Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 12:43:18 -0500
From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU
Subject: Re: Yellow dog Democrats

At 12:07 PM 2/13/98 -0500, you wrote:
This may have been discussed previously here, but either I missed it or
wasn't on the list yet. Can anyone tell me (& a colleague in the political
science dept.) the origin and meaning of the term "yellow dog Democrat"?
I know a little about "yellow dog contracts" -- as basically being
anti-union documents, but I'm not clear on how that got connected to
Democrats (who, generally, have been pro-union).

Jerry Miller

OED2 "yellow dog" attests (meaning 2a) "person or thing of no account or of
a low type," first cite 1881. The union sense of anti-union and therefore
no-good is similar to the use of a lot of more general negative terms by
pro-union folks in more narrow application to non- or anti-union people or
things, cf. scab. On the union sense of yellow dog = anti-union, see meaning
2b, first cite 1894.

"Yellow dog democrat" I have no cites handy on, but some time in the 80s I
read something that asserted it came from the idea of someone (especially in
the South, when the South was pretty overwhelmingly Democrat, i.e., 1860s to
1940s) who was so strictly a Democrat voter that s/he'd vote Democrat if the
party ran a yellow dog for office. I.e., a very loyal and/or very partisan
Democrat, esp. in the South.

So, yellow dog = anti-union, and yellow dog Democrat = extremely loyal
Democrat both grow out of "yellow dog" = something no good. They are
collateral descendants of the same phrase, not parent-and-child to each
other, which is what you are wondering about above.

I'm sure someone out there has early cites for yellow-dog Democrat. I'd
imagine they would be from the late 19th cent or first half of 20th cent.

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]