My Mission

Robert Sale-Hill’s poem, The True Origin and History of “The Dude” (The New York World, January 14, 1883) introduced the world to the word Dude, and kicked off a full-on Dude craze. A-Dude-a-Day[i] Blog is dedicated to preserving and sharing pics, pieces and poems from the early days of the Dude-craze of 1883. You can read more about the history and origin of the word Dude on my blogpost, "Dudes, Dodos and Fopdoodles" on my other blog, Early Sports 'n' Pop-Culture History Blog.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dude Songs

The Dude-Craze of 1883 spawned countless doggerel Dude-poems, bad Dude-jokes, and dozens of Dude-Songs. 

Here are a few examples:

A Yankee Dude'll Do (1883)

I'll Never Marry a Dude Girls (1883)

Dude! Dude!! Dude!!! (1883)

I'm a Dude (1883)

The Persecuted Dude (1883)

The Dude (1884)

Oh! I'm Not a Dude, and Don't You Forget It! (1884)

I'm a Dandy, But I'm Not a Dude (1885)

Butterfly Dude (1885)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

New York Dudes

The word, “Dude,” first appeared in New York City to describe a new type of “dandy,” “swell,” or “lah-de-dah” seen on the streets of New York.  Within New York, “Dudes,” generally, were a frequent target of satirists; outside of New York, “New York Dudes,” specifically, came under fire:

At breakfast the other morning a New York dude declined a piece of shad.  He had been told that fish food made brain, and he did not want to unfit himself for the position he held in society.

St. Tammany Farmer (Covington, Louisiana), May 5, 1883, page 3.

A New York dude fell under a Broadway omnibus wheel the other day, and was completely sub-dude. – Lowell Courier.

The Iola Register (Iola, Kansas), May 11, 1883, page 7.

“It is really quite amusing,” remarked a New York dude after landing in Philadelphia, “I am used to being admired by the women, you know, but to-day as I came down the steps of the Broad Street Station a dozen men began exclaiming: ‘Hansom! Hansom! Hansom!’ in such a loud tone of voice that I could not help overhearing.

The Iola Register (Iola, Kansas), May 25, 1883, page 2.

Midwesterners who mocked big city dudes may have secretly yearned to be Dudes:

The Dudes Have Come.

J. J. Bliss will take pleasure in showing you the real New York dude, with largest, finest and cheapest line of Millinery and Notions west of Chicago.

Omaha Daily Bee (Nebraska), October 3, 1883, page 7.  

“New York Dudes” became a stock character on the stage and in song:

 Yes,” said Mr. Tawmus, who is a very swell young man, “that dude song of Roland Reed’s is a nuisance.  The pesky thing gets to running in your head and the first you know you’re walking along the street singing: ‘I’m a dude, ha, ha!’ and folks are laughing at you.”” 
The News and Herald (Winnsboro, South Carolina), October 23, 1883, page 4.  

Roland Reed had been performing the role of a New York “Dandy” or “Swell” in the hit play, Cheek, since May 1882.  During the Dude-craze, he became a “Dude,” and not just any “New York Dude” – he was a “Perfect New York Dude.”


Everything new and elegant, including a view of Madison Square, New York, under the Electric Light.  Incidental to the play, Mr. Reed will introduce his latest successful son, “I’m a perfect New York Dude.”

Lancaster Daily Intelligencer (Pennsylvania), November 13, 1883, page 3.

The lead character in the racetrack farce, A Friendly Tip, was also a “New York Dude”:

Grand Opera House!

W. J. Ferguson,
In his great creation
Sir Chauncy Trip.
The New York Dude in J. H. Farrell’s farcical Comedy,


Daily Globe (St Paul Minnesota), October 24, 1883, page 1.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Dude of Saratoga

The original “Dudes” were the shiftless, indolent, empty-headed sons of wealthy, old-moneyed New York Wasps.  In language reflecting the casual racism of the time, an article about life at the summer resorts at Saratoga, New York in the summer of 1888, showed that an actual Dude might also be a hard-working, upwardly mobile African-American hotel waiter:

The Dude of Saratoga.  Albany Argus.  

I have thus far seen but three dudes at Saratoga, and the greatest of these was a negro.  He is still here.  He is as gaudy as a circus-wagon, and twice as handsome.  He condescends to act as a waiter at one of the hotels for a few hours each day, but during the large leisure of that class, and while his fellows are playing base-ball on South Broadway, or pitching quoits on back streets, he clothes himself in all his wardrobe’s glory and promenades Broadway.  No pains and but little expense is spared in his get up.  His natural color is as brilliant as that of a new rubber shoe.  His mouth is as handsome as a gash in an over-ripe watermelon.  His necktie is the reddest of the red, his gloves are white kids, and the tops of his gaiters are dove-colored.  During his triumphal march the backmen cease from troubling and the ‘busmen are at rest; the little dogs laugh to see such sport, and the tally-ho coach guard hath not where to blow his horn.

