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.

Recent entries:
“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places” (7/24)
“No one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep” (7/23)
“If you don’t like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalk!” (7/23)
“I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally” (7/23)
“Cats would be even more stuck up if they knew how much the internet loves them” (7/23)
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Entry from February 25, 2009
“On the wagon” ("Off the wagon")

Entry in progress—B.P.

The Free Dictionary
off the wagon Slang
No longer abstaining from alcoholic beverages.
on the wagon Slang
Abstaining from alcoholic beverages.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
off the wagon : in or into a state of no longer abstaining from alcoholic beverages “fell off the wagon
on the wagon : in or into a state of abstaining from alcoholic beverages

(Oxford English Dictionary)
water-wagon, (a) orig. U.S. = WATER-CART n. (Cent. Dict. Suppl.); also slang (see quot. 1904)
1815 T. FORSTER Atmos. Phenom. 59 Some of these little cumuli..flying along rapidly between the showers, are..called by the vulgar *water waggons.
1844 H. STEPHENS Bk. Farm I. 251 The ominous scud is the usual harbinger of the rain-cloud, and is therefore commonly called ‘messengers’, ‘carriers’ or ‘water-waggons’.
1904 (Amer.) Dialect Notes II. 402 ‘To be on the water wagon’, to abstain from hard drinks. N.Y.
1927 Daily Express 3 Feb. 5/2 ‘Have a drink,’ said Roger.., but Red stayed his hand at the decanter. ‘Water-wagon?’ asked Roger, surprised.
1928 G. B. SHAW Intelligent Woman’s Guide Socialism lxxix. 397 The vast majority of modern drinkers..do not miss the extra efficiency they would enjoy on the water wagon.
1934 Bulletin (Sydney) 23 May 41/2 Excuse Harrie drinking soft stuff… He’s on the water-waggon at present.
1971 R. DENTRY Encounter at Kharmel xii. 216 What, no grog? Are you supposed to be on the water waggon, skip?

(Oxford English Dictionary)
on the wagon, abstaining from alcoholic drink, teetotal. See water-wagon (a) s.v. WATER n. 29. orig. U.S.
1906 B. J. TAYLOR Extra Dry 14 It is better to have been on and off the Wagon than never to have been on at all.
1917 J. M. GRIDER War Birds (1927) 23 Springs put him on the wagon for a week.
1934 J. T. FARRELL Young Manhood xiv. 218 ‘Was he oiled when the accident happened?’ ‘No, he was on the wagon again.’
1951 L. HELLMAN Autumn Garden III. 138 A few years ago I’d go on the wagon twice a year. Now..I don’t care.
1976 L. DEIGHTON Twinkle, twinkle, Little Spy viii. 83 They dug him out of a bar.., stoned out of his mind… He stayed on the wagon for years.

Google Books
February 1889, The United Service, pg. 155:
“Let me give you a dose of rum.”
“No, thanks,” was the reply. “I’m on the water-wagon.”

Google Books
Checkers: A Hard-Luck Story
By Henry Blossom
Edition: 9
Chicago, IL: Herbert S. Stone & Company
1896
Pg. 167:
Checkers felt apprehensive for arthur, when he noticed three different glasses at each plate; but Arthur took early occasion to state that he was “on the water-wagon,” and he hoped that the boys would “not let it make any difference with them, or with the gayety of the evening”—and it didn’t.

Google Books
Billy Baxter’s letters
By William J. Kountz, Jr.
Red Raven, PA: The Red Raven Corporation
1899
Pg. 15:
The minute I got into that suit, I fell off the water wagon with an awful bump, although I hadn’t touched a drink for thirty-seven days.

Google Books
The Idle Born:
A Comedy of Manners

By Hobart Chatfield Chatfield-Taylor and Reginald De Koven
Chicago, IL: H. S. Stone and Co.
1900
Pg. 39:
“Oh, he’s on the water-wagon,” sneered Monty.

Google Books
I’m on the Water Wagon Now. By Archive of Popular American Music
Published by M. Witmark & Sons
1903

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Wednesday, February 25, 2009 • Permalink