Antedating "Bring home the bacon"-1906/1907

Sam Clements SClements at NEO.RR.COM
Sat Jun 12 06:17:54 UTC 2004

OED cites PG Wodehouse in 1924.  HDAS cites 1909 T.A. Dorgan. 

The phrase seems to have been popularized, if not invented, by the mother of African-American boxer Joe Gans.  Gans, lightweight champion of Baltimore, MD. fought "Battling" Nelson in Sept. of 1906 in Goldfield, NV.  Before the fight, telegrams were read aloud to the fighters and others.

One of the telegrams was from Gans' mother and said "Joe, the eyes of the world are on you.  Everybody says you ought to win.  Peter Jackson will tell me the news and you bring back the bacon."  (3 Sept. 1906 _Reno Evening Gazette_  1/6) .  Gans won the fight in 42 rounds.  

On Jan.1, 1907 Gans again fought in Nevada, this time KOing Kid Herman in 8 rounds.  In The New York Times for 1 Jan, 1907, pg 10 there appeared this snippet:

<<Baltimore, MD., Dec. 31.--A Christmas present in the shape of a check for $6,000 from her son, "Joe" Gans, the pugilist, was the agreeable surprise of Mrs. Gans to-day.  Accompanying the check was a letter of well wishes.  To-night Mrs. Gans sent her son this telegram in Tonopah, Nev.:
  "Thanks; keep stepping, Joe."
   When Gans fought Nelson at Goldfield, Mrs. Gans told him by wire to "bring home the bacon,:" and when the victory had been won "Joe" told his mother by wire that he had not only the bacon, but the gravy.>>

In the 2 Jan. 1907 Washington Post  8/5 there appear "Short Fight Notes" with a dateline of Jan 1,  one of which is

<<Much merriment was created by the announcer stating that Gans' mother sent him a telegram requesting him "to bring home the bacon."  Before he had a chance to read a telegram some one in the crowd yelled:  "Does it say, 'Bring home the Matzos?' " >>

During the course of the rest of 1907 the phrase "bring home the bacon" appeared in tens of news stories, always on the sports pages, but used in baseball, boxing, horse racing, football and rugby.

One assumes that if there were truth to the theory about catching greased pigs at fairs,  the phrase might have turned up once or twice in use before 1906/7.

Sam Clements

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