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 January 23, 2011
“Tell it to Sweeney! The Stuyvesants will understand.”

"Tell it to Sweeney! (The Stuyvesants will understand.)” was an advertisement for the New York (NY) Daily News, first appearing in August 1922. The Daily News positioned itself as the newspaper of the average working man—such as the Irish “Sweeney.” The name “Stuyvesant” was used to represent blue bloods. If you advertise in the Daily News and reach the Sweeneys of New York City, the Stuyvesants will also get the message.

‘Tell it to Sweeney!” had been in slang use since 1910. “If you have any harness trouble tell it to SWEENEY, the leading harness maker,” appeared as an ad in 1909, but it’s not certain if this is connected to the slang use. The song “Tell it to Sweeney,” with words by Will Dillon and music by Harry Von Tilzer, appeared in The Yankee Girl that opened in the Herald Square Theatre on February 10, 1910, and ran for 92 performances. The slang use is probably related to this song, with “Sweeney” being a typical Irish name for a policeman.


Wiktionary: tell it to Sweeney
Phrase
tell it to Sweeney

1.(idiomatic, dated) I do not believe what you said.
Synonyms
tell it to the marines

Google Books
Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang
By Jonathon Green
Cassell
2006
Pg. 1422:
tell it to Sweeney! excl. (also save it for Sweeney!) [20C+] (US)
a dismissive excl. of disbelief at a far-fetched statement.
[? anecdotal or Sweeney as generic]

Wikipedia: 1910 in music
The Yankee Girl Broadway production opened at the Herald Square Theatre on February 10 and ran for 92 performances

6 June 1909, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 15, col. 1:
Use a Sweeney Collar
FOR A SWEENIED HORSE—If you have any harness trouble tell it to SWEENEY, the leading harness maker. Broad and Marker Sts.

Google Books
Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 3, Volume 5, Issue 1
By Library of Congress. Copyright Office
Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office
1910
Pg. 590:
TELL IT TO SWEENEY: from The Yankee girl, words by Will Dillon, music by H. Von Tilzer.
[10378
c Mar. 5, 1910; 2 c. Mar. 5, 1910; E225990; harry Von Tilzer music pub. co., New York, N. Y.

27 February 1910, Springfield (MA) Republican, pg. 23:
Blanche Ring has a new song which promises soon to become as much of a nuisance as “Rings on her fingers.” It is called “Tell it to Sweeney.”

21 April 1910, Portsmouth (NH) Daily Herald, “At Navy Yard,” pg. 8, col. 3:
Tell it to Sweeney
The skipper of the Yeast Cake is advising the orators of his crew to hire a hall owing to the fact that he is disturbed in his duty by the arguments on tariff and the cost of living by certain members who have furnished a supply for the hot air tanks.

Google Books
May 1910, Good Housekeeping Magazine, ‘The Sunday Comic Supplement” by Mary Garvin Pedrick, pg. 626, col. 1:
Do you wonder, then, where boys acquire the spirit of lawlessness and irreverence? Or how it is possible for the average girl to possess so precocious a mind and so extensive a slang vocabulary? We give it them every Sunday. Here is a sample of one page chosen at random: “Soak him one for me—cut it out—Rats! Get the hook—Right Q—Oh, tell it to Sweeney—smoke up—you ain’t loco furioso, are you? I love my tamale, but oh you smelt!”

Google Books
20 July 1910, Engineering and Contracting, ‘The Burglar and the City Engineer,” pg. 33, col. 3:
“Tell it to Sweeney,” said the officer.

20 July 1910, Baltimore (MD) Sun, “Hailed As ‘Next Mayor’”: Mrs. Hooker Encouraged While Speaking For Suffrage,” pg. 5:
As the speakers launched forth into their best oratory, a boy shouted “Keep it up, I’m with you,” and.as to dampen the ardor of his companion other replied, “Oh, tell it to Sweeney.”

26 July 1910, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “Married twice in 72 hours to please their parents,” pg. 3:
Tell it to Sweeney. But not to Hogan.

