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 July 12, 2004
“Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?” (riddle/joke)
"Who is buried in Grant's tomb?" is a famous New York City riddle. Ulysses S. Grant (1922-1885), the eighteenth president of the United States, and Julia Grant (1826-1902), his wife, is usually considered the correct answer, although both are entombed in sarcophagi above ground.

"Our Own Daily Riddle. What great general is buried in Grant's Tomb? (This will be answered tomorrow.)" was printed in the Daily News (New York, NY) on November 4, 1921. No answer was given the next day.

This is often given as an example of an easy question, such as "What color is my red car?" or "When was the War of 1812?" Groucho Marx (1890-1977) asked this question of some contestants on his quiz show, You Bet Your Life, as cited in the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal on April 3, 1949.

Grant's Tomb was once one of the most visited places in New York City, but no more. It was completed in 1897 and remains the largest mausoleum in North America.

Wikipedia: Grant's Tomb
Grant's Tomb, officially the General Grant National Memorial, is the final resting place of Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, and his wife, Julia Grant. It is a classical domed mausoleum, located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan in New York City. The structure is located in the median of Riverside Drive at 122nd Street, across from Riverside Church and Riverside Park.
On his radio and television show You Bet Your Life, comedian Groucho Marx often asked contestants, "Who was buried in Grant's Tomb?" The riddle is based on the use of the word "buried." The correct answer is "no one," since Grant and his wife are entombed in sarcophagi above ground in an atrium rather than being buried in the ground. However, Marx often accepted the answer "Grant," nonetheless, and awarded a consolation prize to those who gave it. He used the question, among several other easy ones, to ensure that everyone won a prize on the show.

4 November 1921, Daily News (New York, NY), "Wake of the News" by Uppercut, pg. 28, col. 4:
Our Own Daily Riddle.
What great general is buried in Grant's Tomb?
(This will be answered tomorrow.)

16 April 1930, Coshocton (OH) Tribune, April 16, 1930, pg. 2, col. 2:
Jim Talmadge - Who was buried in Grant's tomb?
"Doc" Wright - Dunno, but wasn't it the same guy that was president during Grant's administration?

21 August 1938, New York (NY) Times, "Sidelights of the Week," pg. 2E, col. 6:
There's an old New York joke: "What famous person is buried in Grant's Tomb?"

2 July 1942, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), Jack Bunker column, sec. 2, pg. 15, col. 7:
What's Your I. Q.?
Welcome relief to the "smarty-pants" quiz shows is the new quiz, It Pays to Be Ignorant, heard over WGRC at 8:30. Here are some of the brain testers posed by Tom Howard and George Shelton on this program planned for "anyone that is tired of matching wits with walking encyclopedias." First question: "What famous American general is buried in Grant's tomb?" "Whistler's mother was painted by what famous artist?" Sounds easy? Believe it or not, they've stumped several.

3 April 1949, Akron (OH) Beacon Journal, "Groucho's specialty is mater-of-fact madness," Parade magazine, pg. 20, col. 5:
In his present program, the first radio quiz he has ever conducted, he seldom permits a contestant to leave the mike broke. His stock questions to a stuck contestant are "Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?" and "Who wrote 'The Last of the Mohicans' by James Fenimore Cooper"?

3 July 1953, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 14, col. 1:
According to a rough count, there are now about twenty hours of quiz shows on network television. Of course, that's extending the quiz category pretty broadly. It includes, for instance, Groucho Marx blandly asking a studio contestant if he knows who is buried in Grant's Tomb.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • Monday, July 12, 2004 • Permalink