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 May 16, 2015
“A man fell in a barrel of whiskey, but he died in good spirits”

A popular vaudeville joke in the 1890s told that “a man fell in a barrel of whiskey, but he died in good spirits.” “Died in Good Spirits --A young man drowned in a tank of whisky the other day” was cited in 1893. “He fell into a barrel of whiskey and was drowned. He died in good spirits” was cited in 1896. “Took a quart of apple-jack and died in good spirits” was cited in 1899.


17 February 1893, Cincinnati (OH) Post, pg. 4, col. 2:
Died in Good Spirits.
A young man drowned in a tank of whisky the other day. Buy a gas stove and you’ll live in good spirits.

28 January 1896, The New Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, WV), pg. 6, col. 1:
A barkeeper in Pocahontas met with a tragic death. He fell into a barrel of whiskey and was drowned. He died in good spirits. His body was considerably bunged up.

Chronicling America
19 November 1896, Butler (PA) Citizen, pg. 4, col. 5:
The man who was drowned in a vat of whiskey died in good spirits.

Chronicling America
3 March 1899, Chariton Courier (Keytesville, Chariton County, MO), “How They Died,” pg. 2, col. 4:
“A crank came running into the office yesterday,” says the Lacon Journal, “and said that a man had just swallowed a two foot rule and was dying by inches. We started out to learn further particulars of the death and meeting a doctor we told him about the case. He said that was nothing, that he had a patient who swallowed a thermometer and died by degrees.  A couple of bystanders just then chimed in. One said it reminded him of a fellow down in Kansas who swallowed a pistol and went off easy. The other said he had a friend in Lacon who took a quart of apple-jack and died in good spirits.

Google Books
Choice Dialect and Vaudeville Stage Jokes:
Containing Side Splitting Stories, Jokes, Gags, Readings and Recitations...

Chicago, IL: Frederick J. Dranke& Company
1902
Pg. 29:
A man fell in a barrel of whiskey, but he died in good spirits.

11 June 1905, Illinois State Register (Springfield, IL), “Snap Shots,” pg. 4, col. 4:
A certain whisky drinker in Kansas, in order to spite his temperance neighbors desired that is epitaph read: “He died in good spirits.”

Google Books
East of Lynn, Mass.
By Harry L. Newton
Chicago, IL: T. S. Denison & Company
1913
Pg. 7:
LADY R. (...) He drank himself to death, but they say he died in “good spirits.”

Twitter
Funnyshit
‏@ShiTaTwit
My great uncle was an eccentric and alcoholic. He filled his bathtub full of Hennessey and drowned. He died in good spirits.
9:42 PM - 17 Oct 2010

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Saturday, May 16, 2015 • Permalink