The Pascagoula Democrat-Star (Mississippi),  August 17, 1883, page 1.

A pair of Currier & Ives prints from the same period depict what the Saratoga Dude and his Dudine (in the gender-specific slang of the day) may have looked like:

Dude Looks Like a Lady - Aerosmith

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Our "Dude Presidents" - "Chet" Arthur and "Teddy" Roosevelt

On October 27, 2010, Daily Show host, John Stewart, called President Obama “Dude” on national TV.  It triggered a spate of hand-wringing opinion pieces about whether it was inappropriate for a talk-show comedian to call the President “Dude.” (See, for example, Wall Street Journal, LA Times).

But regardless of where you fall on that issue, Barack Obama was not the first “Dude” President.  President Chester (“Chet”) A. Arthur, who succeeded to the Presidency after President Garfield was assassinated, was known by the nickname, “Dude President,” and President Roosevelt, who succeeded to the Presidency after President McKinley was assassinated, had been known as a “Dude,” since at least 1884.

Chester A. Arthur

Chester (“Chet”) A. Arthur had the rare misfortune to be president at the very moment that the word, “Dude,” came into being.  He became President in 1881, when President Garfield was assassinated; the word, “Dude,” came to prominence in early 1883.  Arthur also had the fortune – literally – to afford to dress like a “Dude”:

He was known as the “Dude President,” because of his elegances of dress and surroundings, and when his term was over, and he went back to his lawyer’s office in New York, he was instantly forgotten.

The Pall Mall Budget (London), Volume 34, Number 948, November 25, 1886, pages 5-6.

But in 1880, the “Dude” (and other Presidential hopefuls) looked more like a lady while going through their paces at, "The Full Dress Rehearsal of the Grand Presidential Corps de Ballet":

Arthur is down on one knee, looking up; the eventual Republican nominee, Garfield, is on the left, holding his ankle (From the National Portrait Gallery).

The original “Dude” poem was published in book form, with a cover illustration showing a “Dude” descending a staircase; a flower in his lapel.  A portrait of Arthur, striking a similar Dude-like pose, was displayed in the White House in 1883[i]:

The President is represented as descending a pair of stairs, presumably those of the White House.  One foot is upon the ground and the other rests upon the last step, while he looks fondly down after a red, red rose that has slipped presumably from his buttonhole and is falling to the ground.  The whole pose is intensely aesthetic and strongly reminds one of “Bunthorne” in Patience.  It is too bad to think of our good looking Arthur meandering down through the coming years as the “Dude” President.

The Meridional (Abbeville, Louisiana), October 20, 1883, page 2.

But meander through the years he did.

During the “Dude” craze of 1883, political cartoonists lampooned the President’s fancy dressing habits:

The “Dude President” was no Imelda Marcos, but he is said to have had “33 suits of clothes, 21 pairs of shoes, and 165 pairs of pants, at the same time”:

Ironically, perhaps, another “Chet” (played by Bill Paxton in the classic teen-comedy, Weird Science,  called his brother and hisfriend “Dudes,” after Lisa (Kelly Le Brock) turned him into a turd.

Arthur, on the other hand, did not turn into a turd – he became less of a turd after taking office.  He had been placed on the Republican ticket with Garfield, a reformer, to placate his own, New York party-machine wing of the party.  But when Garfield was assassinated early in his term, Arthur continued Garfield’s reform policies, to the surprise of many onlookers.

Before he appeared at all in the Presidential campaign, “Chester A. Arthur,” or more familiarly “Chet. Arthur,” was in the very centre of New York “machine” politics, and by merit held a very “bad eminence” among a band of professional politicians whose tongues and hands were alike misemployed.  For seven years he held the collectorship of the port of New York, one of the biggest “spoils” in the possession of the party.  He was removed by President Hayes in the interests of reform, and then he made himself so prominent by political “mud-throwing” that nothing but a very high office could buy him, and with him the vote of New York.  His nomination for the Vice-Presidency was simply a sop to the more disreputable political elements of his city, and the life of Garfield was watched with greater anxiety because “Chet. Arthur” stood next in succession to supreme authority.  Responsibility, however, exerted its usual sobering effect, and if his presidency was not strikingly good it was at least not strikingly bad.

