The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

Where Did the Phrase “Jump on the Bandwagon” Come From?

“Calliope! the wonderful operonicon or steam car of the muses.” From 1874

You’ve probably heard the idiom “jump on the bandwagon”, but where did it come from?

As it turns out, it’s another phrase that comes from the circus.

The phrase has simple origins. In the early 19th century, circuses had their own band wagons that carried the circus band. The wagons would ride through parade routes, carrying performers and even important citizens.Bandwagon01

Circus owner Phineas T. Barnum referred to the vehicle in his quite literally titled The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself: “At Vicksburg we sold all our land conveyances excepting four horses and the ‘band wagon’.” To our knowledge, however, he didn’t create the term “jump on the bandwagon.”

However, the eloquent Barnum did coin a number of other terms: he popularized “Siamese twins” and created the phrases “There’s a sucker born every minute” and “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” (You can see the trend here. Must come from working in the circus.)Bandwagon03

The flashy circus bandwagons attracted the public while rolling through town; soon, politicians saw the benefit of this marketing technique and began to use bandwagons during their campaigns. You could say they “jumped on the bandwagon” of jumping on the bandwagon.

The “jump on the bandwagon” phrase soon came to apply to political causes and picking sides with a politician; speakers used the phrase in their speeches, warning not to jump too quickly on opponents’ ‘bandwagons’.Bandwagon02

Today the phrase means supporting something that’s popular, the implications of which notwithstanding.

Now you know: the bandwagon you’re jumping on came from the circus.

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