Franklin P. Adams? Franklin P. Jones? H. B. Meyers? Sylvia Strum Bremer? Loring Smith? Mike Connolly? Steven Pinker?
Dear Quote Investigator: Public intellectual Steven Pinker recently published the bestselling book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress” which includes an entertaining quotation about nostalgia attributed to a prominent newspaper columnist: 1
As the columnist Franklin Pierce Adams pointed out, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”
I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: This saying was attributed to Franklin Pierce Adams in 1964 by the prominent publisher and quotation collector Bennett Cerf, but Adams had died in 1960, and Cerf is occasionally unreliable.
More than a decade before Adams received credit, the remark was ascribed to a columnist with a similar name, Franklin P. Jones. So Cerf may have confused the two names. Interestingly, the initial evidence found by QI occurred even earlier, and the saying appears to have evolved over time.
The May 1913 issue of “The American Food Journal” contained a prolix match within an editorial. H. B. Meyers was the editor, managing editor, and publisher of the journal. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2
“THE GOOD OLD DAYS.”
A certain class of people are fond of talking about “the good old days,” but they are for the most part individuals without imagination and with a very poor memory. As a matter of fact, there never was a time in the history of the world when the days were as good as they are right now in this year of our Lord 1913.
In 1950 a columnist in an Iowa newspaper, Sylvia Strum Bremer, presented a more concise version of the sentiment: 3
Everybody is always talking about “the good old days,” and a lot of the nostalgia expressed is simply the result of poor memory.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 2018, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker, Chapter 4: Progressophobia, Quote Page 48, Viking, New York. (Google Books Preview) ↩
- 1913 May, The American Food Journal, Volume 8, Number 5, “The Good Old Days”, Start Page 131, Quote Page 131, H. B. Meyers & Company, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books Full View) link ↩
- 1950 December 26, The Daily Times, Syl-o-ettes by Sylvia Strum Bremer, Quote Page 14A, Column 3, Davenport, Iowa. (Newspapers_com) ↩