baggage smashers

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sat Apr 18 02:12:53 UTC 2009

The OED has 1851 for "baggage smasher", "American nickname for a railway-porter".  I know that the "baggage" section of the OED was composed when James Murray was but a beardless youth, but HDAS has 1: baggage porter, from 1851; and 2: baggage thief, from 1856.  What's JL's excuse?  Thogh he does have both the porter and thief senses.  Here are antedatings for both senses.

1841:   The Baggage Smasher.  [with an illustration, showing him with a trunk balanced on his neck and shoulder]
        The Atlas, July 4, 1841, p. 1, cols. 2-3

        New York Herald, September 3, 1841, p. 2, col. 3

1843:   BAGGAGE SMASHER. -- A black fellow . . . was arrested . . . on a charge of stealing a valise. . . .
        NY Herald, March 2, 1843, p. 2, col. 3

1847:   A regular-built fight took place at the South Ferry on Tuesday night last between the "baggage smashers" and certain persons connected with the Long Island Railroad.  The assault was commenced by the smashers, because the Railroad men would not give up the baggage.  [several injuries]  Are these outrages to be endured forever? ***
        NY Morning Express, January 21, 1847, p. 2, col. 5


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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