Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Dec 31 13:39:00 UTC 2004

Bill, can you dig up anything early on "hobo"?

"Mullins, Bill" <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Mullins, Bill"
Subject: yegg

I understand the good Mr. Popik has already researched this word, but his
efforts are lost in the DSL archives. So if this is duplicative, my

OED has 1903 for the noun, 1913 for the verb form, and 1904 for yeggman

"A Bank Burglars' Union Story of the "Yeggmen" and Their Expert Operations
with Nitroglycerine"
New York Times (1857-Current file); Sep 15, 1901; pg. SM7

"[col. 1] An invasion of the Eastern States by bands of "Yeggs" is a danger
which Detective Robert Pinkerton is preparing to meet. . . The original John
Yegg was a California "hoboe," an outcast of society. . . . The 'Yeggmen'
carry no tools. . . [col 3] A list of "Yegg" phraseology has been prepared
for the Pinkerton office. A safe is know as a "John Henry," a "Peter," or a
box. The steel chest of a safe is called a "Keister." A railroad ticket, a
begging card, or a labor card is called a "ducket." They are also called
"dodgers." Some contain begging words, such as "I have been injured on the
railroad. Help me." Nitroglycerine is called "soup," "oil," or "grease."
An informer is called a "snitch." The drill which burglars use is called a
"stem." The fuse to set off the nitro-glycerine is called a "string" or a
"squib." To be interfered with while breaking open a safe is to have a
"rumble." A self-inflicted sore placed on the arms or hands to deceive
people is called a "jigger." When a "Yegg" gets a very high-heel boot to
make him appear lame he is called a "Frenchy." A prison is called a "dump."
Walking instead of riding is called "drilling." A sore or a bruise of any
kind is called a "briar". A man with whiskers is referred to as having
"woods on his face." All burglars are referred to as "side kickers." The
word "Yegg" is never used so as to be overheard. All members of gangs are
called "drifters," "drillers," or "movers." A wooden cash-drawer is called
a "chip." A revolver or gun is called a "rod." Knives, pistols, and all
such things taken from places are called "pig iron." . . . A clever system
of the "Yeggs" is taht the "plant hunters" who locate safes to rob never
participate in the robberies for fear of being identified as having been
aroudn the place previously. They get their share of the proceeds of the
robbery, however. These criminals are known as the "cat" or the "gay cat,"
and they are apprentices, whose duty it is do camp work which the more
expert do not care to do. . . Very rarely are "John Yeggmen" known by their
correct names."

Note that OED has 1903 for "rod"; OED and HDAS have 1913 for "keister"; OED
has 1901 for "soup"; HDAS has 1902 for "oil"; OED has 1914 for "drill"; OED
has 1911 for "rumble"; HDAS does not have this sense for "jigger," but has
1902 for jigger = tattoo.

Note that this article is also in The Washington Post, Sep 29, 1901. p. 29.

The Washington Post Nov 17, 1900; pg. 9/7
"Detective Horne believes the work was done by a member of a class of
burglars known as "Yeggmen," or "Yeggs." "

This article:
"How John Yegg Made History" The Washington Post Apr 12, 1908; pg. M1
(reprinted from Pittsburg Gazette-Times)

says that John Yegg was from the Middle-West, and was caught by a Pinkerton
detective in Coldwater, Michigan.

"Forgery and Burglary," by James R. Branch
_The Banking Law Journal_, Vol 21, 1904, p. 314/2

"The origin of the "yegg" dates back to some fifteen years ago, about which
time a tramp named John Yeggman began safe burglary with explosives on the
Pacific Coast."

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