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 Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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“Lettuce meat olive your eggspectations” (5/29)
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Entry from February 15, 2005
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers…”
Greek historian Herodotus (484 BCE - 430 BCE) is often said to have written in Histories, Book 8, Chapter, 98: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The quotation appears on New York City's James Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue and 32nd Street, opposite Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.

This is often mistaken for an official motto of the Unites States Postal Service. It is merely what the architect added to the 1913 building. Some have claimed that the Herodotus citation doesn't quite read this way.

The New York (NY) Times, on October 27, 1912, stated that the quotation was selected by the Treasury Department. However, credit was subsequently given to American architect William M. Kendall (1856-1941) of the McKim, Mead & White firm that designed the building. Kendall originally asked Harvard professor George Herbert Palmer (1842-1933) for a Herodotus translation, but Kendall then tweaked this with his own words.


Wikipedia: James A. Farley Building
The James A. Farley Building is the main United States Postal Service building in New York City. It is located in Midtown Manhattan and was built along with the original Pennsylvania Station in 1912. The building is famous for bearing the United States Postal Service creed: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
(...)
The building prominently bears the inscription: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, which is frequently mistaken as the official motto of the United States Postal Service. It was actually supplied by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the Farley Building and the original Pennsylvania Station in the same Beaux-Arts style. The sentence is taken from Herodotus' Histories (Book 8, Ch. 98) and describes the faithful service of the Persian system of mounted postal messengers under Xerxes I of Persia. The U.S.P.S. does not actually have an official motto or creed, but nonetheless the inscription on the building is often cited as such.

Wikiquote: Herodotus
Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos) (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC) was a historian, known for his writings on the conflict between Greece and Persia, as well as the descriptions he wrote of different places and people he met on his travels.

The Histories
It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.
. Book 8, Ch. 98
. variant: Not snow, no, nor rain, nor heat, nor night keeps them from accomplishing their appointed courses with all speed. (Book 8, Ch. 98)
. Paraphrase: "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" ”
..Appears carved over entrance to Central Post Office building in New York City.

27 October 1912, New York (NY) Times, pg. C4, col. 7:
HERODOTUS FOR POSTMAN.
Apt Quotation to Adorn Eighth Avenue Entrance to Post Office.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26. -- The Treasury Department has selected a quotation from Herodotus to be carved on the Eighth Avenue facade of the new Post Office Building in New York, and has directed McKim, Meade & White, the architects, to have the work executed. This quotation, which has a particular application to mail carriers, is:

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Newspapers.com
28 October 1912, Pittsburgh (PA) Post, "The Day in New York," pg. 7, col. 3:
Puzzle for strangers.
"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed round."

Visitors to New York next October will wonder at the mystic portent of these words adorning the facade of a large white building in Eighth avenue.

28 December 1913, New York (NY) Times, pg. 12:
These support a cornice, on which is engraved the motto which Herodotus wrote in tribute to the couriers who dashed through Persia with the mails and military orders: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

6 August 1925, Bridgeport (CT) Telegram, pg. 22, col. 2:
Consider the slogan of the Service:

"Neither snow nor rain
Nor heat nor gloom of night
Stays these couriers
From the swift completion
Of their appointed rounds."

Newspapers.com
12 April 1929, The Messenger (Owensboro, KY), "In New York" by G. D. Seymour, pg. 8, col. 8:
William M. Kendall, of the architectural firm which designed the postoffice, found the sentence while poring over Herodotus' account of the Greek expedition against the Persians. Herodotus referred to the mounted couriers of the Persian king Cyrus, but the quotation so impressed Kendall as applicable to the postmen that he caused it to be inscribed across the portico.

25 December 1929, New York (NY) Times, pg. 3:
Despite unfavorable weather and a volume of mail which surpassed that of previous years by more than 1,400,000 pieces, Postmaster John J. Kiely and his aids have handled the holiday rush, the records show, in unerring emulation of the passage from Herodotus which adorns the facade of the General Postoffice at Eighth Avenue and Thirty-second Street.

One of the most conspicuous demonstrations of the fact that "neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night" stays the couriers of the Postoffice Department from the "swift completion of their appointed rounds," according to Assistant Postmaster Charles Lubin, was the distribution yesterday of more than 6,000 sacks of Christmas mail which arrived from Europe on the Leviathan.

6 July 1956, New York (NY) Times, "About New York: Architect Rewrites Herodotus for Inscription on Post Office" by Meyer Berger, pg. 22, col. 2:
He (William M. Kendall -- ed.) chewed his pencil a bit, night after night, before he worked out his own version: NEITHER SNOW, NOR RAIN, NOR HEAT, NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THE SWIFT COMPLETION OF THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS and boldly added the signature: HERODOTUS.

The quotation was approved by the Post Office and up it went. Mr. Kendall seemed to get a greater thrill out of his literary achievement, almost, than he did out of the over-all design. He chuckled over it right up until he died in 1941, aged 85.

Newspapers.com
29 July 1956, Sunday News (New York, NY), "Around Town," pg. 6, col. 3:
Kendall, a pretty good Latin and Greek scholar, got the idea for the inscription while reading Herodotus in Greek. Thinking maybe his translation wasn't too good, he studied all available English translations of the passage, but decided they weren't exactly right, either. He got in touch with Prof. George Herbert Palmer of Harvard, of which Kendall was an alumnus, and asked him to take a shot at it. The professor reported back that the passage ran thus:

"No snow, nor rain, day's heat, nor gloom hinders their speedily going on their appointed rounds."

The passage, by the way, referred, not to letter carriers, but to Persian couriers who did messenger boy work during the Persian-Greek wars.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • Tuesday, February 15, 2005 • Permalink


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