The Pall Mall Budget (London), Volume 34, Number 948, November 25, 1886, pages 5-6.

Early in his career as an attorney in New York City, long before he became part of a corrupt political machine, Arthur accomplished some good works.  He helped win the freedom of eight slaves who were passing through New York with their “master.”  He also helped desegregate the New York City transit system by winning the case of Elizabeth Jennings Graham, who had been denied a seat on a streetcar because of her race. 

Chester A. Arthur was not always a bad man; but he was always a “Dude!”

Teddy Roosevelt

President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt was a wealthy twenty-five-year-old New Yorker in 1883; a prime target for “Dude” taunters.  As a studious and industrious man, however, he was not the proto-typical dude; but that did not keep him, or any of the Roosevelts, safe.  His uncle Robert, for example, was branded a dude in May 1883:

When Mr. Robert Roosevelt, of New York, arose in the Legislature of the State to denounce something or other, attention was attracted by his affected manner and his faultless and somewhat finical attire.  He talked too long, and a restive member rose and begged the Clerk to read as germane to Mr. Roosevelt’s remarks an extract from a newspaper which he sent to the Clerk’s desk.  When the reading began it was found that the extract was a doggerel poem beginning:

Butler Citizen (Butler, Pennsylvania), May 16, 1883, page 1.

One year later, it was Teddy’s turn.  It happened at the 1884 Republican National Convention[ii]; Teddy’s national, political coming out party:


And now followed the most comical scene of this or any other convention.  When there was a little lull in the Blaine jubilation, Foraker . . . said: “I move that this convention take a recess until 7 p.m.” 

His words beyond “recess” were not heard further than his immediate surroundings, for yells of “No! no!” and “Ballot! Ballot!” went up and down and all around and caromed on the air from delegates and galleries until hell reigned again.  The New York independents, whom the Blaine papers disrespectfully style “political dudes,” were on their ears and feet at the same time. . . .
Wm. Walter Phelps, from New Jersey, mounted a chair and young Roosevelt, the par excellence political dude from New York, just in front of him – both wildly gesticulating with both hands and talking as fast and as loud as they could yell.

St. Paul Daily Globe, June 7, 1884, page 1.

After the convention, Teddy Roosevelt moved out to the Dakota Territory to live and work as a rancher for several years; when he first showed up, he was considered a “Dude”:

Roosevelt’s Dude Outfit

Young Fellows from New York Who Didn’t Take with the Cowboys.

“It was in 1885 that I first saw Roosevelt,” says H. W. Otis, of Peshastin, Wash., in Success Magazine. . . . .

“There were five or six young fellows from New York with Roosevelt, and we called them ‘the dude outfit.’”

St. Tammany Farmer (Covington, Louisiana), February 24, 1906, page 2.

Over time, he showed himself to be more than just a “Dude”:

Theodore Roosevelt would not be taken for a New York dude in his frontier garb among the cowboys out in the Bad Lands.  Parties recently stole his boat, and Theodore made affidavit in his mind that he would have that boat if he had to follow it to the Gulf of Mexico.  He took two men with him, and overtook the thieves about 100 miles down the river.  They showed fight, but were captured and brought back, and are now reposing in jail at Mandan.  They will have quarters at Bismarck in time.

St. Paul Globe, April 21, 1886, page 5.

By 1899, Roosevelt’s friends, the Eaton Brothers, had established the first, “Dude Ranch” in Medora, North Dakota; so-named because they entertained Eastern “Dudes,” like Roosevelt, who went out West to experience some Western adventure:

What Would Ben Corbin Do?

The Mandan Pioneer tells of the Eaton Brothers’ “dude” ranch at Medora where debilitated youths from the east spend the summer and rusticate among the Bad Lands, become strong and lusty in the invigorating air and indulge in genuine wolf hunts.

Bismarck Weekly Tribune (North Dakota), June 16, 1899, page 6.

Eaton’s Dude Ranch is still in business, but they relocated to Wyoming in 1904.[iii]

As for Roosevelt, he left the Dakota Territory in 1886, and went into politics full-time; eventually rising to the Presidency. 

Perhaps he had always been more “Dude” than cowboy.

[i] I could not find a record of the portrait on the National Portrait Gallery’s “Portrait Search” page.
[ii] Coincidentally, this was the same convention at which the idiom, “jump on the bandwagon” first came to prominence.
[iii] The Billings Gazette (Montana), July 12, 1904, page 1.