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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“My goal this weekend is to move just enough so people don’t think I’m dead” (3/25)
“In what aisle could I find the Polish sausage?” (Polish joke) (3/24)
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“Congress is good at only two things—doing nothing and overreacting” (3/24)
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Entry from January 08, 2010
“It was so cold in Washington that I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets”

"It’s so cold I saw a lawyer/politician with his hands in his own pockets!” is a joke that’s frequently credited to comedians Johnny Carson (1925-2005) and Fred Allen (1894-1956).

The joke that it’s unusual for a lawyer or a politician to have his hands in his own pockets has been popular since at least the 1840s. In 1848, a portrait of a lawyer with his hand in his own pocket was described as very unusual. According to the New York City humor magazine Puck in February 1878, a work of art in the National Gallery in Washington was:

“No. 1 is a full-length portrait of a ‘Politician’ with his hands in his own pockets by mistake. This is a Gem.”

The “so cold in Washington” joke appears to have been popularized on the radio show of Bob Burns (1890-1956), who was talking about U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau, Jr. (1891-1967) in 1945:

“I hear over the radio (Bob Burns’ program) that it’s been so cold down in Washington, D.C., that Mr. Morgenthau has put his hands in his own pockets!”

In the cold winter of 2009-2010 (when the Democrats won the presidency), the line frequently became: “It’s so cold I saw a Democrat with his hands in his own pockets.”

[This entry was assisted by research from the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Bob Burns (comedian)
Bob Burns (August 2, 1890 – February 2, 1956) was an American radio and film comedian during the 1930s and 1940s. Early in his career he was billed as Robert Burns.
(...)
Radio
On radio Burns became known by nicknames “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.” His radio personality was that of a low-key, self-effacing, rustic bumpkin with a grabbag of amusing stories about “the kinfolks” back home in Van Buren. His character was patterned after Sanford Faulkner (1806-74), composer of the popular fiddle tune, “The Arkansas Traveler.”

After a period on Los Angeles local radio, he reached a national audience in 1935 on the Paul Whiteman and Rudy Vallee radio programs and then became a regular on Bing Crosby’s Kraft Music Hall, hosting the show when Crosby was on vacation and telling tall tales about his fictional hillbilly relatives, Uncle Fud and Aunt Doody. He remained with the Kraft Music Hall until 1941 when his popularity with the heartland radio audience led to his own radio series, The Arkansas Traveler (1941-43) and The Bob Burns Show (1943-49).

Wikipedia: Henry Morganthau, Jr.
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (pronounced /ˈmɔrɡənθɔː/; May 11, 1891 – February 6, 1967) was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was also the father of Robert M. Morgenthau, who was the District Attorney of New York County for 35 years, ending in 2009.
(...)
52nd United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
January 1, 1934 – July 22, 1945

10 June 1848, Washington (PA) Reporter, “Humorous,” pg. 1, col. 7:
“TAINT LIKE.”—A certain lawyer had his portrait taken in his favorite attitude--standing with one hand in his pocket. His friends and clients all went to see it, and every body exclaimed,

“Oh, how like! it is the very picture of him!”

An old farmer only dissented--"taint like!” exclaimed every body, “just show us wherein “taint like.”

“Taint, no taint!” responded the farmer. “don’t you see, he has got his hand in his own pocket, ‘twould be as like again if he had it in somebody else’s.”

Google Books
13 February 1878, Puck, pg. 10, col. 1:
GREAT NATIONAL LOTTERY.
$100,000 IN PRIZES.
Catalogue of Paintings and other Works of Art to be drawn at Washington on the 22d of February.
No. 1 is a full-length portrait of a “Politician” with his hands in his own pockets by mistake. This is a Gem.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
29 March 1884, The Plaindealer (Bath, NY), “The Humorous Papers,” pg. 6, col. 5:
“Why, he’s a politician, you know; runs the machine; is in all the big jobs; makes I don’t know how much money, and just now—Why, look at him! Do you notice nothing remarkable?”

“Can’t say I do.”

“Why, he’s got his hands in his own pockets!”—Pittsburgh Chronicle.

30 March 1898, The Evening Journal (Jersey City, NJ), “Col. Smith’s Speech,” pg. 8, col. 6:
In endeavouring to get off a joke at the expense of Senator Mark Hanna, the fiery orator (John H. Keim—ed.) caused the old politicians and office holders to gasp by shouting: ‘The Democratic party has nothing to do with any man who puts his hands in his own pockets.”

29 May 1898, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Mark Twain At It Again,” pg. 39, cols. 7-8
At a society dinner some years ago Mark Twain had just finished a piquant address when a Mr. Evarts, a lawyer, arose, shoved both his hands down into his trousers pockets, as was his habit, and laughingly remarked:

“Doesn’t it strike this company as a little unusual that a professional humorist should be funny?”

