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, 2015
“How do you eat an elephant?"/"One bite at a time”

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” a popular saying has it. The proverb means that giant tasks can be accomplished if done a little at a time. Frank Cody, Detroit’s Superintendent of Schools, wrote in 1921:

“It is entirely possible for a man to swallow an elephant one bite at a time, and it will make him a bigger, srong man, too. But he cannot swallow it all at once and he must reject he ivory, in any event.”

The proverb became popular in the 1940s and 1950s, when it was accepted to have a Chinese origin. “The job may be lenthy, but, in the words of the great Kung Fu Tze, a man can eat an elephant if need be, one bite at a time” was published in a 1945 book. “‘You Can Eat an Elephant...A Bite At a Time’—said an ancient Chinaman, ‘Way back B.C. (Before Communism)” was cited in a political ad in a 1952 Louisiana newspaper. An exact Chinese source is unknown.

Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. (1914-1974), a United State Army general, was credited in the 1974 Congressional Record for, “You have to eat an elephant bite by bite.” However, the saying had already been popular by the time Abrams used it.


Wikiquote: Creighton Abrams
Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. (September 15, 1914 – September 4, 1974) was a United States Army general who commanded military in the Vietnam War. He served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1972 until shortly before his death in 1974.

Sourced quotes
“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”
. Simple: When you doing something that is difficult, do it slowly and be careful.

HathiTrust Digital Library
June 1921, The Deroit Journal of Education, pg. 1:
WHAT ONE REPRESENTATIVE AMERICAN CITY IS DOING IN TEACHING AMERICANISM
FRANK CODY
Superintendent of Schools
Pg. 2:
It is entirely possible for a man to swallow an elephant one bite at a time, and it will make him a bigger, srong man, too. But he cannot swallow it all at once and he must reject he ivory, in any event.

HathiTrust Digital Library
An Introduction to Industrial Statistics and Quality Control
By Paul Peach
Raleigh, NC: L. B. Phillips Company
1945
Pg. 65:
The job may be lenthy, but, in the words of the great Kung Fu Tze, a man can eat an elephant if need be, one bite at a time.

8 July 1952, State Times (Baton Rouge, LA), pg. 7-B, col. 7 ad:
“You Can Eat an Elephant
...A Bite At a Time”

-- said an ancient Chinaman, ‘Way back B.C. (Before Communism.)
(...)
Ned E. T. Woolfolk
Candidate for
City-Parish Council

Google Books
Candle in the Sun
By Elisabeth Hamilton Friermood
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1955
Pg. 129:
“Who ever heard tell of eating an elephant?”

“Well, supposing you did want to eat one, how would you go about it?”

“I’m sure I don’t know. How?”

“Why a bite at a time, of course. My grandma told me that once, when I was discouraged about washing a big pile of dishes.”

27 June 1959, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Symphony Tries ‘Chinese Bite’” by John Rosenfeld, sec. 3, pg. 6, col. 1:
A Chinese proverb dear to the lips of fund-solicitors is, “He who would swallow the elephant must take one bite at a time.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Modifying Existing Management Systems for Use in Educational Agencies or How to Eat an Elephant.
Author: Bruce Monroe
Publisher: 1969-11-13
Edition/Format: Book Book : No language available
Database: ERIC The ERIC database is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education.
Summary:
Five basic assumptions underlie the effective application of the systems approach to educational management: (1) the purpose of an educational system; (2) the need for improvement in the educational programs of the 50 States; (3) the complexity of local and State educational programs; (4) the present nonsystematic management of most State, regional, and local educational programs; and (5) recognition of the need to invest in educational system analysis.

Google Books
Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the ... Congress, Volume 120, Part 23
United States. Congress
U.S. Government Printing Office
1974
Pg.  31161:
“You have to eat an elephant bite by bite,” was the way he (Creighton Abrams—ed.) phrased it.

OCLC WprldCat record
How to eat an elephant : (a cook book for the stage coach) or all you ever wanted to know about directing the high school play but were afraid to ask
Author: James L Seay
Publisher: Elgin, Ill. : Performance Pub. Co., ©1979.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
How to eat an elephant : a slice by slice guide to total quality management
Author: John Gilbert
Publisher: Merseyside [England] : Tudor Business Pub., ©1992.
Series: Guan li xue shu xi.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Eating the elephant : how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time
Author: John Mangano
Publisher: Baltimore, Maryland : Noble House, ©2005.
Edition/Format: Print book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
How to eat an elephant : a primer on leadership
Author: Frank Robert Vivelo
Publisher: Old Hickory, Tn. : Verlaine Publishing, 2009.
Edition/Format: Print book : English
Database: WorldCat
Summary:
Product Description Simple, practical presentation of basic principles of effective leadership for senior managers, presidents, and CEOs. Candid ... Unconventional ... Provocative ... Entertaining ... But, most of all, useful ... with realistic advice and concrete examples.

OCLC WorldCat record
How to eat an elephant : achieving financial success one bite at a time
Author: Frank Wiginton
Publisher: Toronto : J. Wiley & Sons Canada, 2012.
Edition/Format: eBook : Document : English
Database: WorldCat
Summary:
With practical, easy-to-understand guidance, this book will show you how to reduce your debt and save on interest; improve your understanding of personal finance basics and gain new confidence; reduce stress and anxiety about your money; and use powerful online tools to organize all your financial information.

Twitter
Ryan Howell
‏@_RyanHowell
How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece....
12:03 PM - 20 Nov 2015

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Saturday, November 21, 2015 • Permalink