Joke Origin: To Double Your Money You Should Simply Fold Your Bills and Put Them in Your Pocket

Kin Hubbard? Will Rogers? Elbert Hubbard? Abe Martin? Max Eastman? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Proselytizers for get-rich-quick schemes are ubiquitous online. A popular joke describes a comically easy way to obtain illusory wealth. Here are two versions:

(1) To get rich you should convert your money to bills. Next, you should fold the bills, and you will double your money.

(2) The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.

This joke has been attributed to two prominent U.S. humorists: Kin Hubbard and Will Rogers. I have not seen a solid citation. Would you please help?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This family of wordplay gags has a long history, but it is difficult to trace because the phrasing varies. The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1805 within “The Green Mountain Patriot” newspaper of Peacham, Vermont. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[ref] 1805 December 31, The Green Mountain Patriot, Scraps, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Peacham, Vermont. (Newspapers_com) [/ref]

A PUNSTER observing a person folding some bank bills, a few days since, remarked, ‘You must be in excellent business, for I see you double your money very easily.’

The 1805 punster remains anonymous. Frank McKinney Hubbard, best known as Kin Hubbard, employed the joke in 1908 many years after it had entered circulation. The attribution to Will Rogers is unsupported.

Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.

Image Notes: Picture of a packet of folded bills from Nathan Dumlao at Unsplash. Image has been cropped.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to John Henderson of the Project Wombats mailing list who posted a collection of sayings attributed to Will Rogers which included the quip explored in this article. Also, thanks to discussants Bill Davis, Pete McCallum, Donna L. Halper and John Cowan. Special thanks to researcher Barry Popik who previously explored this topic and located a 1910 instance from Kin Hubbard.

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