Mark Twain waited until the laughter excited by this sally had subsided, and then drawled out:

“Doesn’t it strike this company as a little unusual that a lawyer should have his hands in his own pockets?”

19 November 1916, Seattle (WA) Sunday Times, “Puget Sounds” by T. Square, pg. 2, col. 4:
“Some people seem to entertain a most unseemly distrust of lawyers,” said Vivian Carkeek, the other day. “For instance:

“Two attorneys were talking in the county clerk’s office. A rude layman observed them, stopped and gasped his astonishment: ‘Look at that lawyer,” he cried, ‘with his hands in HIS OWN pockets.’

“That was just unkind, for we never do that unless reduced to the direst extremities.”
-- T. SQUARE

27 January 1918, Denver (CO) Post, “Crowds Brave Cold for Finals Thrills that Drop Curtain on Stock Show Week” by Gene Fowler, pg. 1, col. 3:
And the snow fell. And the fat cop walked up and down, with his hands in his own pockets.

26 June 1920, Greensboro (NC) Daily News, pg. 4, col. 1:
One newspaper man describes Coolidge as “standing with his hands in his pockets” when apprised of the nomination for vice-president. It is good to see one politician who keeps his hands in how own pockets.

5 January 1926, Zenia (OH) Evening Gazette, pg. 1, col. 5:
COLD WAVE KEEPS
CRIMINALS AT BAY
Akron, O., Jan. 6—The recent cold wave curtailed the activities of criminals, according to the records of Sheriff Chris Weaver.

The pickpocket keeps his hands in his own pockets, the holdup man can’t steady his shooting iron in zero weather, safe crackers and lock pickers can’t do good work when they must wear gloves, and second story men will not work when it is cold, Weaver said.

1 August 1932, Riverside (CA) Daily Press, “Tower of Jewels,” pg. 16, col. 7:
We don’t blame Massachusetts for raising a row over a portrait of a governor with his hands in his pockets. It just doesn’t look natural for a politician to have his hands in his own pockets.

3 February 1938, The Evening Star (Washington, DC), pg. A-10, col. 6:
Definition.
From the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
A politician is usually a man who doesn’t think it looks nice to keep his hands in his own pockets.

30 August 1942, The Sunday Star (Washington, DC), “His Work Is Worth Billions” by Frank I. Weller (Wide World), pg. B-5, col. 2:
The Treasury tax man who dips into your pockets once in a while keeps his hands in his own pockets practically all the time.

It is a characteristic habit of Randolph E. Paul, tax adviser to Secretary Morgenthau, to stick his hands in his coat pockets while propounding before him weighty revenue conferences.

Google Books
News and Views
By General Motors Acceptance Corporation
1945
Pg. 31:
I hear over the radio (Bob Burns’ program) that it’s been so cold down in Washington, D.C., that Mr. Morgenthau has put his hands in his own pockets!

24 January 1953, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “In the WAKE of the NEWS,” pt. 2, pg. A1:
It was announced on television that It was so cold In London a few weeks ago that Churchill was walking around with his hands in his own pockets.

Google News Archive
18 July 1974, Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune, “It Happened Last Night” by Earl Wilson, pg. 20B, col. 1:
PEARLS: Jackie Sule says the weather reminds her of Fred Allen’s line: “It was so cold in Washington that I saw a politician with his hands in his own pockets.”

Google News Archive
18 October 1984, Peterborough (NH) Transcript, “It gets so cold” (editorial), pg. 4, col. 1:
There’s an old joke about the winter: it got so cold in Washington the politicians actually had their hands in their own pockets.

Unfortunately, it’s only a joke, and the mercury along the Potomac has yet to plunge anywhere near the point where that sort of thing could really happen.
(...)
Henceforth, let it be said: It gets so cold in New Hampshire, we’ve got a politician who actually has his hand in his own pockets.

Google News Archive
10 August 1986, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, pg. G3, col. 2:
Another member claimed that where he lived was so cold he spotted a politician standing on a street corner with bis hands in his own pocket.

Google News Archive
17 October 1987, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, NJ), pg. 2A, col. 3:
Robert Peterson Sr. said it was so cold one day last February that he saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.

Taxing Tennessee
Saturday, January 02, 2010
It’s So Cold I Saw A Democrat With His Hands In His Own Pockets
Posted by Ben Cunningham at 2:33 PM

motorcitytimes.com
It’s So Cold I Saw A Democrat With His Hands In His Own Pocket
2010 January 2
by steve

News - Jacksonville.com
First Coast is so cold, even Canadians are shivering
By Mark Woods
Story updated at 6:30 AM on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010
How cold is it?
(...)
To paraphrase an old Johnny Carson line, “It’s so cold that I saw a Florida politician with his hand in his own pocket.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, January 08, 2010 • Permalink