Date: Sun, 13 Oct 1996 14:05:17 -0400
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: G. O. P.
"G. O. P. spells 'Gop'."
"Don't step in the gop!"
---wall graffiti at Harvard University, Harvard Lampoon, pg. 31, The
Someday-Son-This-Will-All-Be-Yours Issue (1969?).
"G. O. P." is a term that deserves at least some of the glory and the
study that was received by "O. K." To my knowledge, this is the only study
by anyone. Existing references, as usual for these things and as will be
shown, are putrid.
The first place to look is a 1996 book by John Calvin Batchelor called
"AIN'T YOU GLAD YOU JOINED THE REPUBLICANS?"--A SHORT HISTORY OF THE GOP
(Henry Holt and Co.). It's gotta have it--it's in the title! On pg. 101,
under the 1888 campaign, he writes "For the first time _Grand Old
Party_--used ten years before about the Southern Democracy--entered the
lexicon of electioneering as a pet name of the Republican party." On pg.
108, the author states the term was popularized in 1894.
H. L. Mencken, in AMERICAN LANGUAGE, SUPPLEMENT I, mentions only briefly
on pg. 410 that the DAE has it to 1887. In Stuart Berg Flexner's I HEAR
AMERICA TALKING and LISTENING TO AMERICA, G. O. P. is barely mentioned!
William Safire's NEW POLITICAL DICTIONARY has this:
In the 1870s, "grand old party" and "gallant old party" were in use,
mostly referring to Republicans. Meanwhile, in England, Prime Minister
William Gladstone was being dubbed "the Grand Old Man," first used in 1882.
Soon after, Gladstone was "the G. O. M." Soon after that, GOP made its bow.
"'The G. O. P. Doomed,' shouted the _Boston Post_," wrote the _New York
Tribune_ on October 13, 1884; nobody has yet found the earlier _Boston Post_
In early motorcar days, the letters also stood for "get out and
The DA, on pg. 730, states that "Grand Old Party" was the DEMOCRATIC
party in an 1879 cite and an 1888 cite, and the Republican party in 1888 and
1948 cites. For "G. O. P.," its cites are 1887, 1890, 1947, and 1949.
Robert Hendrickson's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS states that
G. O. P. was "First used in 1887, when it also meant 'get out and push' (your
own horse or car), it was probably suggested by G. O. M., which the English
called their Grand Old Man, Prime Minister Gladstone."
Actually, "get out and push" was much later and has nothing to do with
the origin of the phrase. G. O. P. was popularized in the James G. Blaine
vs. Grover Cleveland Presidential campaign of 1884. There are scads of G. O.
P.s to be found also in 1885 and 1886. An 1887 cite in any book is just
THE BLAINE AND LOGAN COLLECTION OF CAMPAIGN SONGS, found in the Library
of Congress, was copyrighted July 4, 1884. I had looked at just about every
1880 campaign songbook--Democrat and Republican--and had failed to find the
phrase. This songbook had the songs "My Grandfather's Party" and "Our Party,"
which contains the phrase "The grand old Republican party." Also, this song:
The Grand Old Party. (Tune: Glory Hallelujah.)
The grand old party is as true as ever in the past;
It came to stay through thick and thin, and from the first to last;
'Twill sail the good old Ship of State through every treach'rous blast--
And we'll go marching on! ...
A songs "Stand by the Grand Old Party" was also published in 1884. This
is the key year. In the book AMERICAN POLITICAL TERMS by Hans Sperber and
Travis Trittshuh (1962), there are three 1884 cites. One is October (NY
Tribune, as above) and one is November; one from Harper's Weekly (which is
also in OED) supposedly comes from a Cincinnati newspaper of 1876, but the
cite given must be the wrong page. The 1879 cite (referring to Democrats) is
also mentioned. An 1878 and an 1880 cite are interesting to show that the
phrase was in circulation even before G. O. M., which I discussed a few days
I have much stuff, and I'll list it chronologically.
December 1, 1883--The Hatchet (D.C.), pg. 4, col. 3.
"ST. EDMUNDS on _How to Square your Conscience on a Readjuster's
Platform._ A work of most rare cunning and of the utmost importance to the
G. O. P."
This is the earliest "G. O. P." I found, smashing the 1887 date and even
the 1884 dates. I looked for "dude" in many early 1883 newspapers, and
didn't recall seeing an earlier "G. O. P." there.
