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 November 21, 2012
“Hamilton started the Treasury with nothing; that’s the closest our country has been to being even”

"Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing—and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even” was credited to American humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) in 1978, supposedly cited from his notes. The line was popularized in the 1991 Broadway musical The Will Rogers Follies.

Rogers’ authorship remains doubtful. The line was credited to Milton Segal in 1984.


Wikipedia: Will Rogers
William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator and motion picture actor. He was one of the world’s best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s.

Known as Oklahoma’s favorite son, Rogers was born to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma). He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 “talkies"), wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure. By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people. He was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era, and was the top-paid Hollywood movie star at the time. Rogers died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in Alaska.

Google News Archive
2 April 1978, Nevada (MO) Daily Mail, ‘Will Rogers says,” pg. 1, col. 7:
“Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing—and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.”
From notes.

Google Books
The American Legion Magazine
Volumes 116-117
1984
Pg. 56:
Balancing Act
Alexander Hamilton started the US Treasury with nothing. That was the closest the country has ever been to breaking even. — Milton Segal

Google Books
Will Rogers Speaks:
Over 1,000 timeless quotations for public speakers (writers, politicians, comedians, browsers ...)

By Bryan B. Sterling and Frances N. Sterling
New York, NY: M. Evans
1995
Pg. 149:
HAMILTON, ALEXANDER
Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing — and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even. It’s the only consecutively losing big business in the world that keeps on losing, and still keeps going.
Notes

18 September 2005, Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ), “3 reasons to see ‘The Will Rogers Follies’” by Kyle Lawson, pg. E1:
“Alexander Hamilton started the Treasury with nothing and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.” Eat your heart out, Bill Maher.

Google Books
The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said
By Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Touchstone (Simon and Schuster)
2012
2,235
Alexander Hamilton started the US Treasury Department with nothing, and that’s the closest our country has ever been to being even. —Will Rogers (1879–1935)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Wednesday, November 21, 2012 • Permalink