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 August 24, 2018
“‘I see,’ said the blind carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw”

“‘I see,’ said the blind carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw” is a form of pun known as a “Wellerism.” “A country paper, in speaking of a blind wood sawyer, says, ‘Although he can’t see, he can saw’” was printed in the Exeter News-Letter and Rockingham Advertiser (Exeter, NH) on September 22, 1845. T"here’s a blind carpenter in the West Riding of Yorkshire who, though he can’t see a peg, can saw a log” was printed in the humor magazine Judy (London, UK)on September 7, 1870.

The Wellerisms became popular in the 1890s. “Quite a remarkable thing happened to a blind carpenter the other day—he took his hammer and saw. —Commercial Bulletin” was printed in the Boston (MA) Herald on October 10, 1890. “Here’s a remarkable case. The other day a wagon maker who had been dumb for years, picked up a hub and spoke. —Binghamton Leader” was printed in the Chicago (IL) Tribune on March 9, 1891. “Yes, and a blind carpenter on the same day reached out for his plane and saw, and a deaf sheep ranchman went out with his dog and herd and a noseless fisherman caught a barrel herring and smelt, and a defunct hatter was tenderly deposited on a pile of hair and felt, and a forty ton elephant inserted his trunk into a grate and flue” was added in the Daily Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE) on March 11, 1891.

[This entry was assisted by research from Christopher Philippo, the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog and the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Wellerism
Wellerisms, named after sayings of Sam Weller in Charles Dickens’s novel The Pickwick Papers, make fun of established clichés and proverbs by showing that they are wrong in certain situations, often when taken literally. In this sense, wellerisms that include proverbs are a type of anti-proverb. Typically a wellerism consists of three parts: a proverb or saying, a speaker, and an often humorously literal explanation.
(...)
English examples
. “So I see,” said the blind carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw.

15 October 1842, The Daily Madisonian (Washington, DC), New York Correspondence (From the N. Y. Standard), pg. 2, col. 3:
Let us see, said the blind man: let us see, for I fear some of us had a mist before our eyes, a delusion or spell, which is about to be dissipated.

22 September 1845, Exeter News-Letter and Rockingham Advertiser (Exeter, NH), “Items,” pg. 3, col. 1:
A country paper, in speaking of a blind wood sawyer, says, ‘Although he can’t see, he can saw.’

NYS Historic Newspapers
21 July 1848, Lansingburgh (NY) Gazette, pg. 1, col. 5:
A country paper, in speaking of a blind wood sawyer, says: “Although he can’t see, he can saw.”

26 January 1861, Leicester (UK) Chronicle, “Varieties,” pg. 7, col. 1:
A country editor, speaking of a blind sawyer, says, “Although he can’t see he can saw.”

Google Books
7 September 1870, Judy (London, UK), “Sputterings from Judy’s Pen,” pg. 201:
There’s a blind carpenter in the West Riding of Yorkshire who, though he can’t see a peg, can saw a log.

22 October 1870, The Weekly Osage Chronicle (Burlingame, KS), “Wit and Wisdom,” pg. 4, col. 1:
There’s a blind carpenter out West who, though he can’t see a peg, can saw a log.

10 October 1890, Boston (MA) Herald, “Coined in Many Mints,” pg. 9, col. 8:
Quite a remarkable thing happened to a blind carpenter the other day—he took his hammer and saw. —Commercial Bulletin.

Chronicling America
13 October 1890, Morning Journal and Courier (New Haven, CT), “Remarkable,” pg. 1, col. 7:
Quite a remarkable thing happened to a blind carpenter the other day—he took his hammer and saw. —Commercial Bulletin.

9 March 1891, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Current Notes,” pg. 4, col. 6: 
Here’s a remarkable case. The other day a wagon maker who had been dumb for years, picked up a hub and spoke. —Binghamton Leader.

