[Ads-l] "That's all she wrote" (1935-1941)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 19 21:22:16 UTC 2015

In 2011 Michael Quinion posted about the idiom over at World Wide
Words (link below).  There he mentioned some help he had gotten from
Michael Templeton and, separately, from Garson O'Toole, both of whom
located 1942 sightings of the expression.  You can read Michael's
column here,


There was also an ADS-L conversation about this from the same time,
the thrust of which Michael put into his column.

Far below are some slightly earlier instances of "that's all she
wrote," one left overly long for the sake of context.  Astute readers,
Texans, and fans of Ernest Tubb will recognize that these all come
from Texas newspapers.

None of this pre-1942 data helps much in sorting out an origin for the
expression.  I found a few humorous anecdotes and poems that had
appeared before the 1930s that made use of "all she wrote," but to my
mind there isn't anything in those pieces suggestive of inspiring an
idiomatic usage.  I tried to convince my husband that the original
form was "the whole nine yards, that's all she wrote," but he wouldn't

I found it a little tough to search for this one and I'm not as
patient as some of you, so good luck in looking for still earlier
appearances.  While undiscovered uses may well be out there, it's
possible "that's all she wrote" was something folksy and country that
rarely made it into newspapers before, say, the mid-1930s.

-- Bonnie


MATTER OF ADJUSTMENT OF valuations for years past is also under
discussion in many counties.

In these counties it is proposed that the commissioners' court by
order cut down the valuations on which taxes now deliquent are based.

The office of the attorney general of Texas has ruled on the matter,
and its ruling is that once the tax rolls are made up and approved by
the commissioners' court sitting as a board of equalization, the
matter is ended.

No power except that of the legislature can change the rolls.

The assessor-collectors do not have the power, the commissioners'
courts do not have the power.

That's all she wrote and it's final, the attorney general says in
language much more eloquent and technical.

[From Ralph L. Buell's "In Our Valley" column, The Brownsville (Texas)
Herald, 16 June 1935, p. 1.]


"That's all she wrote -- "

District 7-B swings into its final week of play this week with the
declarations of sportswriters, coaches and others made before the
season opened having withstood the ravages of nine weeks of play.

[From "That's All She Wrote," Monahans (Texas) News, 26 November 1937, p. 2.]


The Bears led throughout the game, running up nine runs in the first
three innings.  The Bulldogs threatened in the sixth with a six-run
rally, but that was all she wrote.  The Bruins topped things off with
another run in the sixth.

[From "Bears Win Second Straight Game From Bulldogs; Teams Play Again
Friday at M'Allen; Both Clubs Go On Big Batting Spree," Brownsville
(Texas) Herald, 3 May 1940, 3 May 1940, p. 5.]


In the early day drilling of the upper or northern Pecos County tests
cable tools were used exclusively, and when the tools ran into the
inevitable ocean of sulfur water at around 2,300 feet -- well, that
"was about all she wrote" -- the cable tool outfits just were not
hooked up to handle the big water and shallow gas.

[From Curtis Rogers's "From Where We Sit ... ", The Odessa (Texas)
American, 24 April 1941, p. 2.]


On the 68th Harrison pulled even with Picard again with an approach
that left him an easy birdie putt while Picard and Demaret snagged

But that was "all she wrote."

Harrison's rally fell apart on the next hole when his tee shot was
short and in a grass trap on the par three 69th.

[From "Henry Picard Wins Valley Open with Courageous Comeback," Valley
Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas), 23 December 1941, p. 7.]

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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