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.