11 March 1891, Daily Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, NE), “Newspaper Drift,” pg. 4, col. 3:
Here is a remarkable case. The other day a wagon maker who had been dumb for years, picked up a hub and spoke. —Binghampton Republican. (Perhaps “Binghamton Leader” is correct, as other newspapers credit this item.—ed.)

Yes, and a blind carpenter on the same day reached out for his plane and saw, and a deaf sheep ranchman went out with his dog and herd and a noseless fisherman caught a barrel herring and smelt, and a defunct hatter was tenderly deposited on a pile of hair and felt, and a forty ton elephant inserted his trunk into a grate and flue.

29 September 1891, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 4, col. 5:
A DEAF farmer drive in his flock and heard.—Boston Transcript.
And a blind man bought a sawbuck and saw.

27 August 1892, Once a Week: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, pg. 4, col. 3;
A BLIND carpenter took his hammer and saw. A dumb wheelright picked up a hub and spoke. To which may be added that a deaf farmer drove in his flock and herd.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
12 October 1893, The Deaf-Mutes’ Journal (Mexico, NY), pg. 2, col. 7:
A correspondent of the DEAF-MUTES’ JOURNAL, writing from Arkansas, says that the mosquitoes of that state “fly up on the trees and bark as you pass by.” This is rather an improvement on that joke which made the rounds last year about the blind man “who picked up a hammer and saw,” and the deaf and dumb man “who picked up a hub and spoke.” (By the way, would it not be more appropriate to say he fell over a hub and spoke?) This is the same line of logic followed by the gentleman who named his rooster Robinson because he crew so.—Berkeley News.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
14 January 1906, Victoria (BC) Daily Colonist, pg. 6, col. 4:
The blind man picked up his hammer and saw. He saw that his saw was a good saw. It was a good saw because he bought it from us. (...) R. A. Brown & Co., 80 Douglas street.

26 March 1908, Buffalo (NY) Commercial, pg. 4, col. 7:
There once was a blind carpenter, who picked up a hammer, and saw. Then there was a deaf shepherd, who went out with his flocks and herd. But the greatest miracle of all was the case of the dumb-wheelwright, who reached out for a tire, and spoke!

Google Books
October 1908, The Elevator Constructor (Philadelphia, PA), pg. 19, col. 2: 
There was once a blind carpenter who picked up a hammer, and saw.

3 September 1927, Marshall (TX) Evening Messenger, “Town Talk” by S. A. P., pg. 4, col. 4:
“I see,” said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.

26 January 1928, The High School Buzz (Hutchinson, KS), pg. 3, col. 3:
The blind carpenter when he went out to his work one day, picked up his hammer and saw.

Google Books
Western Folklore
Volume 6
1947
Pg. 357:
Sentences with Direct Discourse (Wellerisms)
I see, said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.

12 November 1963, The Oregonian (Portland, OR), “Take Five” by Bob Walters, pg. 15, col. 3:
We shall see, said the blind man, and he picked up his hammer and saw.

21 July 1976, Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, NJ), pg. 66, col. 1 classified ad:
PENNSAUKEN
I SEE, SAID THE BLIND CARPENTER AS HE PICKED UP HIS HAMMER AND SAW, and you can see if you can use a hammer and saw, and a paint brush to finish this one.

17 April 1977, Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, “The Blind Carpenter” by Clyde E. Witt, Magazine, pg. 7, col. 2:
Oh, I see, said the blind carpenter, as he picked up his hammer and saw...his hammer and saw... The old third-grade joke ran through my mind as I drove along a winding road in southeastern Ohio.

Google Books
Essays in Folkloristics
Edited by Alan Dundes
Meerut, India: Folklore Institute
1978
Pg. 122:
Consider, for example, the classic punning proverb, “ ‘I see’, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw”. The oppositional structure in this test is produced by the juxtaposition of sight and blindness.

Reddit—Oneliners
“I see,” said the blind carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw.
submitted August 24, 2018 by harrymurkin

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Friday, August 24, 2018 • Permalink