“The first generation builds the business, the second makes it a success, and the third wrecks it” is another version of the old saying: “It is only but three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.” American businessman Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) wrote the “three generations in America from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves” remark in 1886, but the expression has been cited in print since at least 1874.
“Shirtsleeves” represents a working person’s shirt, but the expression is dated in an information age and the longer explanation is often used. An older expression—possibly from Lancashire in the 1700s—is “from clogs to clogs in three generations.”
Wikiquote: Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie (25 November 1835 - 11 August 1919) was a Scottish-American businessman, a major philanthropist, and the founder of the Carnegie Steel Company, which later became U.S. Steel.
. Three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.
27 June 1874, Appletons’ Journal, “Charles Dudley Warner,” pg. 802, col. 3:
In America, where there are “but three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves,” the whole of a son’s fortune is well spent upon his training, though he must go out into life with the tastes of a gentleman, and no income to sustain them.
24 June 1883, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, “Applies Almost Everywhere,” pg. 2:
The following, from the Mount Holly Mirror, will strike the reader as being applicable to almost every locality: “It is possible that some of our airy, if not brainy, young men and women, who affect so much superiority on very small capital, have never heard the old saying that it is ‘but three generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves, from wash-tub to wash-tub.’”
9 July 1884, Wheeling (WV) ,i.Register, pg. 2:
GREAT FORTUNES MELTING AWAY.
Why it is Only Three Generations From
Shirt Sleeves to Shirt Sleeves.
Now and then a family retains its wealth two or three generations, but, as a rule in this country, it is only three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves again.
Triumphant democracy; or, Fifty years’ march of the republic
By Andrew Carnegie
New York, NY: Scribner
There are but three generations in America from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves. Under such conditions an aristocracy of wealth is impossible.
Addresses upon the labor question
By Edward Atkinson
Boston, MA: Franklin Press, Rand, Avery, & Co.
The old saying is a very true one: “Three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves.” Perhaps, in these modern’ times, it may be four, possibly five; but that is about the end of it.
December 1887, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, “Earthworms and Society,” pg. 912:
So they in their turn will give place to the new and obscure, just as they once compelled their predecessors to do for them, making it, as Mr. Beecher forcibly expresses it, “about three generations from shirt to shirt-sleeve.”
Uncle Sam at home
By James Howard Bridge
New York, NY: Holt
It was a Pittsburgher, by the way, who said that in America there are only three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves.
Romance: being the tales of the New York Story Club
By New York Story Club
But you know, Bertha, in America it is three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves. I have always thought that a man of inherited fortune should fit himself to earn a living if necessary.
July 1893, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, ‘The Function of Slang” by Professor Brander Matthews, pg. 305:
It has been said that the changes of fortune are so sudden here in these United States that it is only three generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves.
By George Fox Tucker
Boston, MA: G.B. Reed
It is a common remark that in this country it takes only three generations to pass from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves. First appears the sturdy toiler aided by his frugal wife, then comes the gullible inheritor, and finally the penniless youth who, if he is to do anything, must, like his grandfather, do it himself.
Breakers ahead; or, Whither are we drifting?
By Jane R Griffing
New York, NY: J.S. Ogilvie
“Five generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves” used to be considered the ordinary duration of an American fortune, its growth and decay, but in many instances the “shirtsleeves” have become only a shadowy reminiscence, with no prospect of returning in actiual fact.
Sex Searchlights and Sane Sex Ethics;
An anthology of sex knowledge
By Lee Alexander Stone
Chicago, IL: Science Pub. Co.
There is — or used to be — a proverb in the United States, “There are three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.” That is to say, the grandfather starting in his shirtsleeves, as a farmer or laborer, his son amasses a fortune, which in turn is “scattered to the birds” by a grandson, who ends life as his grandfather began it—working in his shirtsleeves.
Google News Archive
16 May 1930, Berkeley (CA) Daily Gazette, “Late Sessions of State Club Meet Held Today,” pg. 8, col. 4:
Rev. Laurance L. Cross of the Northbrac Community Church, Berkeley, spoke on “Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves.” He said:
“There is an old saying that it takes three generations to go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves. It means that the first generation makes the money, the second spends it, and the third has tp make it all over again. The first generation builds up a business, the second lets it go to pieces, and the third starts again at the bottom. The first generation fights for freedom, the second, refuses to vote, and the third, with democracy turned to dictatorship, has to begin all over again.”
Keeping the Family Business Healthy:
How to plan for continuing growth, profitability, and family leadership
By John L. Ward
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
The first generation builds the business, the second generation “milks” or “harvests” it, and the third generation must either auction what is left to the highest bidder or start all over again.
The Warren Buffett CEO:
Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers
By Robert P. Miles
New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons
All these axioms and sayings suggest the same sequence: The first generation builds the business, the second generation “milks” or “harvests” it, and the third generation must either auction off what’s left or start all over again.
New York (NY) Times
Harnessing the Simple, but Effective Art of Referral Marketing
By PAUL B. BROWN
Published: April 15, 2008
The game takes its name from the old adage, From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations: the first generation builds the business creating wealth; the second generation inherits it and the third generation destroys it.
China’s rich worry their heirs will squander fortunes
Updated 7/15/2010 12:42 AM
In the West, there’s a saying that the first generation builds the business, the second makes it a success, and the third wrecks it, says Briton Alex Newman, a lecturer in international business at Nottingham University Business School in Ningbo, Zhejiang. “In China, it’s happening in the second generation,” Newman says.
OCLC WorldCat record
Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves : in three generations.
Author: William Abbott
Publisher: [S.l.] : Xlibris Corp, 2010
Edition/Format: Book : English