December 26, 1883--Puck, pg. 268.
A cartoon of Benjamin Butler tells followers in a Jesus-like fashion to
"Cast off the Old Parties and Follow Me!"
March 8, 1884--Harper's Weekly, pg. 149.
There is a cartoon of "The Sacred Elephant" and it has "Republican
Party" on it, but not "G. O. P."
March 15, 1884--Harper's Weekly, pg. 179.
"THE OLD TICKET" in the cartoon is the Democratic one. An old man or
"OLD PARTY" is being interviewed.
April 25, 1884--New York Evening Post, pg. 4, col. 1.
"Mr. Gilbert was next demanded. He made the ball ring with a brief
address, in which he expressed confidence in the rejuvenation of the 'grand
old party.'" This took place at a Republican convention in Albany, NY.
May 22, 1884--Life (weekly humor and news magazine), pp. 288-289.
The cartoon about fraud features an elephant and is titled "DISCOURAGING
TO THE 'GRAND OLD PARTY.'"
May 24, 1884--The Hatchet, pg. 5, col. 2.
Prime Minister Gladstone is "The Grand Old Pharisee" or "A Grand Old
May 29, 1884--The World (NY), pg. 4, cols. 2-3.
"With LINCOLN, whose nomination was accidental, the Grand Old Party
associated ANDY JOHNSON, whom it afterwards impeached for high crimes and
"JOE HAWLEY is right. The Grand Old Party, with its army of Federal
office-holders, its swarms of Government contractors, its aid from the
treasuries of monopolies, corporations and favored millionaires, its sale of
patronage, its machines, its frauds and its forgeries, its audacity,
hypocrisy and genius for lying and corruption, can elect a wooden Indian or a
jail-bird, provided the Democrats will help them by stupendous blundering, as
they have done already."
May 30, 1884--The World, pg. 4, col. 2.
"What a remarkable convocation it will be! Judging from the
preliminaries of the contest, what a loving and amiable family group the
Grand Old Party will make!"
May 31, 1884--The World, pg. 4, col. 2.
"Money is the god of the 'leaders' of the Grand Old Party."
June 5, 1884--The Sun (NY), pg. 2, col. 3.
"The Same Old Party." It states that "the same old party" is on trial
again this year.
June 11, 1884--The World, pg. 4, col. 3.
"A vote for BLAINE is a vote to strike the Republican colors and to
destroy the Old Party."
June 19, 1884--Life, cover,
"G. O. P." spelling out "Grand Old Party" is worn by an elephant for the
first time in any cartoon I could find. On pp. 344-345 (the centerfold) of
this issue, this is drawn again! On pg. 338 cols. 2&3, Grand Old Party is
June 26, 1884--Life, pg. 353, col. 1.
"No, Amarantha, 'P. P. C.' does not mean "Private, Personal, and
Confidential.' It is rather a symbol explanatory of the action of the
Republican party on the 4th of next March."
July 3, 1884--Life, pg. 3, col. 2.
"MR. FLOWER has just sent out sample copies of his campaign song. One
"The G. O. P. has got to go,
'T is money makes the mar' go;
And I'm the boy what's got the bar'l
To run things at Chicago."
Also, in the cartoon on pg. 5, a person has "The G. O. P." on the back
of his cape.
Also, on pg. 12, col. 1:
"YES, sirree," said the Independent, "I ain't no servile critter. I'm a
going to bolt Blaine!"
"Indeed," said the machine man, "Going to bolt, eh! How do you spell
...When he recovered he went out and took the stump for the G. O. P.
July 4, 1884--Washington Post, pg. 2, col. 4.
"The Grand Old Party's Only Hope" is a header.
July 10, 1884--Life, pg. 26, col. 2.
Under "Charade" can be read the following poem:
"I'm colder than ice;
I'm madder than hops;
My awfullest vice;
Indulgence in S. O. Ps."
July 16, 1884--Puck, cover page (305).
The title is expanded for the first time as, under the "STRANGE, BUT
TRUE" cartoon, there appears "The Three Last Speakers of the 'Untrustworthy
and Disreputable Democratic Party,' and the Three Last Speakers of the 'Grand
Old Republican Party of Moral Ideas.'"
Pg. 306 has the following poem:
"You may cheer for the Grand Old Party,
As you did in the grand old days;
But the cheer will be far from hearty,
And weak the faltering praise.
