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 18, 2010
Shakedown (Shake Down)

"Shakedown” (or “shake down” or “shake-down") had several meanings in the 1800s, including “a riotous, boisterous dance” (1889) and “an improvised bed on the floor” (1891).

It is not known when “shakedown” came to mean “extortion” (as if shaking someone for the money in his or her pockets to come out), but this meaning appears to have been used by 1902. Politicians often perform shakedowns (legally or illegally) for campaign donations or bribes. In June 2010, Texas Congressman called President Barack Obama’s BP oil spill fund a “$20 billion shakedown.”


Wiktionary: shakedown
Etymology
shake +‎ down, from the phrase “shake down”.
Noun
shakedown (plural shakedowns)
1. (slang) Extortion, especially through blackmail
What is this, a shakedown?
2. (slang) A thorough search; a frisk
3. A trial or test period, especially of a ship or aircraft

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary
Main Entry: shake·down
Pronunciation: \ˈshāk-ˌdau̇n\
Function: noun
Date: circa 1730
1 : an improvised bed (as one made up on the floor)
2 : a boisterous dance
3 : an act or instance of shaking someone down; especially : extortion
4 : a thorough search
5 : a process or period of adjustment
6 : a testing under operating conditions of something new (as a ship) for possible faults and defects and for familiarizing the operators with it

Google Books
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
By Jonathon Green
Cassell
2006
Pg. 1257:
shake down v.
1. [mid-19C+] (also shake) to blackmail, to extort money (from).
2. [late 19C-1910s] to obtain a financial contribution, e.g. to a political campaign.
3. [20C+] of (usu.) police, to search, to raid, also (prison) to search a cell.
4. [1910s] to pay protection to the police involuntarily.
5. [1930s+] to interrogate; to elicit information.
6. [1930s+] (W.I.) to rob.
7. [1950s] to empty out.
8. [1980s+] (US Black) to rape.
9. [1990s+] () to have sex with.
10. [1990s+] to beat at cards.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
shake-down
A forced contribution; an instance of extortion. Cf. SHAKE v. 16c. orig. and chiefly U.S.
1902 in Dict. Americanisms (1951) s.v. shake, To the historic phrase ‘blackmail’..have been added, as words of similar evil omen, the new and expressive terms shake-down and rake-off.
1903 A. H. HODDER Fight for City 219 He [sc. a New York policeman] was fined 30 days’ pay because he would not stand for a ‘shake~down’, which means that he had refused to give from time to time upon demand 5 or 10 dollars..to his superiors to be used for purposes unknown.
1916 J. LONDON Let. 12 Oct. (1966) 473 A usurer..slunk out because..he saw the shake-down of me would not go through.
1941 Sun (Baltimore) 31 Mar. 1/7 Jack Pollack..was named..as the man behind a demand for a $2,500 ‘shakedown’ to kill a liquor license bill in the Legislature.

Google Books
Dictionary of Americanisms:
A glossary of words and phrases usually regarded as peculiar to the United States

By John Russell Bartlett
Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co.
1889
Pg. 575:
Shake down. A riotous, boisterous dance, so called in the West. In the Eastern States, the Virginia reel, which generally closes a social ball or dancing party, is called a break-down.

Google Books
The American slang dictionary
By James Maitland
Chicago, IL: R.. Kittredge & Co.
1891
Pg. 236:
Shake-down, an improvised bed on the floor.

7 January 1902, New York (NY) Times, “Aldermen Excited Over Bribery,” pg.1:
To the historic ohrase “blackmail,” which originated when robber barrons openly demanded money as the price of letting people alone, have been added, as words of similar evil omen, the new and expressive terms “shake-down” and “rake-off.”

Google Books
September 1903, Columbus Medical Journal, pg. 433:
It has been the experience of these mutual associations that the majority of suits actually begun, or threats of suits, are what are known in slang parlance as a “shake down” for the doctor. Rather than appear in court or go to the expense of retaining an attorney for the defense of the suit, the plaintiff and his attorney hope that he will pay a small sum—from one to three hundred dollars—and thus avoid the trouble and worry of litigation and the incidental publicity.

Google Books
A dictionary of slang and colloquial English; abridged from the seven-volume work, entitled: Slang and its analogues
By John Stephen Farmer and William Ernest Henley
New York, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co.
1905
Pg. 400:
Shake-down.
1. An improvised bed; also as verb, to sleep on a (Pg. 401—ed.) temporary substitute for a bed.
2. A brothel kept by a panel-thief. (q.v.).
3. A rough dance, a break-down (q.v.).

12 October 1905, Morning Olympian (Seattle, WA), pg. 2:
Mr. Alling said yesterday that he proposes to “shake down” the gambling case for all there is in it. In Mr. Alling’s slang vocabulary, “shake down” may mean to prosecute, but when the gamblers read Mr. Alling’s statement they will immediately proceed to take an inventory of the bank roll.

