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. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from October 25, 2009

A “gold-digger” (or “gold digger") is someone who digs for gold. The Broadway play The Gold Diggers, a comedy in three acts by Avery Hopwood that starred Ina Claire, opened on September 30, 1919 and popularized another kind of “gold-digger”—a woman who sought to marry a rich husband.  The 1929 production The Gold Diggers of Broadway introduced the song “Tip-toe thru’ the tulips with me.” The film Gold Diggers of 1933 featured the song “We’re in the money,” while the film Gold Diggers of 1935 introduced the New York City standard song, “Lullaby of Broadway.”

“Gold-digger” (in the second sense of a person desiring another person’s money or gold) is cited in print from 1911, 1915 and 1918, so the term was in use at least a few years before the 1919 comedy.

Wikipedia: The Gold Diggers
The Gold Diggers can refer to:

. The Gold Diggers (play), a 1919 play by Avery Hopwood, the source material for the 1923 film, as well as Gold Diggers of Broadway and Gold Diggers of 1933
. The Gold Diggers (1923 film), a Warner Bros. silent film
. The Gold Diggers (1983 film), a film directed by Sally Potter, starring Julie Christie
. The Gold Diggers (book), a 1954 book of poetry by Robert Creeley
. The Golddiggers, an all-girl singing and dancing troupe that appeared on The Dean Martin Show

(Historical Dictionary of American Slang)
gold-digger n.
a woman who associates with or marries a man solely for his wealth.
1915-1916 Lait Beef, Iron & WIne 77: Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no gold digger.
1918 Gutterson Granville 156: The same way that other girls are classified as “Gold-diggers,” or :Dinner hounds,” or “Bricks.”
1925 Weaver Collected Poems 152: I didn’t want Mr. Kirby to think I was tryin’/Any gold-digger tricks. I ain’t that kind.
1926 Dunning & Abbott Broadway 234: ROY (contemptuously). A gold-digger.
1926 Springs Nocturne Militaire 232: She always considered all our other friends black-mailers, dope fiends, gold diggers, and octogenarians, but was seldom specific in her charges.
1927 American Speech II (Mar.) 276: Gold digger. A woman student who gets the maximum amount of entertainment at meximum expense from a man student.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
Main Entry: gold digger
Function: noun
Date: 1830
1 : one who digs for gold
2 : a person who uses charm to extract money or gifts from others

(Oxford English Dictionary)
A girl or woman who attaches herself to a man merely for gain. slang (orig. U.S.).
1920 B. MANTLE in Best Plays of 1919-20 360 ‘Jerry’ Lamar is one of a band of pretty little salamanders known to Broadway as ‘gold diggers’, because they ‘dig’ for the gold of their gentlemen friends and spend it being good to their mothers and their pet dogs.
1928 Sunday Dispatch 19 Aug. 20 The professional gold-digger is generally a girl of good family who finds she can supplement her allowance by going out with, say, half-a-dozen men.
1934 G. B. SHAW On Rocks II. 263 All I can get out of her is that she is not a gold digger, and wouldnt be seen at a wedding with a lousy viscount.

Google Books
The Ne’er-Do-Well
By Rex Beach
New York, NY: A.L. Burt Company
Pg. 48:
“These people are money mad, aren’t they? Worst bunch of gold-diggers I ever saw.”

Google Books
My Battles With Vice
By Virginia Brooks
New York, NY: Macauley Company
Pg. 114:
“They don’t want any girl to come to these doin’s unless she’s playing the game all the way down the line. Most of ‘em are gold diggers, at that.”
Pg. 115:
“What’s a gold digger?” I queried.

“Say,” answered my young friend, “maybe you come from the hills around Gary, but I don’t know any of that bunch that talks the way you do. A gold digger is a miner.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but how does being a ‘miner’ and a ‘gold digger’ apply to that little girl over there, for instance?”

“That kid with the red hat?” he inquired, pointing. “Why, she’s the queen. That’s Chrissy Tate. Why, Kid, she’s got cards and spades on ‘em all. She can get money from a ‘Gypshun’ mummy, believe me.”

Google Books
February 1918, Munsey’s Magazine, pg. 60, col. 1:
“I got a wife somewhere—that blonde that used to sing in Faro Jim’s place in Dawson. I don’t know where she is, but I guess she’s still alive, and I ain’t going to give her a chance to get bigamy on me. She’s a gold-digger, that one. If she got anything like that on me, she’d wring me dry as a bone!”

Google Books
The Winds of Chance
By Rex Beach
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
Pg. 220:
“You dolls make me sick, grabbing at every nickel you see. beat it, now! There’s plenty of young suckers for you to trim. If you can’t respect an old man with gray hair, why—“
“I’m talking to this pink-faced gold-digger—“

OCLC WorldCat record
“The gold diggers;” a comedy in three acts,
Author: Avery Hopwood
Publisher: [1919]
Edition/Format: Book : Manuscript : English

1 October 1919, New York (NY) Times, Alexander Woolcott review of Avery Hopwood’s play The Gold Diggers starring Ina Claire, pg. 20:
The gold-diggers, according to Mr. Hopwood’s early 1884 philosophy, are women in general and chorus girls in particular. His new comedy is all about chorus girls, and how a rich and monastic uncle who hurries up to the Fascinating Fifties (or whatever that part of town is called now) to rescue his nephew from the clutches of one, falls into those clutches himself.

OCLC WorldCat record
Tip-toe thru’ the tulips with me : (from “The gold diggers of Broadway")
Author: Gay Ellis; Joe Burke; Al Dubin; Jay Gorney; E Y Harburg
Publisher: U.S.A. : Harmony, [1929]
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The gold diggers’s song : We’re in the money : from “Gold diggers of 1933”
Author: Ted Lewis; Harry Warren; Al Dubin; Jerry Livingston; Marty Symes; All authors
Publisher: U.S.A. : Columbia, [1933]
Edition/Format: Music : 78 rpm : Dance forms : Motion picture music : Multiple forms : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Lullaby of Broadway
Author: Harry Warren; Al Dubin
Publisher: Sydney : J. Albert & Son, ©1935.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English
Notes: “Warner Bros. present Gold diggers of 1935.”
Description: 1 score (4 p.) ; 31 cm.
Responsibility: lyric by Al Dubin ; music by Harry Warren.

New York (NY) Times
Published: October 24, 2009
Q. Where did the term “gold digger,” for a woman seeking a rich husband, come from?
A. In a word, Broadway.

Its first appearance we could find in print was an announcement of the Sept. 30, 1919, premiere of “The Gold Diggers,” a comedy by Avery Hopwood, at the Lyceum Theater. Ina Claire, photo above, played the role of the lead prospector, who isn’t really that kind of girl but is just pretending to be a vamp to help out a friend. The show spawned a silent film of the same name in 1923 and the “Gold Diggers” movie musicals of the 1930s.

“Gold digger” in the comedy’s narrower sense — a showgirl or chorus girl seeking a rich husband — is believed to have entered Broadway argot several years earlier. A major inspiration was Florenz Ziegfeld’s popular “Follies,” with their heavily promoted, spectacularly costumed revues, some of whose graduates ultimately struck it rich.

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New York CityWorkers/People • (1) Comments • Sunday, October 25, 2009 • Permalink