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 Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 25, 2010
St. Wapniacl (Cabinet mnemonic)

"St. Wapniacl” was the old mnemonic to remember the offices of the President of the United States’ Cabinet. It was arranged in order of creation and importance: State, Treasury, War, Attorney-General, Postmaster-General, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor.

The mnemonic “St. Wapniacl” has been cited in print since at least 1917; “St, Wapniacl” became effectively obsolete in 1947, when the Department of War and the Department of the Navy were combined into the Department of Defense.

A more current Cabinet mnemonic has been: “See The Dog Jump In a Circle. Leave Her Home To Entertain Every Visitor Here.”

Wikipedia: St. Wapniacl
St. Wapniacl is a Mnemonic which was used for decades to help remember the offices of the President of the United States’ Cabinet, in their order of creation and importance.

The Mnemonic
Those cabinet offices were: State, Treasury, War, Attorney-General, Postmaster-General, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor.

This mnemonic has been obsolete since 1947 when the Departments of War and the Navy were combined into the Department of Defense by the National Security Act of 1947.

The usefulness of this mnemonic has been further eroded by the following changes to the US cabinet since 1947:

In 1953 the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created.
In 1965 the Department of Housing and Urban Development was formed.
In 1966 the US Department of Transportation was created.
In 1971 this old mnemonic was further undercut when the United States Postmaster General ceased being a cabinet level position.
In 1977 the Department of Energy was formed.
In 1979 the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was reorganized into the United States Department of Education and United States Department of Health and Human Services.
In 1988 the United States Department of Veterans Affairs was created.
In 2003 United States Department of Homeland Security

Modern Usage
Although obsolete for nearly sixty years, St. Wapniacl can still be found to be referenced on occasion. For instance on this webpage it can be found in a hypothetical question: “Is it true that St. Wapniacl is the patron saint of gov doc librarians and for what reason?”

Suggestions for replacement
A 1988 editorial in the New York Times first suggested a new mnemonic which has later been revised to become: See The Dog Jump In A Circle; Leave Her House To Entertain Educated Veterans’ Homes.

30 March 1917, Bode (IA) Bugle, pg. 4, cols. 3-4:
Found—A new method for remembering the departments of the President’s cabinet. Use St. Wapniacl as a key and remember them in the following order: State, Treasury, War, etc. 

Google Books
Our Enemy the Child
By Agnes De Lima
New York, NY: New Republic, inc.
Pg. 47:
In trying to learn the order of presidential succession this combination of the initials of the cabinet offices is helpful: ST. WAPNIACL.

Google Books
The Practical Teacher;
A handbook of teaching devices

By Charles Elmer Holley
New York, NY: The Century Co.
Pg. 189:
A teacher of civics used the device of a coined word as an aid in remembering the cabinet officers and the order of their origin in our governmental evolution . The coined word was St. Wapniacl. This word being composed of the first ...

20 April 1936, Mason City (IA) Globe-Gazette, pg. 13, col. 5:
I have it from a junior high school student that the word ST. WAPNIACL should be remembered by everybody as a helpful key to the American government setup. It sounds like a jumbled assortment of letters—and indeed it is. It is made up of the initial letters of the presidential cabinet officers in the order that they would succeed to the presidency in the event of the death or removal of president and vice president. First, secretary of state; second, secretary of treasury; third, war; fourth, attorney general; fifth, postmaster general; sixth, navy; seventh, interior; eighth, agriculture; ninth, commerce; tenth, labor.

30 July 1946, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, “National Archives In Capital Portrays Cycles To Future,” pg. 11, col. 3:
The Records Division, called “St. Wapniacl,” takes letters from State, Treasury, War, Attorney General (Justice), Post Office, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor. 

Google Books
How to Train and Improve Your Memory
By Allan L. Fletcher
Garden City, NY: Halcyon House
Pg. 105:
Almost every school child learned the order of United States presidential succession by remembering the mystical word “ST. WAPNIACL”, meaning that upon the death or removal of both the President and the Vice President, the members of…

Google Books
How to Build a Better Vocabulary
By Maxwell W. Nurnberg and W. T. Rhodes
New York, NY: Prentice-Hall
Pg. 120:
“St. Wapniacl is dead,” they now declare. “Long live St. Dipacal!” For St. Dipacal now reminds them that the branches of executive power in our Federal Government are the departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Postmaster General, Agriculture, Commerce, Attorney General, and Labor.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (0) Comments • Thursday, November 25, 2010 • Permalink