Google News Archive
4 February 1906, Bridgeport (CT) Herald, pg. 13, col. 4:
DANBURY MAN
GRAFT VICTIM
Henry Vaughan Related Strange
Story of Political Shakedown on
the Reservoir Scheme.


Google Books
July 1910, New England Magazine, “Criminal Slang” by Joseph M. Sullivan, pg. 588:
“Shake down” is paying for police protection against your will, and a “dead criminal” is one who has become discouraged, reformed or given up grafting.

14 January 1911, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 3:
Now I see that our discredited Water Board declines to let go so much as one of the ward heelers who have been so long on the job, and who have waxed so fat, despite the shakedown of five per cent. of their wages for the Republican pot. 

30 October 1914, Jersey Journal (NJ), pg. 20, col. 1:
“Steuerwald on this very corner a year ago, in my hearing and, in the hearing, no doubt, of many of you said that Griffin’s officeholders were crapshooters and shake down artists and that no one could get a job with the city unless he belonged to the Amalgamated Order of Crapshooters, the society of Shakedown Artists, or the Moving Picture Hold-up Association.

7 January 1920, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 2:
MAYES HALTS A “SHAKEDOWN.”
No Forced Political Contributions
From Employees of Agriculture Board

JEFFERSON CITY, Jan. 7.—The persistent activities of the Democratic state committee, from its headquarters in Kansas City, in seeking to “shake down” political contributions from every department of the state government under control of a Democrat, met with a severe rebuke today from Jewell Mayes, secretary of the state board of agriculture.

10 June 1921, Fort Wayne (IN) News Sentinel, pg. 4, col. 3:
The union labor man has been too prone to look complacently upon the wrangles between business agents and contractors or property owners in the belief that at worst it meant nothing to him, even if the agent did shake down some millionaire for a few thousand dollars.

OCLC WorldCat record
The big shakedown
Author: John Francis Dillon
Publisher: 1934.
Edition/Format: Film : English
Summary: “New Yorkers Norma Nelson and Jimmy Morrell plan to get married just as soon as their neighborhood drugstore starts to make money. The opportunity presents itself one day when former bootlegger Dutch Barnes stops in for a headache powder. Jimmy is out of the brand Dutch requests, but offers to make up one just like it. On learning that Jimmy can make up duplicates of everything in the store for less money, Dutch offers Jimmy a job manufacturing counterfeit toothpaste. Although he doesn’t like the idea, Jimmy decides there is no real harm in it and agrees. Dutch branches out into cosmetics and once again Jimmy participates despite Norma’s disapproval. Jimmy balks, however, when Dutch asks him to make a popular antiseptic, explaining that he is unable to get the essential ingredient. Dutch offers him a bonus, which enables Jimmy to marry Norma, and he reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, Dutch’s former girl friend, Lily Duran, jealous over his attentions to another woman, gives evidence against him, and the antiseptic company prosecutes. Sheffner, the chemist who invented the formula, makes a personal visit to Jimmy to warn him, and Jimmy agrees to sever his association with Dutch. To prevent this, Dutch makes sure that Jimmy is involved in Lily’s murder. Now that there is no witness, the company is forced to drop their lawsuit. With this new hold on Jimmy, Dutch forces him to make fake digitalis. Norma is given some during childbirth and loses her baby. Vengefully, Jimmy goes after Dutch, but Sheffner gets there before him. He shoots Dutch, who falls into a vat of hydrochloric acid. Jimmy tells everything to the district attorney. Dutch’s men go to prison, Jimmy is exonerated, and he and Norma go back to running a simple neighborhood drug store"--AFI catalog, 1931-1940

The Huffington Post
Carl Pope
Chairman, Sierra Club
Posted: June 18, 2010 06:09 PM
The $20 Billion Shakedown
Washington, D.C.—We are living in a “through the looking glass” world. The global markets (which free-market reactionaries like Congressman Joe Barton allegedly believe in) put the cost to BP of the Deepwater Horizon disaster blunder at $80 billion—that’s how much the company’s market cap has declined. Yesterday, to speed up the process of getting those damaged by BP made partly whole, President Obama successfully persuaded the company to set aside $20 billion in an escrow fund—one quarter of what the supposedly “infallible” markets think the company should be setting aside. To reassure everyone that it would have the cash to meet its obligations, BP also agreed to cancel its dividend. The result? BP’s stock went up. (BP CEO Tony Hayward’s testimony to Congress yesterday, most of which featured the response most favored by criminal defense lawyers everywhere—“I don’t recall”—failed to have a similar positive effect on the markets.)

So how did the Republican leadership in Congress react? Well, Congressman Joe Barton expressed his shock and horror, actually apologizing to the company for “a tragedy of the first proportion.” No, he wasn’t talking about the spill but about the escrow fund. Barton then went on to call the fund “a $20 billion shakedown.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, June 18, 2010 • Permalink