A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from August 19, 2019
“Hey, Rube!” (circus cry)

"Hey, Rube!” was the rallying cry of employees of the circus in the 1800s. The traveling circus often had fights with the local townspeople, and the cry was a call for help (often to bring clubs). “Rube” means “Reuben,” a generic term for a country person.

“‘Hey, rube!’ It is the rallying-cry of war for every employe of the show, and when it is shouted it means ‘biz’ from the word ‘go’” was printed in the Cincinnati (OH) Daily Enquirer on February 23, 1878.

Wikipedia: Hey, Rube!
“Hey, Rube!” is a slang phrase most commonly used in the United States by circus and traveling carnival workers ("carnies"), with origins in the middle 19th century. It is a rallying call, or a cry for help, used by carnies in a fight with outsiders. It is also sometimes used to refer to such a fight: “The clown got a black eye in a Hey, Rube.”

In the early days of circuses in America (c. 1800–1860), it was very common for carnies to get into fights with the locals as they travelled from town to town. Circuses were rowdy, loud, and often lewd affairs, where country people could gather, blow off steam, and voice political views. Mark Twain’s classic description of a circus and other shows in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn provides illustration. It was a rare show that did not include at least some violence, and this often involved the members of the circus.

When a carnie was attacked or in trouble, he would yell “Hey, Rube!” and all carnies in earshot would rush to his aid. Circus pioneer and legendary clown Dan Rice called it “a terrible cry, [meaning] as no other expression in the language does, that a fierce deadly fight is on, that men who are far away from home [travelling circus workers] must band together in a struggle that means life or death to them.” “Hey, Rube!” is still the safety phrase used by many modern theatrical performers to alert security of a violent audience member, especially in outdoor or festival environments where entertainers are in close proximity with large numbers of intoxicated patrons.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Reuben, n.
colloquial (mildly derogatory). Also with lower-case initial. A farmer or unsophisticated person from the country; a yokel, a hick. Also as a form of address. Cf. rube n., which is now the more common term.
In quot. 1855 as a conventional or typical name for a farmer or rustic.
1855 Herald of Freedom 8 Sept. 2/5 in J. R. Bartlett Dict. Americanisms at Rube [Signature of letter] Reuben Rustic.

hey, Rube! int. U.S. slang a rallying call or a cry for help used by circus people. As n., a fight between circus workers and the general public. (Cf. rube n. and adj.)
1882 Times (Chicago) 3 Dec. (Suppl.) 12/4 A canvasman watching a tent is just like a man watching his home. He’ll fight in a minute if the outsider cuts the canvas, and if a crowd comes to quarrel he will yell, ‘Hey Rube!’ That’s the circus rallying cry, and look out for war when you hear it.
1935 Amer. Mercury XXXV. 229/2 Heyrube: general uprising of spectators.
1939 Sat. Evening Post 25 Mar. 75/2 The expression disappeared forty years ago, along with the old rallying cry, ‘Hey, Rube!’

23 February 1878, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Enquirer, pg. 8, col. 3: 
A Short Dissertation on Slang
There is one bit of circus slang that it would be well for all our readers to learn, and that is, “Hey, rube!” It is the rallying-cry of war for every employe of the show, and when it is shouted it means “biz” from the word “go.”

27 August 1878, Crawford County Bulletin (Denison, IA), pg. 1, col. 4:
Brother Haskell is a good and ga-lorious man—but it hasn’t gotten around much. he talks show slang by note. Hey rube!

13 May 1883, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, pg. 9, col. 5:
The Circus Men’s Rallying Cry for War.
Occasions Upon Which Has Been Heard This Canvasman’s Call to Arms.
Some of the Dangers of Travelling with a Tent Show.

29 June 1883, The Wyoming Democrat (Tunkhannock, PA), pg. 1, col. 8:
“Hey, Rube,” is a slogan of circus men to call all hands to the rescue when threatened by a mob. It is only used when the danger is imminent.

3 October 1887, Wood River Times (Hailey, ID), “Attacked by Road Agents,” pg. 3, col. 1:
Mr. Sells gave the circus cry for help: “Hey, Reub!” whipped his horses, and soon left the highwaymen behind.

OCLC WorldCat record
Hey rube!, or, “A day at the circus”
Author: Harry Bulger; J Sherrie Mathews
Publisher: New York : M. Witmark & Sons, ©1891.
Edition/Format: Musical score : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Handsome Harry in the big ring, or, “Hey, Rube!” in Arizona
Author: W B Lawson
Publisher: New York : Street & Smith, [1905]
Series: Diamond Dick, Jr., no. 446.
Edition/Format: Book Microform : Fiction : Microfilm : Master microform : English

17 July 1909, Cedar Rapids (IA) Evening Gazette, “A ‘Dictionary’ of Circus Lingo,” pg. 15, col. 1:
“Hey, Rube”—A rallying batter cry uttered when trouble is brewing.

11 February 1919, The Press and Banner (Abbeville, SC), “Technical Slang of the Circus Is Interpreted by Eddie Polo,” pg. 7, col. 1:
HEY-RUBE!—The universal circus call to arms. The alarm that the villagers are in a battle array. A call to every circus employe to battle the townspeople.

30 May 1921, Lansing (MI) State Journal, “Better Brush Up on Tanbark Slang,” pg. 6, col. 5:
“Hey, Rube”—War cry of the circus, calling every employe to arms.

If you hear the cry “Hey Rube!” don’t stop and ask questions. Miss Walton advises, but just naturally (fade—ed.) out of the picture as fast as you can.

10 February 1928, Birmingham (AL) News, “By the Way” by James Saxon Childers, pg. 8, col. 5:
HEY, RUBE—a cry that is fatal in its import! The cry of a trouper in distress!  The lot is cleared of aliens at any cost! Guns, knives, clubs—all are used in the melee usually produced.

OCLC WorldCat record
Hey Rube : blood sport, the Bush doctrine and the downward spiral of dumbness: a modern history from the sports desk.
Author: Hunter S Thompson
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2004.
Edition/Format: Print book : English
Presents a collection of writings from the author’s column “Hey Rube” on ESPN.com, covering such topics as retaliation for September 11th, his suggestions for “fixing” baseball, and other thoughts on politics, sports, and gossip.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • Monday, August 19, 2019 • Permalink