For rather than put Corruption
In Lincoln's chair of state--
The honest citizen casts his vote
For the Other Candidate."
"In these days of late dishonor
For the head that was held so high,
With her glory and shame upon her,
Let the Grand Old Party die.
But the spirit that gave her grandeur,
Survives with the strength of Fate
In the breasts of the men who will vote this Fall
For the Other Candidate."
Most important is page 315, an essay title "THE GRAND OLD PARTY":
"Nevertheless, he did not hesitate to wave his booty--now labeled 'The
Grand Old Party' to prevent mistake--and to summon adventurers and hirelings
of all sorts to rally around it. ... 'Surely this must be the right place,
for there is the flag of the 'Grand Old Party' waving over it.'"
July 20, 1884--Washington Post, pg. 1, col. 3.
A Manhattan Club member used the expanded phrase: "Let me introduce to
you a Republican notable and his environment, just to show what the grand old
party of morality actually contains."
July 21, 1884--Chicago Tribune, pg. 5, col. 5.
A cartoon features "THE GRAND OLD BARREL $."
July 28, 1884--The World, pg. 4, col. 7.
"Some Suggestions on the G. O. P."
August 20, 1884--Puck, pg. 400.
A cartoon is titled "THE GRAND OLD PARTY OF MORAL IDEAS 'KEEPING UP
APPEARANCES.'" The appearances in the woman's dress are "political purity"
and "high moral ideas." The "moral ideas," of course, were that Grover
Cleveland (of the other party) had had an illegitimate child. ("Ma, ma,
where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha-ha-ha!")
October 2, 1884--Life, pp. 190-191.
A cartoon shows a "G. O. P." on the elephant that apparently dates from
October 11, 1884--Evening Telegram (NY), pg. 1.
A cartoon shows a Republican parade, and the elephant reads "Some of the
G. O. P."
October 15, 1884--Evening Post (NY), pg. 2, col. 5.
This item, "Brother Gardner Gives Some Political Advice," was reprinted
from the Detroit Free Press. "De grand old principles of grand old parties
am hurled at your heads from ebery co'ner, but dey won't pay rent nor buy
October 17, 1884--Cincinnati Enquirer, pg. 4, col. 2.
"The Poetry of It.
The G. O. P.
As N E 1
of cts. can C."
This was reprinted in the Boston Daily Globe, 23 Oct. 1884, pg. 4, col.
2, under "R. I. P."
October 30, 1884--Life, pp. 246-247.
The cartoon features Ben Butler (their Ross Perot) barking a "Side Show
to Blaine's Great MORAL Circus." A "G. O. P." is again on Blaine's elephant.
A child is encouraged to watch the "Great Moral Exhibition Beyond."
So, from the examples, G. O. P. was certainly in use before 1887, before
October 1884, and even before the Republican and Democratic conventions of
September 8, 1886--St. Louis Post-Dispatch, pg. 4, col. 5.
"Which Is the Party?" headlines this item from the Baltimore Sun, which
reads "The 'party of moral ideas' at present is undoubtedly the Prohibition
party, the inspiration of the old organization having become exhausted."
October 15, 1886--St. Louis Post-Dispatch, pg. 4, col. 3.
This is important:
"And yet some years ago Hans Breitmann described the Republican party
as, 'De party von de great moral idee.'"
December 29, 1886--Puck, pp. 300-301.
The cartoon is "THE GREAT FAIR IN AID OF THE 'GRAND OLD PARTY OF MORAL
IDEAS'--THE PATRONAGE IS NOT UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE MANAGERS."
May 17, 1888--Life, pg. 275, col. 2.
"MOTTO of the G. O. P.: 'In galls we trust.'"
June 27, 1888--Puck, pg. 293, cover.
"THE GRAND OLD ELEPHANT" of the cartoon is urged to "Get up and dance
for Monopoly and High Tariff!"
October 10, 1888--Puck, pg. 98, col. 2.
"It is difficult to associate such methods and motives with a Grand Old
Party, and we are forced to the conclusion that this appellation is a
misnomer. It was a Grand Young Party...."
I hope all of the above will enlighten everyone on an important phrase in
American speech that is used in almost every newspaper almost every day. I
send this out into Internet air; it lands, I know not where.
August 2, 1888--St. Louis Post-Dispatch, pg. 3, cols. 2-3.
The cartoon from the New York News shows "AN UP-TO-DATE ELEPHANT"--one
made only of money!