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 June 06, 2009
“Money can’t buy happiness”

"Money can’t buy happiness” is a simple and seemingly timeless proverb. In the 2000s, medical researchers found the old aphorism to be scientifically true. Others argue, however, that money certainly helps happiness and can buy better health care and relief from day-to-day worries.

“Money cannot buy happiness” is cited in a book published in London in 1821. The phrase has been used in the United States since at least the 1860s.

Modern jocular phrase variations include “If money can’t buy happiness, explain pizza,” “Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a car than on a bicycle,” “Money can’t buy happiness; it can, however, rent it” and “Anyone who says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”

“What’s the use of happiness? It can’t buy you money” is a jocular reversal of the proverb.


Wiktionary: money can’t buy happiness
Proverb
money can’t buy happiness

1. Money can buy external things, but true happiness comes from inside.
Usage notes
Sometimes used ironically.

Wikiquote: French proverbs
L’argent ne fait pas le bonheur.
. Idiomatic translation: Money can’t buy happiness.
. Literal meaning: Money doesn’t make happiness.

Answers.com: Money can’t buy happiness
A recurrent theme in invectives against materialism down the ages, but this formulation of it appears to be comparatively recent.

Gold cannot buy happiness, and parents who compel their daughters to marry for money, or station, commit a grievous sin against humanity and God.
[1856 G. C. Baldwin Representative Women 215]
‘I had rather have friends who love me for my own sake‥than all the money in the world.’ ‘Money won’t buy happiness, Walter.’
[1873 E. Kellogg Arthur Brown vii. 118]
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.
[1984 Anon. in R. Byrne Other 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (1985) I. no. 220]
‘Bumstead, your problem is that you worry too much about money. Money can’t buy happiness, you know.’ ‘Has it bought you happiness, boss?’ ‘Yeah, but that’s just me!’
[2002 Washington Post 19 June C15 (Blondie comic strip)]

Google Books
Harley Radington:
A Tale in Two Volumes

By Dorothea Primrose Campbell
Volume I
London: A. K. Newman and Co.
1821
Pg. 7:
“Money indeed! na, na — money cannot buy happiness — it cannot buy love — it cannot buy life — more than it can gentle blood, or gentle manners; neither of which it will ever buy for you, Betty; so farewell again, farewell for ever!”

8 March 1866, New Hampshire Sentinel, “More Money,” pg. 1:
They toil, lie, cheat, swindle, and endanger their souls for wealth. There are but few exceptions to this rule—we are nearly all in the same boat. It is strange that humanity will conduct itself thus, when it sees how little pleasure is derived from their riches; when it knows, as well as it knows anything, that money cannot buy happiness. Professedly, happiness is what all are seeking, but all take a most singular path to find it. A very rough and toilsome and crooked path it is that we tread, to find bliss. And then it is not found at our journey’s end. The fact is, we are on the wrong track; the road we are travelling don’t lead to the haven of rest; wealth cannot bring happiness and peace of mind. And, still, we pursue the same route; we keep on the same trail; we toil on, swet, puff, blow, and go hungry and naked for a little more filthy lucre than is needed to put us through this vale of tears, to the first station beyond the “dark, rolling river.” How strange!

Google Books
Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag
By Louisa May Alcott
Boston, MA: Roberts Brothers
1878 (copyright 1877)
Pg. 148:
“Well, perhaps it wouldn’t be best on the whole. Industry is a good teacher, and money cannot buy happiness, as I know to my sorrow.”

Google Books
29 April 1882, Household Words (edited by Charles Dickens), pg. 529, col. 1::
“Money cannot buy happiness, father,” she answered; “and Mark is not so poor either, if that is your only objection.”

Google Books
The Man of Straw
By Edwin William Pugh
London: WIlliam Heinemann
1896
Pg. 93:
“Money can’t buy happiness,” Mrs. Polly Weed said.
“It’s good to have though,” said Eva, “and better to spend.”

27 March 1896, Logansport (IN) Pharos, pg. 4, col. 8:
Money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy a bicycle, and thus induce a happy frame of mind.

2 October 1896, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, Editorial Clippings, pg. 6:
MOST OF US THANKFUL TO GET THE IMITATION.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it secures a very good imitation.—Syracuse Post.

19 December 1897, Butte (MY) Weekly Miner, “Under the Mistletoe: A Story of Christmas” by Thomas J. Iveson, pg. 14:
“Your money is no reparation for the misery you have caused. Money cannot buy happiness.”