August 1910, The Blacksmiths Journal, pg. 25, col. 2:
ALL blacksmiths and helpers who have changed their address will confer a favor on the secretaries of their respective locals if they would notify them of such changes. If you are a member of Local No. 14 and have moved to other parts, “TELL IT TO SWEENEY.” R. E. Sweeney, 4400 Princeton Ave., Chicago, Ill. 

21 May 1911, New York (NY) Times, “Books, old and new, as a convict sees them,” pg. X7:
Adventures of Baron Munchausen (No. 2,704)...Rudolf E. Raspe
Go as far as you like with this. When the Baron drew the long bow in the “shorter and uglier” class he carried off all the tin cups and breast plates; no one was dippy enough to try to give him a race for his money. Tell it to Sweeney, Baron.

Chronicling America
15 October 1911, Washington (DC) Herald, “Sleuth May Tell Sweeney Who Stole His $60 in Bills,” pg. 1, col. 5:
Sweeney reported his loss to the police and declared no one had seen him hide the money. He wants to know how the thief knew the money was there. Detective Barbee is trying to “tell it to Sweeney.”

8 February 1920, New York (NY) Times, “Americans As ‘Easy Marks’ for Foreign Celebrities” by Benjamin De Casseres, pg. SM5:
When some one got off a cock-and-bull story in our presence we used to say, “Tell it to Sweeney,” or “Tell it to the marines.” They have the equivalent for this phrase in all the languages of Europe. It is, roughly translated: “Go tell it to the Americans!”

24 October 1922, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 26, col. 1 ad:
In New York --
TELL It to Sweeney!
[The Stuyvesants will understand]

(...)
THE NEWS
New York’s Picture Newspaper

OCLC WorldCat record
Telling it to Sweeney ... a journal for advertisers
Publisher: [New York, 1924-33]
Edition/Format:  Journal, magazine : Periodical : English

16 March 1926, New York (NY) Times, pg. 17 ad:
TELL IT TO SWEENEY!
(The Stuyvesants will understand)
THIS advertisement was written four years ago, to identify and interpret the mass circulation of The News. It is now one of a series of twenty that is widely known in advertising circles as the best presentation and interpretation of the mass market of New York.

SWEENEY lives in an apartment in Brooklyn, or on upper Manhattan, or in the Bronx, or has a house on Staten Island or in Nutley, N. J.

It is Sweeney who swells the municipal Marriage License Bureau each spring and fall. He marries comparatively early and raises a family—usually a good sized one.

Sweeney’s children grow fast. They need baby carriages, foods, medicines, shoes, clothing, books, pianos, bathing suits, Christmas trees, tonsilotomy, tuition, trousseau, phonograph records—in fact, everything.

Sweeney’s sons filled both rear and front ranks in the late war; some of them stood ahead of the ranks. They drive trucks, belong to trade unions, work in offices, sell goods and run businesses.

Sweeney’s daughters go to school, some of them to college; some of them work in facgtories, pound typewriters, sell retail merchandise, design Paris frocks. Eventually 75% of them marry.
. . .
SWEENEY and Mrs. Sweeney are ambitious and expectant of Life. They believe in God, the United States and life insurance. They respect education, and want the kids to have plenty of it. They look forward to grapefruit for breakfast, their own homes, a little car, money in the bank and a better future for the Sweeney juniors. Today some of the Sweeneys are buying Pierce Arrows and Long Island estates; more of them will, tomorrow. THe Sweeneys know what they want—and get it. They want the best, and whenever possible—get it.
. . .
SWEENEY’S name in New York may be Smith, or Cohen, or Muller, or Nelson, or La Voie—or Sweeney.

There are more than a million families of Sweeneys in and around New York, with incomes that run from $6,000 down.

You men who aspire to sell large bills of goods to New York, remember the Sweeneys. They comprise 75% of any large city’s population. Address your advertising, your sales messages. to them because they are your best customers. They keep right on living and dying, earning and spending money, buying and using merchandise. They are not har to sell, and they are good folks to do business with. And remember, when you talk to Sweeney, the people of bluer blood and more money who read The News will understand; whereas if you talk to Stuyvesants, the Sweeneys won’t listen. You can’t lose by telling it to Sweeney, in a medium he reads and believes.

