Earl Wilson? Cy N. Peace? Earl Nelson? Whitt N. Schultz? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: I am trying to unearth the source of a quote credited to the columnist Earl Wilson which seems to be everywhere on the web but without a source:
Modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit-card gas.
Any help tracking this down would be appreciated.
Quote Investigator: In May 1960 the popular syndicated gossip scribe Earl Wilson did include this saying in his column as one of “Earl’s Pearls” [EWEP]. But the phrase entered circulation a few years before this. The earliest appearance located by QI was in a column called “Tower Ticker” in the Chicago Tribune on September 2, 1957 [HLCP]:
And Cy Peace in a national magazine quips, “Modern man is one who drives a mortgaged car over a bond financed highway on credit card gas!”
Many magazine issues are distributed in advance of their cover dates. The columnist was probably referring to The Saturday Evening Post which was a popular high-circulation periodical in the 1950s. The September 7, 1957 issue of the magazine printed the words in a box as a freestanding quotation. The saying was attributed to Cy N. Peace [SPCP].
On September 6, 1957 a nearly identical version was printed in a Portsmouth, Ohio newspaper. The column “Pete’s Pungent Patter” by Pete Minego listed the saying without an attribution [OHPP]:
Modern man: One who drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit card gas.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
A few months later on February 19, 1958 the common modern version of the saying was printed in a New Orleans, Louisiana newspaper. The words were attributed to someone named Earl Nelson [CREN]:
Of course, the parking problem could be easily solved if all cars were sold for cash only. “Modern man,” says Earl Nelson, “drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit card gas.”
On February 22, 1958 a version was printed on the front page in a small box adjacent to the name of the paper “The Gettysburg Times” of Pennsylvania. No attribution was given [GTFR]:
Modern man: One who drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway with gasoline bought on a credit card.
On 1958 May 27 the Chicago Tribune printed another variant of the quote with slightly modified wording and a new ascription [CTWS]:
Today’s modern man is the guy who drives a mortgaged car over a bond financed highway on credit card gas.
Whitt N. Schultz
The statement without attribution was also used in advertisements like this one in a newspaper in Iowa on July 12, 1958 [GGBI]:
“Modern Man Drives A Mortgaged Car Over A Bond Financed Highway With Gas Bought On A Credit Card.”
BRACKEN INSURANCE AGENCY
On October 16, 1958 the syndicated column “Office Cat” by Junius printed a version of the saying that matched the earliest known one by Cy N. Peace, but no attribution was given [OCJU].
Skipping forward to May 31, 1960, the popular newspaper man Earl Wilson included the saying in his column [EWEP]:
EARL’S PEARLS: The modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit-card gas.
In conclusion, the earliest known attribution for this statement points to Cy N. Peace as the creator. Within months of its first appearance, the names of other possible coiners were offered, e.g., Earl Nelson and Whitt N. Schultz. QI thinks that credit should provisionally be given to Cy N. Peace with the knowledge that future data may shift the attribution.
(Thanks to Thomas Aubrey whose query inspired the formulation of this question and motivated this exploration.)
[EWEP] 1960 May 31, Aberdeen American News [Aberdeen Daily News], Earl Wilson In Europe by Earl Wilson, Page 4, Column 5, Aberdeen, South Dakota. (GenealogyBank)
[HLCP] 1957 September 2, Chicago Tribune, Tower Ticker by Herb Lyon, Page C8, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
[SPCP] 1957 September 7, The Saturday Evening Post, Volume 230, Issue 10, Secret of Happiness by Hugh B. Cave, [Freestanding quotation in a box attributed to Cy N. Peace], Quote Page 92, Saturday Evening Post Society, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Ebsco)
[OHPP] 1957 September 6, Portsmouth Times, Pete’s Pungent Patter by Pete Minego, Page 21, Column 5, Portsmouth, Ohio. (NewspaperArchive)
[CREN] 1958 February 19, Times-Picayune, The Parking Problem by Clayton Rand, Quote Page 15, Column 6, New Orleans, Louisiana. (GenealogyBank)
[GTFR] 1958 February 22, Gettysburg Times, [Freestanding quotation in a box at the top right of the front page], Page 1, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)
[CTWS] 1958 May 27, Chicago Daily Tribune, Thought for a Rainy Thursday, [Quote credited to Whitt N. Schultz], Page 18, Chicago, Illinois. (ProQuest)
[GGBI] 1958 July 12, Mason City Globe-Gazette, [Advertisement for Bracken Insurance Agency], Page 18, Column 1, Mason City, Iowa. (NewspaperArchive)
[OCJU] 1958 October 16, The Kingston Daily Freeman, Office Cat by Junius, Page 14, Column 2, Kingston, New York. (Old Fulton)