, was a visitor in the city yesterday, a guest of
Joe Milner, the great and good Democratic cashier of the Burlington.
[From "Personal Mention," The Rocky Mountain News (Denver), 30 August
1888, p. 8, via Gale's 19th-century U.S. Newspapers.]

Likes Her Because She Is All Wool and Nine Yards Wide.  [Title of a
letter to the editor, Ironclad Age (Indianapolis, IN), 1 March 1890,
p. 5, via newspaperarchive.com.  The letter-writer wrote effusively
and quaintly about the quality of the newspaper.]

I replied that I was a very black Republican from Pennsylvania, all
wool and two yards wide.  [From "Coming Towards Home," The Daily
Gazette and Bulletin (Williamsport, PA), 23 July 1890, p. 2, via

A few minutes later W.H. Coe, the brother of Earl B. Coe, who
contested the seat for congress with Lafe Pence, was brought in.  His
Republicanism, he said, was all wool and two yards wide and his desire
to have everybody know it led to his incarceration.  [From "Riot
Almost Incited," The Daily News (Denver, CO), 3 May 1894, p. 2, via
Geneaology Bank.]

Mike Kelly Lorden in center field was all wool and six yards wide.
[From "Field of Sport," The Morning Star (Rockford, IL), 30 January
1896, p. 5, via Geneaology Bank.]

I beg to say to you that I come from land east of the great Cumberland
Mountains where Democrats grow and are all wool and eight yards wide.
[From a speech by Samuel G. Heiskell of Knoxville, TN, in "Judge John
K. Shields; Testimonial Meeting in His Behalf Held," The Nashville
Tennessean, 7 May 1896, p. 6, via Proquest.]

There was no shoddy about the fight.  It was all wool and seven yards
wide.  All agreed that it was the fastest, cleverest and most even
match ever seen in Newark.  [From "Twenty Rounds of Fast Fighting Ends
in a Draw," The Newark (OH) Daily Advocate, 29 September 1899, p. 5,
via newspaperarchive.com.]

"Children, there goes a hunkidori of a man.  He's all wool and two
yards high, and no fly ever lights on him the second time."  [From
"Youth's Natural History; The Boa Constrictor," The Springfield (IL)
Sunday Journal, 10 March 1901, p. 10, via Geneaology Bank.]

Joe Rosenberg, the hustling Atlanta trunk man, has come back to
Mississippi and is on the N.O. and N.E.  Joe is all wool and three
yards wide.  [From "Clip's Comment," The Daily Picayune (New Orleans),
21 October 1901, p. 3, via Genealogy Bank.]

Overconfidence has ruined the record of more than one champion
baseball team.  The men, flushed with success say: "Lose? Why, we
don't know what that word means.  We are the goods -- the real thing,
all wool and three yards wide.  Say, it's like takin' milk from a sick
kitten for us to play ball with any other team in the league."  [From
"As to Overconfidence," The Watertown (NY) Daily Times, 3 September
1904, p. 11, via Geneaology Bank.]

Still, if it ever does cool off again and you haven't the price of an
overcoat handy, we heartily recommend Miss Elinor Glyn's "Three
Weeks."  When it comes to the real article of warmth, all wool and
nine yards wide, this touching little volume has the average overcoat
or hot brick looking like the thin segment of a cucumber on ice.  How
it ever escaped from anything but an asbestos press is still a
mystery, as ordinary steel and iron wouldn't last ten seconds in close
contact with several of the pages of this book.  [From Grantland
Rice's "Tennessee 'Uns" column, The Nashville Tennessean, 29 December
1907, p. 4, via Proquest.]

"Greensboro got a piece of Greenville's meat yesterday afternoon, but
it took 12 innings to do it.  That was scientific ball playing, all
wool and four yards wide."  [From The Greensboro (NC) Record, p. 4,
col. 1, via Genealogy Bank, 8 July 1908]

Arrangements for the races are rapidly being consummated, and at
present the attraction looks all wool and six yards wide.  [From
"Sport Dope," The Times-Democrat (Muskogee, OK), 5 April 1911, p. 7,
via newspapers.com.]

In 1885, at Leavenworth, Kas., I met Mr. Harvey.  I was then on my way
across the continent.  He took from his pocket an envelope and wrote
on it these words:  'This is my friend, Horatio Gilbert Parker.  He is
all wool and two yards wide.  There is nothing in my eating houses
good enough for him, but see that he has what he wants.'  [From "Sir
Gilbert and Suffrage," The Arizona Republican (Phoenix), 25 February
1912, p. 8, via Chronicling America.]

"He's sure all wool and ten yards wide -- he's worth a million bones!"
 [From Walt Mason's "Worth a Million," The Belleville (IL)
News-Democrat, 15 March 1912, via Geneaology Bank.]

"I have been in this world a long, long time and the more I live the
more I feel that the people are all wool and three yards wide.  I
don't mean the 'peepul' of the politicians.  I mean the Toms, Dicks,
and Harrys we meet on the street every day.  Most of them have their
own worries, but they're always willing to dig up to help others."
[Walt Mason, "People are Good," The El Paso (TX) Herald, 11 November
1913, p. 4, via Chronicling America.]

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