A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 21, 2009
“A day late and a dollar short”

The phrase “another day, another dollar” dates to the early 1900s and is a typical day laborer’s lament—meaning constant work for little pay or advancement.

“A day late and a dollar short” (a more expressive version of “too little, too late") means some effort that’s not only late, but also insufficient. “A day late and a dollar short” might be said of an athletic team that scores in the final minutes of a blowout game that was long since decided in the other team’s favor. The phrase dates to at least 1939 and has been popular in the American South. The earliest citations of “a day late and a dollar short” appear in the newspaper comic strip “Out Our Way” by James R. Williams (1888-1957).


The Free Dictionary
day late and a dollar short
late and ill-prepared. Tommy, you seem to show up a day late and a dollar short all the time. You need to get organized.

Fort Worth (TX) Business Press
J.R. Williams: a cowboy cartoonist for the ages
BY MICHAEL H. PRICE
January 09, 2006
(...)
A near-contemporary of Russell’s, James R. Williams (1888-1957), took a different tack, becoming a working cartoonist who based a long-running, daily feature upon his younger days as a ranchhand. Williams is largely a forgotten figure today, although his comics feature, Out Our Way, served to motivate a next-generation cowboy cartoonist from Northwest Texas named Asa “Ace” Reid.
(...)
Jim Williams’ Out Our Way is the great masterpiece of cowboy cartooning, surviving in obscurity for an eventual rediscovery. The feature draws upon the writer-artist’s personal background as a muleskinner (and industrial machinist, and prizefighter, and family man) in ways that make the individual episodes — each self-contained panel suggesting a larger story — as resonant today as when new.

Williams started this career at 34. He was working as a lathe operator in Ohio when a packet of cartoons he had sent off to a newspaper syndicate clicked with the right editor. A month later, in March of 1922, Out Our Way appeared in half-a-dozen small-market newspapers.

3 March 1939, Edwardsville (IL) Intelligencer, “Out Our Way” by J. R. Williams (comic strip), pg. 6, col. 1 (COMICS):
NO, HE’S IN THE SAME FIX AS TH’ REST OF US—IT’S CALLED PROGRESS...I JUST LEARN ABOUT HALF THE TRAFFIC RULES AN’ THEY CHANGE ‘EM—YOU CAN’T BEAT PROGRESS—YOU’LL ALWAYS BE A DAY LATE AN’ A DOLLAR SHORT.

21 October 1940, Murphysboro (IL) Daily Independent, “Out Our Way” by J. R. Williams (comic strip), pg. 4:
AN’ I’M AFRAID THAT LITTLE SLIGHT WILL MAKE ME A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT ALL MY LIFE!

30 September 1942, Lima (OH) News, “Out Our Way” by J. R. Williams (comic strip), pg 12:
BECAUSE I’M ONE O’ THEM “A DAY LATE AN’ A DOLLAR SHORT” GUYS!

18 June 1944, Brownsville (TX) Herald, “My Hour” by Ethel D. Everett, pg. 14, col. 1:
I was reared on a ranch on the Colorado river in west Texas where ones hired hands were considered as members of the family. They deeply resented the phrase hired hand but gloried in being called a “cow puncher”. I remember one of their favorite sayings was “A day late and a dollar short,” which revealed the fact that most of them only made thirty dollars per month and board.

4 August 1949, Freeport (TX) Facts, “Labor Requests Concessions From City Levee Contractor,” pg. 1, col. 4:
Jolly interrupted to say “Then you think I’m a day late and a dollar short?”

27 August 1953, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Big D” by Paul Crume, part 1, pg. 1:
Most great men unfortunately are a little sloppy. The reason is that they’re always a day late and a dollar short.

4 October 1953, Brownsville (TX) Herald, pg. B6, col. 1:
He’s a day late and a dollar short in the political morality department, but he has a world of guts.

Google Books
Applied Principles of Educational Sociology;
A functional approach to understanding community and educative processes

By Harold R Bottrell
Harrisburg, PA, Stackpole Co
1954
Pg. 317:
A Day Late and A Dollar Short?

OCLC WorldCat record
A day late and a dollar short.
Author: Gerald A Squibb
Publisher: Boston, Bruce Humphries [1958]
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English

Google News Archive
15 May 1959, Spokesman- Review (Spokane, WA), “Careful Buyers Regard Season” by Dorothy Dean, pg. 28, col. 4:
If you are this type shopper, you’re sure to end up a day late (or early) and a dollar short.

Google Books
Aviation Week and Space Technology
v. 73; v. 73 - 1960
Pg. 20:
To use an old Army phrase, the defense program recommended last week to Congress appears to be “a day late and a dollar short.”

6 April 1962, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, pg. 10-A, col. 2:
“Day late, dollar short”—Arnie
Arnold Palmer, a smile creasing his face, looked up and answered:
“Yeh, that was a little better at 18 today than it was the last time, but it was day late and a dollar short. Isn’t that the saying?”

OCLC WorldCat record
The fever ; A day late and a dollar short
Author: Johnny Angel
Publisher: Hollywood, Calif. : Parliament, [1963?]
Edition/Format: Music : 45 rpm : Multiple forms : Popular music : Rock music : English

OCLC WorldCat record
A day late and a dollar short
Author: Spike Van Cleve
Publisher: Kansas City, Mo. : Lowell Press, ©1982.
Edition/Format: Book : Biography : English : 1st ed

OCLC WorldCat record
A day late and a dollar short
Author: Terry McMillan
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2001.
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Friday, August 21, 2009 • Permalink