The Internet Movie Database
Tell It to Sweeney (1927)
60 min - Comedy - 24 September 1927 (USA)
Director: Gregory La Cava
Writers: Monte Brice (story), Kerry Clarke, and 3 more credits
Stars:Chester Conklin, George Bancroft and Jack Luden

13 October 1929, New York (NY) Times, “Our Wisecracks Live Fleetingly,” pg. XX13:
Probably by far the larger proportion of wisecracks are expressions of scorn or derision. It is some time since “Tell it to Sweeney” or “Tell it to the marines” was new, and the advice to “go away back and sit down,” which found its way into a more or less popular song, sounds archaic now.

OCLC WorldCat record
Tell it to Sweeney
Author: George Albert Drovin
Publisher: Philadelphia : Penn, ©1934.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Tell it to Sweeney!
Author: Republican National Committee (U.S.)
Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : [Republican National Committee, 1936?]
Edition/Format:  Book : English

Time magazine
The Press: Sweeney Told
Monday, Jun. 20, 1938
Over the entrance to the severely handsome Daily News building in Manhattan is chiseled the following fragment from Abraham Lincoln: HE MADE SO MANY OF THEM. More than 2,000,000 of the common people whom God loved and of whom He made so many read the earthy tabloid produced in this building. Every News executive knows that the inscription is not an empty slogan, for the News has profited and grown because of the publisher’s uncommonly sensitive common touch. Its blunt advice to advertisers: Tell it to Sweeney—the Stuyvesants will understand.

29 July 1948, New York (NY) Times, pg. 21: 
JOHN J. SWEENEY
PITTSBURGH, July 28 (AP)—John J. Sweeney, former police magistrate credited with being responsible for the phrase, “tell it to Sweeney,” died Monday at the age of 87.

A colorful politician, he possess a sharp Irish wit, and made police court history during his long term. His hearings were marked by such unorthodox procedures and lively repartee between magistrate and defendant that they attracted noted visitors. Edgar Guest, the poet, and Walter Kelly, the “Virginia Judge” of the stage, attended the hearings whenever they were in town.

Some lexicographers assert that the phrase “tell it to Sweeney” originated when police would tell protesting prisoners:

“Tell it to Sweeney in the morning.”

OCLC WorldCat record
Tell it to Sweeney, the informal history of the New York Daily News.
Author: John Chapman
Publisher: Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1961.
Edition/Format:  Book : English : [1st ed

Time magazine
The Press: After the Captain
Friday, May. 26, 1961
“It won’t last five years after I die.” Captain Joseph Medill Patterson may have been only half joking when he predicted the end of the New York Daily News, the big and boisterous tabloid that he ran as a one-man show from the day he helped found it* in 1919 until his death in 1946. But his survivors on the paper knew better than to fiddle with the captain’s successful formula. “Those who are left behind,” said the News in an obituary editorial, “will do their best to keep this page and the paper what he would want them to be.”

What the captain wanted the News to be is laid out in lavish detail in Tell It to Sweeney (Doubleday; $4.95), an affectionate excursion through the News’s past conducted by its longtime Drama Critic John Chapman. (The title derives from a series of early News advertisements that projected the paper’s strong working-class appeal and urged Manhattan merchants to “Tell it to Sweeney; the Stuyvesants will take care of themselves.")

Google Books
Tell it to Sweeney, the informal history of the New York Daily News.
By John Chapman
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
1961
Pg. 133:
The genesis of the line on the News Building is a catch phase coined by Leo E. McGivena, “Tell it to Sweeney! The Stuyvestans will understand. There were variants of this, such as “Tell it to Sweeney! The Stuyvesants take care of themselves.”

New York (NY) Times
Maxwell Seeks More Savings At The News
By ALEX S. JONES
Published: March 20, 1991
(...)
After starting The News in 1919, Mr. Patterson crafted his paper for New York’s common man, whom he dubbed “Sweeney.” The paper’s slogan, “Tell it to Sweeney! The Stuyvesants will understand,” captured the imagination of both readers and advertisers, and the paper flourished.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Sunday, January 23, 2011 • Permalink


The Yankee Girl launch in Herald Square was such an important piece of New York history.

Posted by Herald Towers  on  01/25  at  11:02 AM

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