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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“Yo mama is so fat, when she went skydiving she caused an eclipse” (8/20)
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (8/20)
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Entry from November 03, 2013
“Five percent of people think, ten percent of people think they think”

American inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) is often credited for saying:

“Five percent of the people think, ten percent of the people think they think, and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

Edison was quoted in the New York (NY) Times, on December 9, 1921, “I gather from my questionnaire that only 2 per cent of the people think.” The Saturday Evening Post printed on May 13, 1922:

“Some cynic declares that 5 per cent of people think, 10 per cent think they think, while 85 per cent would rather lie down and die than think.”

It’s likely that the statement that is now credited to Edison was an extension of his original 1921 remark made by some “cynic” or “wag.”


Google Books
July 1901, The Atlantic Monthly, ‘The Contributors’ Cub,” pg. 143, col. 2:
“We know how to read, but the majority of us would rather lie down and die than think.

22 January 1908, The Daily Mail (Bedford, IN), pg. 2, col. 1:
Recurring for a moment to President Woodrow Wilson’s declaration that “only 10 per cent of the people of this country think,” it must mean that only 10 per cent of the people think as President Woodrow Wilson thinks.

6 December 1921, New York (NY) Times, “Ford Sees Wealth in Muscle Shoals,” pg. 6:
“But maybe we have passed beyond the time when the thoughtful 2 per cent—you know, I gather from my questionnaire that only 2 per cent of the people think,” and Mr. Edison smiled broadly—“maybe they can’t shout down American thinkers any longer.”
(Text is also available at HathiTrust Digital Library.—ed.)

Google Books
13 May 1922, The Saturday Evening Post, “Balanced Work” by Woods Hutchinson, M.D., pg. 40, col. 1:
Some cynic declares that 5 per cent of people think, 10 per cent think they think, while 85 per cent would rather lie down and die than think.

HathiTrust Digital Library
24 June 1922, Southern Lumberman, pg. 62, cols. 1-2:
Making People Think
One cynical wag says only 5 per cent of the people think, while 10 per cent merely think they think, and 85 per cent don’t want to bother with thinking at all.

Then another wag puts the question, if 85 per cent of the people don’t want to think, what are you going to do about it?

HathiTrust Digital Library
July 1922, The Clay-Worker, “Current Comment,” pg. 68, col. 1:
If only 5 per cent of people think, 10 per cent think they think and the other 85 per ent don’t want to think, then what is there to do about it?

HathiTrust Digital Library
October 1922, The California Countryman, pg. 8, col. 3:
Edison says but two per cent of the people think.

26 October 1922, The Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Sectarian Division Deplored,” pg. 10, col. 8:
It has been said that “only 5 per cent of the people think.”

7 November 1922, Decatur (IL) Review, pg. 8, col. 2:
AFRAID OF THIS PERSON.
We read on the screen that the chief censor of the state of Ohio is moved in this fashion: “The people are not fit to judge for themselves. Statistics prove than only 10 per cent of the people are thinking persons; 15 per cent of the people think part of the time, while 75 per cent never think at all.”

Google Books
The New Capitalism
By Simon Alexander Baldus
Chicago, IL: O’Donnell
1923
Pg. 476:
The answer is given by the cynic who said that five percent of the people think; ten percent, think they think; and eighty-five percent would rather die than think.

16 January 1923, Aberdeen (SD) Daily News, pg. 3, col. 4:
FARMERS SHOULD THINK!
At last, by God, thank light is breaking!

Yesterday, President H. B. Test of the Brown Co. Farm Bureau called on the farmers to think. The great statistician Babson, says only five percent of the people think. The others only think they think. They let the high-grade, paid propagandists for special interests do the thinking for them. For many years the big interests have spent vest sums to “educate” the people in their way of thinking. The mails are burdened in the weekly and daily papers and fed to the unsuspecting, unthinking masses—the 95% of the people.

19 May 1923, The Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, OH), “Jordan Motor Car Co. Sizes Situation,” pg. 7, cols. 2-3:
Since only five percent of the people think, says the survey, and ten per cent imitate the thinkers, while eighty-five per cent believe what they read and hear, a very interesting, but temporary, state of mind prevails among business men throughout the United States this spring.

Doug Ross @ Journal
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 02, 2013
A Culture of Ignorance, Part One
Guest post by Jim Quinn
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
- Thomas Edison

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Sunday, November 03, 2013 • Permalink