1 January 1901, Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Transcript, pg. 1, col. 4:
“There is excellent matter in this for a sermon on the theme of ‘Contentment,’” said a well known society woman, herself a mother of three children. “I dare say there are many families in moderate circumstances who are better satisfied with their lot in life now than they were before this affair came up. It serves to drive home the lesson that money can’t buy happiness.”

Google News Archive
8 December 1906, The Age (Melbourne, Australia), pg. 6, col. 5
Money cannot buy happiness. It is a mistake for young girls to marry rich old men. The old men worship the young women; the young women worship the money. If a young woman wants happiness, she had better marry some nice young fellow who cares enough about her to make her comfortable and contented.

Google Books
The Private Secretary: a farcical comedy in three acts
By Charles Hawtrey
New York, NY: Samuel French
1907
Pg. 7:
GIBSON. Money! Yes, I’ve plenty of money. But money can’t buy happiness, can it, Mrs. Stead?
MRS. STEAD. No, indeed, sir, it cannot.
GIBSON. No, and money can’t make a gentleman.

25 March 1914, Grand Rapids (MI) Press, pg. 7:
THE CONFESSIONS OF A WIFE
Money Can’t Buy Happiness

Google News Archive
28 December 1918, Woodville (MS) Republican, pg. 7, cols. 2-3:
“My best wish for all my friends,” said a writer, “is that they should have financial success. Perhaps money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy all sorts of things to keep happiness in. It can buy health and strength, freedom from anxiety and leisure to do the things you want to do. I never had any unhappiness that money couldn’t cure, aside from the actual death of a loved one; and in one case money could have prevented that. It doesn’t follow that a man will be happy because he is rich; but if a rich man knows how to be happy, he had a cinch. A poor man may know how and be all the more miserable for knowing. I wish with all my heart that you had a million—and would lend me about four hundred.”

Time magazine
The Rosy View
Monday, Jan. 29, 1951
Faith Baldwin has turned out novels at the rate of more than two a year for 30 years, plus uncounted shorts. Last week, like Authors Billy Rose and Somerset Maugham, she got her reward: her own television show.
(...)
But his wife and children clamorously reminded him of all the good times they had had together, and the 30-minute show ended with everyone misty-eyed and agreeing that money can’t buy happiness.

Forbes.com
Psychology
Money Won’t Buy You Happiness

Matthew Herper, 09.21.04, 3:00 PM ET
NEW YORK - It’s official: Money can’t buy happiness.

Sure, if a person is handed $10, the pleasure centers of his brain light up as if he were given food, sex or drugs. But that initial rush does not translate into long-term pleasure for most people. Surveys have found virtually the same level of happiness between the very rich individuals on the Forbes 400 and the Maasai herdsman of East Africa. Lottery winners return to their previous level of happiness after five years. Increases in income just don’t seem to make people happier--and most negative life experiences likewise have only a small impact on long-term satisfaction.

Google Books
Money Can Buy Happiness: How to Spend to Get the Life You Want
By M. P. Dunleavey
New York, NY: Random House, Inc.
2007

Wall Street Journal
April 16, 2008, 11:26 AM ET
It Turns Out Money Can Buy Happiness
By Sara Schaefer Munoz
According to the old sayings, money doesn’t buy happiness, and people on their deathbed never wished they’d spent more time in the office. However, some new research has found that more money actually can make you happy.

A story in today’s New York Times looks at the findings of two economists from the University of Pennsylvania who conclude money does indeed bring happiness, even if it doesn’t guarantee it. The findings run counter to a widely-cited 1974 happiness study that found gains in income, which provided more than basic necessities, didn’t make people happier — it just re-set the bar for them wanting more.

The Happiness Project
Happiness Myth No. 6: Money Can’t Buy Happiness.
March 09, 2009
Well, money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy lots of things that contribute mightily to happiness.

As the current financial downturn is making vividly clear, money contributes to happiness mostly in the negative; the lack of it brings much more unhappiness than possessing it brings happiness. (Good health is the same way – it’s easy to take money or health for granted until you don’t have it anymore.) People’s biggest worries include financial anxiety, health concerns, job insecurity, and having to do tiring and boring chores. Spent right, money can go a long way to relieving these problems. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • Saturday, June 06, 2009 • Permalink