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 January 28, 2011
Rathole ("money down the rathole")

To throw or to pour something “down a/the rathole” means to put it in an endless space (where lots of rats enter and leave). “Money down a/the rathole” is money wasted, not to be seen again.

The money version of “down the rathole” has been cited since at least the 1870s and 1880s.  “[B]efore they pour any more money down the rat-hole” has been cited in 1874 and “There was some money jingled down ratholes yesterday” was written in 1886. “Money down the rathole” often refers to wasted government money; there has been a book titled The Federal Rathole (1975).

rat·hole   /ˈrætˌhoʊl/
1. a hole made by a rat, as into a room, barn, etc.: The first chore in the old building is to plug up the ratholes.
2. the burrow or shelter of a rat.
3. any small and uncomfortable room, office, apartment, etc., esp. one that is dirty or disordered: He lives in a rathole near the docks.
4. down the rathole, for a worthless purpose or purposes: seeing your inheritance disappear down the rathole.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
rathole, n.
N. Amer. A seemingly bottomless pit. Chiefly fig. (esp. in down the rathole and variants): an uncontrolled drain on money or resources.
1863 Wisconsin Chief 1 Aug. 12/1 We have men who will gulp more whisky than a rat-hole.
1889 Manufacturer & Builder Nov. 255/3 Few people‥seem to realize the amount of money that can be wasted in a year, through the steam pipe. The proverbial ‘rat hole’ will not compare with it.
1910 W. H. Taft in Bankers Mag. Jan. 74/2 We have to be certain‥that we are not going to pour money down a rathole, when we put millions into the improvements that are contemplated.
1976 Globe & Mail (Toronto) 21 Dec. 7/1 The committee will examine‥Minaki Lodge, the rathole in northwestern Ontario down which increasing quantities of public money seem to be disappearing.
2002 Washington Post (Home ed.) 20 Jan. a1/1 When Enron filed for bankruptcy last month, all but $2,300 of the Stevenses’ retirement money vanished. ‘Right down the rat hole.’

18 July 1854, Macon (GA) Weekly Telegraph, pg. 2:
The Memphis Appeal thinks it a pretty good sign of hard times “when you see a (illegbile—ed.) worth seventy thousand digging for two hours with a pickaxe for a five cent piece that had rolled down a rat hole.

23 February 1874, Little Rock (AR) Daily Republican, “Topeka,” pg. 1, col. 7:
The ways and means committee, as well as the people, state they would like to see how that $30,000 was appropriated before they pour any more money down the rat-hole.

Chronicling America
6 April 1886, Springfield (OH) Globe-Republic, pg. 2, col. 1:
There was some money jingled down ratholes yesterday. But the man who paid money yesterday for the votes of his fellow-citizens, either directly or indirectly, has a conscience that belongs in the penitentiary this morning.

19 June 1887, Wheeling (WV) Register, “They Are Mad: The Late Wheat Clique a Bitter Subject For the Board of Trade,” pg. 1:
It is surely not surprising that, when the money went down a rat hole without doing them any good at all, they gave up.

21 July 1888, Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL), pt. 1, pg. 8:
It is said that the Democratic National Committee will spend $5,000 in the Peoria district to get Nick Worthington back in Congress. Money can not beat General Post, and the Peoria Transcript says they might as well pour their money down a rat-hole.

20 September 1888, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 3:
A Hint to Office-Holding Contributors.
Peoria Transcript.
The indications are that Mr. Cleveland might as well have thrown that $10,000 down a rat hole.

Chronicling America
30 November 1894, Weekly Graphic (Kirksville, MO), pg. 2, col. 2:
I have no more money to throw down rat holes.

OCLC WorldCat record
The Federal rathole
Author: Donald Lambro
Publisher: New Rochelle, N.Y. : Arlington House, [1975]
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
Federal narcotics laws and the war on drugs : money down a rat hole
Author: Thomas C Rowe
Publisher: Binghamton, NY : Haworth Press, ©2006.
Series: Haworth addictions treatment
Edition/Format:  Book : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Friday, January 28, 2011 • Permalink