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 June 07, 2010
Chief Cook and Bottle Washer

"Chief cook and bottle washer” (sometimes “bottle-washer” or “battlewasher") is a jocular term for a person who does everything. It often describes a small operation, where employees can’t be taken on and one person does all the tasks.

‘Chief cook and bottle washer” has been cited in print since at least 1802.


Wiktionary; chief cook and bottle washer
chief cook and bottle washer (plural chief cooks and bottle washers or chief cook and bottle washers)
1. Chief executive; person in charge of all tasks.

Alternative forms
. chief cook and bottle-washer
. head cook and bottle washer
. head cook and bottle-washer

YourDictionary.com
chief cook and bottlewasher phrases / idioms
A person in charge of numerous duties, both vital and trivial, as in We have no secretaries or clerks; the department head is chief cook and bottlewasher and does it all. [Slang; c. 1840]

The Free Dictionary
chief cook and bottle washer
Fig. the person in charge of practically everything (such as in a very small business). I’m the chief cook and bottle washer around here. I do everything.

4 November 1802, New York (NY) Commercial Advertiser, pg. 3:
Since we embarked on the last voyage, and our Captain has lost sight of his owners, almost every officer in the ship, from the purser to the cook and bottle washer, have been turned ashore to make room for a lazy set of land lubbers of his own kidney;...

Life and Letters of Catherine M. Sedgwick
Edited by Mary E. Dewey
New York, NY; Harper & Row
1871
Pg. 106 (Letter from Catharine Maria Sedgwick to Robert Sedgwick, July 08, 1818):
The roar of the cataract of Niagara and the stirring of a custard; the sweet image of les belles soeurs and the heaven-forsaken visage of my chief cook and bottle-washer; the rush of thoughts occasioned by the arrival of the fair foreigner, and the sedative of Cousin Mary White’s monotonous looks and voice; the glowing image of Margaret; the sweet, maternal tones of our dear Jenny’s sweet voice;..

10 December 1830, Baltimore (MD) Gazette and Daily Advertiser, pg. 2:
“Old Hamilton,” an Irishman and an invalid soldier, who was retained in the pay of the government to compensate him for his wounds, and who acted in the capacity of waiter to the “young gentlemen,” was called upon to discharge the important function of “steward, cook and bottle-washer” for the mess.

Google Books
The Polish chiefs; an historical romance
By John K Porter; Author of Sketches of character.
New York, NY: J. K. Porter
1832
Pg. 115:
He appears to me to be master of the house, cook, and bottle-washer, all together.

7 November 1834, True Sun, (London), pg. 3, col. 4:
The fact is, that Louis Philippe, ”Roi des France,” is chief cook and bottle-washer about the engine of State, and his ministers are just so many screws in the machine, each having for the sake of distinction a name, but are all to be screwed or unscrewed only by his royal hands;...

Google Books
January 1835, The Knickerbocker, or, New-York Monthly Magazine, pp. 23-24:
“Pretty good reasoning, friend Seymour,” said I: “you’ve made it very plain, that the Devil is chief cook and bottle-washer for the slave-trade.”

Google Books
July 1836, American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, “The life and adventures of Pete” by T C F, pg. 497:
He was constantly seen in the thickest of the crowd: “chief cook and bottle washer.”

27 March 1837, New Hampshire Patriot, pg. 2:
It was not denied there was a meeting, and that ,i>D. S. Palmer was present, and the only mistake of the letter writer and our informant was in saying that D. S. Palmer was Chairman, when in fact, there was no formal organization; but every body knows, that where D. S. P. is suffered to act at all, it must be as “chief cook and bottle washer.”

3 July 1839, New York (NY) Times, pg. 2:
C. C. Cambreleng, of loco foco notoriety, profiting by the gains pecuniarily, that this class of settlers realize on this scale, has “squatted” or taken up a residence in the Congressional District, made up of Queens and Suffolk counties, in anticipation of again being admitted into the “White House” as “chief cook and bottle washer,” or in other words, elected to the House of Representatives.

OCLC WorldCat record
Root, hog, or die : song and chorus
Author: Richard J McGowan; Ordway’s Aeolians.
Publisher: Boston (Washington St., Boston) : O. Ditson, ©1856.
Edition/Format: Musical score : Songs : English
Notes: For voice, chorus (air, ATB), and piano in key of E. “Root, Hog or Die, generally attributed to Richard J. McGowan"--A history of popular music in American / Sigmund Spaeth, p. 131. Verses for “another version adapted to the same music”: p. 5. The first line of this patriotic text is “I’ll tell you of a story that happened long ago.” First line of text: I’m right from old Virginny wid my pocket full ob news. First line of chorus: I’m chief cook and bottle-washer, cap’n ob de waiters.

OCLC WorldCat record
Chief cook and bottle washer.
Publisher: Hanna Barbara, 1965.
Edition/Format: Film : Animation : English
Summary: Squiddly Diddly has no time to rest with all his duties, so he escapes the aquarium to board a ship headed for Hawaii.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Monday, June 07, 2010 • Permalink