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 Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from October 01, 2019
“The buck stops here” (accept responsibility)

“Pass the buck” means to avoid responsibility. “The buck stops here” means to accept responsibility.

This was printed in the Lincoln (NE) Evening Journal on October 2, 1929:

“Capt. Joe Lehman tells a story that Jug should hear...It’s about the second lieutenant in the war department whose desk was back in the corner among the boxes and barrels...Above the desk the second looey had placed a card which read: ‘The buck stops here.’”

U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) was given a “The Buck Stops Here” desk sign on October 2, 1945. This helped to popularize the expression which had been used in the American military.

[This entry includes prior research by the Quote Investigator.]


Wiktionary: the buck stops here
Etymology
Popularized by US president Harry Truman. The phrase is based on the metaphorical expression passing the buck, derived from poker gameplay, that came to mean “passing blame”, or absolving oneself of responsibility or concern by denying authority or jurisdiction over a given matter.
Phrase
the buck stops here

1. (idiomatic) A statement that no excuses will be made, that the speaker is going to take direct responsibility for matters, rather than pass the responsibility to higher authorities.

Wikipedia: Buck passing
“The buck stops here”
“The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. Truman received the sign as a gift from a prison warden who was also an avid poker player. It is also the motto of the U.S. Naval Aircraft Carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

President Jimmy Carter arranged to borrow the sign from the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. Footage from Carter’s “Address to the Nation on Energy” shows the sign on the desk during his administration.

Harry S. Truman Library & Museum
“The Buck Stops Here” Desk sign
The sign “The Buck Stops Here” that was on President Truman’s desk in his White House office was made in the Federal Reformatory at El Reno, Oklahoma. Fred A. Canfil, then United States Marshal for the Western District of Missouri and a friend of Mr. Truman, saw a similar sign while visiting the Reformatory and asked the Warden if a sign like it could be made for President Truman. The sign was made and mailed to the President on October 2, 1945.

Image
Buck Stops Here - front
Buck Stops Here - back

Approximately 2-1/2” x 13” in size and mounted on walnut base, the painted glass sign has the words “I’m From Missouri” on the reverse side. It appeared at different times on his desk until late in his administration.

The saying “the buck stops here” derives from the slang expression “pass the buck” which means passing the responsibility on to someone else. The latter expression is said to have originated with the game of poker, in which a marker or counter, frequently in frontier days a knife with a buckhorn handle, was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the “buck,” as the counter came to be called, to the next player.*

(Oxford English Dictionary)
the buck stops here: H. S. Truman’s phrase for ‘the responsibility rests here’, i.e. the buck cannot be passed any further (see quot. 1952). (originally U.S.)
1952 H. S. Truman Public Papers, 1952–3 (1966) 1094/2 When the decision is up before you—and on my desk I have a motto which says ‘The buck stops here’—the decision has to be made.

Newspapers.com
2 October 1929, Lincoln (NE) Evening Journal, “I May Be Wrong” by John Bentley, pg. 13, col. 1:
Capt. Joe Lehman tells a story that Jug should hear...It’s about the second lieutenant in the war department whose desk was back in the corner among the boxes and barrels...Above the desk the second looey had placed a card which read: “The buck stops here.”

October 1939, Hospital Management, “Need for Education Stressed at Meeting of Laundry Managers,” pg. 55, col. 1:
Gen. Warfield spoke on “Co-operation,” emphasizing the value of doing the job without seeking to escape responsibility by referring to a motto he keeps on his desk—“The buck stops here.” He described the extensive system of laundries operated by the Army Quartermaster Department at Army posts, producing a profit for the department, as required by law.

Currently, Warfield is the leading candidate for crafter of this expression. Other individuals such as Spencer Z. Hilliard and Harry Truman also employed this saying, but citations suggest that the phrase was already in circulation.

Newspapers.com
26 April 1942, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), “Builders Beating Powder Works Contract Dates,” pg. 4, col. 1:
“Time is Short, Let Us Work,” say the signs at army headquarters at Baraboo, where Capt. Spencer Z. Hilliard adjutant, issues the press passes. Prize sign, however, also above his desk, is—“The buck stops here.”

Newspapers.com
1 October 1942, Reno (NV) Evening Gazette, pg. 26, col. 2 photo caption:
The Buck Stops Here
Col. A. B. Warfield (above), commandant of the Lathrop Holding and Reconsignment depot at Stockton, with the retired rank of brigadier general, is the ranking officer in the Stockton area. He has a record of forty-three years in the army and was a hero in the last war. He was twice wounded in World War I.
(The sign is shown on Warfield’s desk, right in front of him.—ed.)

Newspapers.com
25 November 1943, Montgomery (AL) Advertiser, “‘The Buck Stops Here,’ Officer Warns Others,” pg. 2, col. 2:
ATLANTA, Nov. 24—(AP)—Capt. Clifford M. Alexander has real hate for both buck passing and paper work.

Sitting behind a desk at headquarters of the Fourth Service Command on which there is a sign proclaiming, “The Buck Stops Here,” the captain recalled the building of a prisoner-of-war camp from kitchen to barracks in a single day.

Newspapers.com
18 June 1944, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), “Censorship Hits Truax Library,”
That, of course, is “the old army blame game.” But we couldn’t blame any of the officers along the way for “passing the buck” back to Washington where it originated.
(...)
We saw an adjutant in the army once who had a sign above his desk, “The buck stops here.” It probably was correct, and all the unwanted tasks from higher up that could be passed on eventually reached him.

24 August 1945, Casper (WY) Tribune-Herald, “Roundup of State News,” pg. 5, col. 2:
Governor Doesn’t Like Buck Passing
CHEYENNE—A neat, new sign stands on the desk of Gov. Lester C. Hunt. It reads: “The Buck Stops Here.”

Newspapers.com
21 October 1945, Knoxville (TN) Journal, “Merry-Go-Round” by Drew Pearson, pg. D4, cols. 5-6:
However, Truman’s latest gadget indicates the new determination of the new Chief Executive to speed government efficiency. It’s a little wooden sign saying, “The buck-passing stops here.”

Washington (DC) Post
‘The buck stops with everybody’: How Trump twists cliches to do his bidding
By Avi Selk
Jan. 11, 2019 at 6:06 p.m. EST
“The buck stops with everybody,” President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn on day 20 of the government shutdown crisis.
(...)
“The buck stops here,” was hardly the first phrase to fall beyond the event horizon into a Trumpian universe with different rules of logic. The saying was popularized nearly 70 years ago by President Harry S. Truman as a play on the expression “pass the buck,” which, according to his presidential library, derived from frontier days, when poker players would literally pass a buckhorn handle knife to assign responsibility for dealing the cards.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Tuesday, October 01, 2019 • Permalink