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 January 25, 2016
New Jersey: Clam-catcher (nickname)

The New Jersey shore is a haven for many clam-catchers, and it became a nickname for people from the state. “Clam-catchers of Cape May” was cited in an 1835 book. “New Jersey, Clam-catchers” was cited in an 1845 list of state nicknames.

Clams are not a part of a New Jersey resident’s diet as they once had been, and the term “clam-catcher” is mostly of historical interest today.

Maryland had a similar 19th century nickname in “Clam Thumper.”


Google Books
The Life of Benjamin Franklin
By Mason Locke Weems
Philadelphia, PA: Published by Uriah Hunt
1835
Pg. 118:
Not many days after this, the man of God took his journey through the south counties of New-Jersey, calling the poor clam-catchers of Cape May to repentance.

Google Books
April 1845, Cincinnati Miscellany (Cincinnati, OH), pg. 240, col. 1:
New Jersey, Clam-catchers.

Chronicling America
23 August 1845, Ripley (MS) Advertiser, pg. 1, cols. 4-5:
NATIONAL NICKNAMES.—It will be seen by the following from an exchange paper that the people of every state have nicknames, and some very curious and ludicrous ones:

The inhabitants of Maine, are called Foxes; New Hampshire, Granite Boys; Massachusetts, Bay Staters; Vermont, Green Mountain Boys; Rhode Island, Gun Flints; Connecticut, Wooden Nutmegs; New York, Knickerbockers; New Jersey, Clamcatchers; Pennsylvania, Leatherheads; Delaware, Muskrats; Maryland, Craw-Thumpers; Virginia, Beagles; North Carolina, Weasels; Georgia, Buzzards; Louisiana, Creowls; Alabama, Lizzards; Kentucky, Corn crackers; Tennessee, Cottonmanics; Ohio, Buckeyes; Indiana, Hoosiers; Illinois, Suckers; Missouri, Pewks; Mississippi, Tadpoles; Arkansas, Gophers; Michigan, Wolverines; Florida, Fly-up-the-Creeks; Wisconsin, Badgers; Iowa, Hawkeyes; N. W. Territory, Prairie Dogs; Oregon, Hard Cases.

Chronicling America
4 July 1860, The Spirit of Democracy (Woodsfield, OH), “National Nicknames,” pg. 1, col. 7:
The inhabitants of Maine are called Foxes; New Hampshire, Granite Boys; Massachusetts, Bay Staters; Vermont, Green Mountain Boys; Rhode Island, Gun Flints; Connecticut, Wooden Nutmegs; New York, Knickerbockers; New Jersey, Clam Catchers; Pennsylvania, Leather Heads; Delaware, Muskrats; Maryland, Claw Thumpers; Virginia, Beagles; North Carolina, Tar Boilers; South Carolina, Weasels; Georgia, Buzzards; Louisiana, Creowls; Alabama, Lizards; Kentucky, Corn Crackers; Ohio, Buckeyes; Michigan, Wolverines; Indiana, Hoosiers; illinois, Suckers; Missouri, Pukes: Mississippi, Tad-Poles; Florida, Fly up the Creeks; Wisconsin, Badgers; Iowa, Hawkeyes; Oregon, Hard Cases.

25 July 1864, Indianapolis (IN) Daily Journal, “National Nick-Names,” pg. 4, col. 2:
New Jersey...Clam Catchers

Google Books
June 1865, The Wisconsin Journal of Education, pg. 328:
The following are the “nicknames” of the native inhabitants of the different States:
... New Jersey, Clam Catchers: ...

Google Books
U. S.
An Index to the United States of America

Compiled by Malcolm Townsend
Boston, MA: D. Lothrop Company
1890
Pg. 77:
NICKNAMES APPLIED TO THE PEOPLE OF THE STATES.
(...)
New Jersey...Clam-Catchers...From principal occupation of many of its poorer classes on the Raritan Bay Shoals.

Google Books
Universal Dictionary of the English Language
Edited by Robert Hunter and Charles Morris
New York, NY: Peter Fenelon Collier, Publisher
1898
Pg. 5344:
New Jersey. Clam-catchers.

21 December 1997, Boston (MA) , “Hold that ketchup!” by Richard P. Carpenter, pg. M4:
Travel Trivia: If someone calls you a clam catcher, what state are you from? (Answer at end of column.)
(...)
Did you guess it? A clam catcher is the traditional nickname for a New Jersey resident. A clam grabber, however, is from the state of Washington. The information is from “Labels for Locals” by Paul Dickson (Merriam-Webster, $14.95).

Posted by Barry Popik
Other ExpressionsOther States • Monday, January 25, 2016 • Permalink