"Stealing lead pipe" (1887)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Jun 13 15:27:12 UTC 2004

[Michael Quinion recently featured the odd expression "lead-pipe cinch" =
"sure thing". The earliest citations I can find date from 1890.]

Lead pipe was stolen a lot, apparently. Search of the on-line "Brooklyn
Daily Eagle" (1841-1902) gives the following numbers of instances:

<<stealing iron pipe>> ..... 0
<<stealing steel pipe>> .... 0
<<stealing copper pipe>> ... 2
<<stealing lead pipe>> .... 52
<<stealing pipe>> .......... 7 (of which 4 refer to lead pipe, 1 to copper
pipe, 2 to pipe of unspecified material)

 From N'archive:


_Newark Daily Advocate_ (Newark OH), 5 Feb. 1887: p. 3(?), col. 1:

[referring to dubious or invented family arms painted on one's carriage:
browsing for a notional ancestor in Burke's]

<<HUNTING A PEDIGREE. / When he has made up his mind to it, this is as easy
as stealing lead pipe from a junk shop.>>


At N'archive I find no other pre-1890 metaphor with "easy as stealing
[anything]" or "easy as taking [anything]".

-- Doug Wilson

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