Deadline antedates

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Jun 11 15:22:51 UTC 2008

Below is a selection of early 20th century uses of "deadline" I've culled
from I've antedated the modern time limit sense by at
least four years (there is an earlier, ambiguous usage).

The word had a lot more meanings than the OED gives it credit. The sense of
a physical cordon or limit, often, but not always, secured by lethal force,
is by far the most common sense. (Because it was so common, I didn't bother
to copy out a lot of cites in this sense; so there aren't that many listed
here.) But it was also used in a lot of metaphorical senses, such as a
mandatory retirement age or the distance that dancing partners must keep
between each other at a Wellesley ball (my favorite).

Atlanta Constitution, 18 June 1915, p. 1 (


"The officers of the club have notified members of the committee that they
will file their application shortly and in time for it to be acted on by
general council at its first meeting in July, which is the deadline for
action on these permits."

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, 20 January 1914, p. 1 (

"Indianapolis Puts Deadline at Midnight
INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 19--Midnight is to be the dead line for respectable
citizens in Indianapolis. Such was the order issued yesterday by Samuel
Perrott, superintendent of police. Night prowlers found on the streets after
midnight are to be regarded as suspicious characters until they prove their

Syracuse Herald, 20 July 1913, p. 4 (

"There is a deadline date some time in mid-summer beyond which the
unsuccessful baseball manager's cry of "Hard luck" doesn't win ready

Marshall, Michigan, Evening Chronicle, 10 May 1913, p. 4

"The stamp of scientific denial is to be placed, if possible, upon the Osler
pronouncement of a dead line near the forty years."

Oelwein, Iowa, Oelwien Register, 15 April 1913, p. 1 (

"It is reported that Dr. Osler is coming back to America--probably for a
lecture tour. It will be remembered that he sprang into newspaper notoriety
some years ago when he declared that men should be chloroformed and put out
of their misery when they arrive at the age of 55 or something like that.
Since then the doctor has himself passed the dead line age limit and has
changed his mind."

Fort Wayne, Indiana, The Fort Wayne News, 1 April 1913, p. 8

"Today was the 'dead line' for submission of evidence by private car
concerns in the inquiry."

Fort Wayne, Indiana, The Fort Wayne News, 29 March 1913, p. 12

"The police department established 5 o'clock as the 'dead line' for entering
the various flooded districts. This was done to get all the boats back to
the landings at 6 o'clock so that before it became dark the police would
know to a certainty just who had the craft."

Moberly, Missouri, Moberly Weekly Monitor, 28 March 1913, p. 3

"As the minute hand crept near the dead line frantic efforts were made by
several senators to secure unanimous consent to take up bills for passage."

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Evening Gazette, 27 January 1913, p. 10

"'3 Inch Deadline' to be Enforced at Wellesley Ball
Wellesley, Mass., Jan. 27--The three-inch deadline is the last word in
Wellesley's terpsichorean circles [...] No girl shall allow her gentleman to
hold her closer than three inches is one of the faculty's ultimatums."

Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Sheboygan Journal, 15 January 1913, p. 2

"But midnight is the absolute 'dead line' for 'copy' to go into the next
day's Record."

Galveston, Texas, Galveston Daily News, 12 January 1913, p. 30

"No dead line of time is drawn beyond which a parliament may not survive and
before which a new parliament may not begin work."

Waterloo, Iowa, Waterloo Evening Courier, 13 December 1912, p. 7

"With arms filled with well-edited copy, enough to fill thirty forms, the
operators chased out to the composing rooms of the newlyweds at an early
hour where they refused to turn in "30" until the street car dead-line
schedule was announced."

Oakland Tribune, 27 November 1912, p. 6 (

"Tombstones mark the deadline between now and then."

Colorado Springs Gazette, 21 January 1912, p. 37 (

"Then and there, observing the fate of his chief, Stubbs marked out a
deadline for himself and dared himself to step over it. The deadline was the
age limit of 65."

Colorado Springs Gazette, 24 September 1911, p. 19 (

"The dead line in the class named is 133 pounds and the plummet always rests
in the 133 pound notch when Ad weighs in to do battle."

Correctionville, Iowa, The Correctionville News, 13 April 1911, p. 1

"THE DEAD LINE  The News has decided that beginning with May 1, 1911, that
all subscribers who get their papers outside of Woodbury county, must pay
their subscription in advance."

Ogden, Utah, The Evening Standard, 4 January 1911, p. 4

"For it may be questioned by those who have the opportunity for judging his
assembled product, whether the work he was to do for the twenty years of
life and work that were to remain to him after the arbitrary dead line of
productive activity had been passed was not the least artistic equivalent of
the word of the forty years before."

Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Eau Claire Leader, 3 January 1909, p. 9

"What higher or severer rule could be prescribed or enforced than one
setting unlady-like conduct as the dead line beyond which no woman student
may pass and remain a student?"

Oakland Tribune, 20 April 1909, p. 15 (

"Hal Chase, the New York American League baseball player, is convalescing
rapidly from the smallpox. Over the "dead line" yesterday he talked cheerily
with a number of callers."

Nevada State Journal, 21 July 1909, p. 8 (

"MUST NOT CROSS OVER DEAD LINE[;] Southern Pacific Will Keep Annoying
Runners Outside of the Curbing"

Ogden, Utah, The Ogden Standard, 3 August 1909, p. 2 (

"Either the age of miracles has not passed or the text books are wrong and
the supposed dead line between the curable and incurable forms of kidney
disease had disappeared."

Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Stevens Point Daily Journal, 14 August 1909, p. 13


"The idea of drawing a dead line at any fixed age, regardless of personal
ability is questionable, but [???]ing it at the "tender age" of 15 would be

Decatur, Illinois, The Decatur Review, 24 October 1909, p. 17

"The dancing proposition seems to be hovering near the dead line. During the
last year that feature has made a little money, though only a little."

Dubuque, Iowa, Dubuque Daily Herald, 28 February 1900, p. 1

"...we ourselves, from our headquarters on the border, being carried away by
our own constitution, have deliberately drawn a commercial dead line about
the Philippine Islands for the permanent exclusion of everybaody [sic]

Fort Wayne, Indiana, Fort Wayne Gazette, 22 April 1899, p. 2

"...the crowds gathered just outside the 'dead line' drawn by the watchmen,
beyond which only possessors of tickets were allowed to pass."

The American Dialect Society -

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