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 April 23, 2011
Cracker Barrel (Cracker Barrel Philosopher)

The “cracker barrel” (or “cracker-barrel") is a barrel containing crackers. “Cracker barrel” has been cited in print since at least 1871.

The cracker barrel served as a convenient seat for those conversing (often in local gossip and storytelling) at a general store. The term “cracker barrel philosopher” has been used since at least 1897. A “cracker barrel humorist” specializes in homespun, folk humor.


Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
crack·er–bar·rel adj \-ˌba-rəl\
Definition of CRACKER-BARREL
: suggestive of the friendly homespun character of a country store “a cracker–barrel philosopher”
Origin of CRACKER-BARREL
from the cracker barrel in country stores around which customers lounged for informal conversation
First Known Use: 1916

(Oxford English Dictionary)
cracker-barrel, n.
orig. U.S.
A barrel containing crackers; used attrib. of a plain or unsophisticated outlook or point of view, or of a person with such a view or views.
1877 Harper’s Mag. Mar. 603/1 Down at the farther end of the room turning fragments out of a cracker barrel.
1905 Springfield (Mass.) Weekly Republican 15 Sept. 12 Dr. Hall‥is not above sitting on a cracker barrel in a country grocery for a chat with old acquaintances.
1919 E. E. Cummings Let. 25 Aug. (1969) 61 In order that you may not sit on a cracker-barrel playing whist.
1933 J. T. Flynn God’s Gold i. ii. 37 Politics, rum, riches, and religion—these were the favorite topics of American cracker-barrel debaters.
1938 Time 31 Oct. 26/3 On the air and in print the Burns character is that of a cracker-barrel philosopher.

28 October 1871, Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot, “General Lee’s Lecture Yesterday Evening,” pg. 6:
Among others, he was lifted to the cracker-barrel rostrum, and made to deliver a speech.

Google News Archive
23 March 1872, Boston (MA) Daily Evening Transcript, “The Garden and the Farm,” pg. 3, col. 3:
Take a barrel, half-barrel or cracker barrel, and about half way up saw a hole large enough to admit a hen, then make a nest in the bottom part nearly level with the lower part of the hole; your nest is now completed.

21 June 1873, Pacific Commercial Advertiser (Hawaii), “Burleque Modoc Dispatches,” pg. 4:
Colonel Perry fell over a cracker barrel, when the excitement was thinnest, and barked a piece of his shin as big as a quarter.

Google Books
September 1874, Overland Monthly, “The Sag Harbor Aborigine,” pg. 255, col. 1:
He wants the cracker-barrel close at hand to lunch from, and when the fire wanes he knows it to be his business to replenish it without consulting the proprietor.

Google Books
7 November 1874, Appletons’ Journal, “Lake Okechobee,” pg. 591, col. 3:
Doubtless there are softer feathers than old boots and bags of shot; but the colonel and myself occupy the bed in the stern, while the doctor and Shores cover, respectively, the thwart and cracker-barrel.

9 June 1876, New York (NY) Commercial Advertiser, pg. 1, col. 4:
“Woman,” said the fat man on the cracker barrel, relectively, “woman is like a boil.”

Google Books
March 1877, Harper’s Magazine, “My Great Aunt’s Will,” pg. 603, col. 1:
We keep the post-office, and, by the time I get back to my cracker barrel, in comes a man who wants to know if he hasn’t a letter.

Chronicling America
1 February 1897, Washington (DC) Evening Times, pg. 4, col. 3:
He strolled down into the village amongthe cracker barrel philosophers at the corner grocery.

Google Books
The Young Man in Modern Life
By Beverley E. Warner
New York, NY: Dodd, Mead and Co.
1902
Pg. 55:
Think it over, young man, whether you sit in the seat of the cracker barrel (Pg. 56—ed.) philosopher, or are dodging the drudgery of school and college routine,...

13 March 1905, New York (NY) Evening Tribune, “Alfred’s Machine Shop Reopened,” pg. 8, col. 4:
The information was not gleaned from a “cracker barrel philosopher,” as intimated, nor from any uncertain views which have been promulgated about town.

21 December 1907, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, “New Books of the Season,” pg. 4:
You will remember Abe Martin. he is the personal representative in Indiana of the humor trust—the cracker-barrel philosopher and cynic.

19 January 1908, Seattle (WA) Daily Times, pg. 31, col. 2:
“Abe Martin’s Almanack for 1908.” By Kin Hubbard. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis.
The best comic almanac since the days of Nast and Josh Billings. Abe Martin, the cracker-barrel philosopher, sets down here his most original comments on life, his neighbors and the weather.

JSTOR
October 1927, The North American Review, pp. 457-460:
The Cracker Barrel Philosophers
By Burges Johnson

Google Books
Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia
Third Eidtion
New York, NY: Harper & Row
1987
Pg. 220:
cracker-barrel humor A genre of American folk humor that originated in New England general stores, where the cracker barrel provided a convenient seat for rustic wits. Cracker-barrel humorists were known as cracker-barrel philosophers. Originally storytelling and gossip, cracker-barrel humor grew to mean shrewd, homely, Yankee wit, and finally American folk humor in general.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Saturday, April 23, 2011 • Permalink