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 06, 2008
“Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster” (business axiom)

"Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster” is an old reminder that success can be fleeting. A rooster replaces the peacock in some versions of the saying.

“Peacock Today, Feather-Duster Tomorrow” is a popular saying among the basketball players at St. John’s University, where it was passed between coaches Joe Lapchick and Lou Carnesecca and Fran Fraschilla to star players such as Jason Williams.

The saying dates to at least 1911 and is of unknown origin. It’s a popular maxim in business and finance as well as sports.


Wikipedia: Feather duster
A feather duster is an implement used for cleaning. It consists typically of a handle and a segment composed of natural or artificial feathers which form the cleaning-contact surface. It is particularly useful for removing dust from surfaces.

Feather dusters take advantage of the principles of static electricity to take up small debris such as dander.

English phrase
Rooster one day, feather duster the next.

16 January 1911, Duluth (MN) News-Tribune, pg. 11, col. 3:
The proud peacock of today may be only a feather duster tomorrow.

31 March 1911, New Castle (PA) , pg. 4, col. 4:
The proud peacock to today may be only a feather duster tomorrow.

22 April 1914, Atlanta (GA) Constitution, pg. 14, col. 4:
“Why is a rooster?” All his traditional prowess has been stolen by dramatist and scientific expert, and he is reduced to the mournful philosophy of “only a rooster today and a feather duster tomorrow.”

17 June 1949, Wakefield (MI) News, pg. 4, col. 3:
And to the graduates: “Don’t forget the peacock to today is the feather duster of tomorrow.”

Google News Archive
11 June 1954, Genesee (ID) News, pg. 6, col. 5:
it doesn’t pay to get “stuck up.” The peacock of today may be the feather duster of tomorrow.

Google Books
Personal File
By Paul Clifford Smith
New York, NY: Appleton-Century
1964
Pg. 448:
Less in a spirit of modesty than in a dash of intuition I posted one of my favorite aphorisms upon my desk for all in the stream of visitors to contemplate: “A peacock today; a feather duster tomorrow.”

20 May 1972, New York (NY) Times, “Basketball’s Enthusiastic Young Pros” by Dave Anderson, pg. 23:
In his wallet, Lou Carnesecca, the general manager and coach of the New York Nets, carries a small white card with the slogan, “Peacock Today, Feather-Duster Tomorrow.” It’s a reminder to be humble.

New York (NY) Times
BASKETBALL; Williams Makes Case For More Court Time
By CHARLIE NOBLES
Published: December 28, 1995
Jayson Williams is trying to stay open-minded. Williams, the Nets’ sixth-year center, is the National Basketball Association’s leading offensive rebounder and fifth over all, yet he still gets modest playing time.
(...)
“What can you do? Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster,” Williams said of the fleeting nature of success.

Forbes.com
The perils of success
By William P. Barrett, 11.03.97
(...)
Growth becomes fatal for many companies. Today’s peacock may become tomorrow’s feather duster.

Google Books
Living Tomorrow’s Company
By Mark Goyder
Published by Gower Publishing, Ltd.
1998
Pg. 5:
One American businessman put it to me with characteristic brutality: “Today’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster.”

New York (NY) Times
COLLEGE BASKETBALL; Late Irish Surge Halts Red Storm’s 7-Game Run
By MALCOLM MORAN
Published: February 1, 1998
Even as the winning streak was growing to seven games and the city was beginning to notice St. John’s again, Fran Fraschilla remembered the fable, as told by a sage named Carnesecca, of the peacock and the feather duster. In simpler days, today’s preener was warned that it could become tomorrow’s cleaning utensil.

Managing Creativity by Donna Shirley (2001)
Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster’ is a Wall Street saying (Demisch). 

Google Books
Delivering on the Promise:
How to Attract, Manage and Retain Human Capital

By Brian Freidman, James Hatch and David M Walker
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
2001
Pg. 7:
In accepting a well-deserved award from a group of peers (one of many that year), the CEO of a major public company had the room roaring with laughter when he ended his speech by reminding his listeners of the maxim, “Today a peacock, tomorrow a feather duster.”

ESPN.com
Thursday, April 3, 2003
Updated: April 4, 12:50 PM ET
Eyes of Texas are upon Barnes
By Andy Katz
NEW ORLEANS—Texas coach Rick Barnes didn’t want to cut down the South Regional nets in San Antonio. His assistant coaches and players, however, wouldn’t let him remain in the background.
(...)
“The guy I’d like to be most like is Tom Izzo,” Barnes said. “He never talks about himself. I don’t talk about Rick Barnes. I love saying, ‘A proud peacock today, a feather duster tomorrow.’ I don’t take myself too seriously. The bottom line is I’m as good as my players. For that reason, they’ll be out there.”

New York (NY) Daily News
FITTING TRIBUTE FOR LEGENDARY LAPCHICK
Sunday, November 26th 2006, 12:00 AM
Two weeks ago at St. John’s University’s Lou Carnesecca Hall, I spent a wonderful afternoon being part of a symposium celebrating the life of Joe Lapchick. This legendary man, who gave so much of himself to the game of basketball, had to feel good up there in heaven with the words said about him that day.
(...)
Carnesecca closed the show with caring words about his mentor. At the end, Lou pulled out a little piece of tattered paper from his wallet. Joe had written the note years ago and gave it to Lou, who at the time was his assistant. It was a message to kids whose heads might have swelled from too many accolades. It was just these two lines that Louie read: “Today a peacock. Tomorrow a feather duster.” I liked that and who but Joe Lapchick could’ve thought it? 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Thursday, November 06, 2008 • Permalink