Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are you OK?

How many times a day do you use the expression "OK" (okay)?
Have you ever wondered where the term came from?
During the elections of 1840, one of our ancestral relatives, Daniel Leffel, was responsible for making this a popular form of expression that has lasted down to our time.

Read the article below for the full story (text version printed below the scanned copy):

Below is the text version of the above article:Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, Vol XIII, Columbus, 1904, page 350-354by J. Warren Keifer.
O. K.
The above is the most used form of expression in the commercial world, and is used in the United States oftener, perhaps, in conversation, than any other purely arbitrary expression in the English language.
It has no classic origin or derivation; it has no linguistic, Greek or Latin, root: it cannot be claimed for it even the dignity of an American slang birth: nor is it an abbreviation of an established expression or form of words properly found in any language. Its universally accepted meaning is well understood, yet not until recently has any dictionary or lexicon given it a place, or undertaken to tell its significance. It is used to attest the accuracy, genuineness, or approval of whatever it is placed upon. It is not usually used in composition, or in connection with other words, or phrases. Its meaning is so ample and complete that it defies misunderstanding, and requires no qualifying words to explain or amplify it. It is used, literally, around the world. Not only the business men in banks, mercantile houses, private business offices, insurance companies, etc., in America, use O. K. to avouch the correctness of statements, accounts, bills of all kinds, etc., but the American and English legations, consuls, etc. in all countries where they are found, especially in all parts of the world in which ships enter and depart, use the same O. K. to express their approval of all official business documents or papers. In all the principal and subordinate departments of our government, O. K. is now in more or less common use by officials and clerks to attest their approval, satisfaction or the accuracy of whatever they favorably pass judgment upon. Its use extends to wherever the English language is used, but more particularly in connection with trade and commerce. It has no synonym; nor no substitute; it stands unique, and alone, for its use. Its meaning is —All Correct. Its origin came from the mis-spelling of the two words — all correct.
The origin of the expression — if it may be so called — was in the exciting Harrison political campaign of 1840.
According to the then custom of organizing and attending political meetings, Whig and Democratic, the people went in processions, sometimes for long distances, to the appointed places where they were to be harangued by the orators. Great rivalry existed between parties to hold the largest meeting at a given place, and to have the greater numbers in the processions, the most persons on the same wagon drawn by the most horses, and the most flags, and banners, on which were usually mottoes supposed to be the most expressive and catchy, especially in the matter of attracting the populace and expressing the sentiment of the people.
A notable Whig convention was held at Urbana, Champaign County, Ohio, September 15th, 1840, which General William Henry Harrison, the candidate for President, addressed (it is said for two hours) and at which Hon. Moses B. Corwin (cousin of Thomas Corwin) of Urbana presided. In the grove of John A. Ward (father of the now famous sculptor, John Q. A. Ward of New York City) twelve tables were set, each 300 feet long, from which the people were fed barbecued oxen, sheep, etc., with cider (the popular beverage of that campaign) and all in abundance. Addresses were made during the day and evening by Ex-Governor Metcalf of Kentucky, (in a buckskin hunting shirt, it is said), Arthur Elliott, a Mr. Chambers, of Louisiana, and Richard Douglas, of Chillicothe.
An enthusiastic Whig farmer from Jackson Township, Champaign County, rigged up a wagon, drawn by many horses, with a platform thereon to accommodate his neighbor- farmers, to join a procession and to attend this convention. A banner was suspended over the platform on which was rudely printed the inscription: THE PEOPLE IS OLL KORRECT.
According to the recollections of some, who pretend to remember, the inscription was: THE FARMERS IS OLL KORRECT.
23 Vol. XIII.
The material part, however, is the last two words, and their mis-spelling.
Democratic newspapers seized on the bad spelling of this inscription and displayed it as an evidence of the ignorance of the Whigs and the supporters of General Harrison. Samuel Medary of Columbus, Ohio, famous then for his zeal in publishing campaign-democratic literature, and in assaults on the Whigs, made much use in his paper of this farmer's illiteracy. Democratic orators carried this banner-motto around on hand bills and exhibited it to their shouting hearers, much to the disgust and chagrin of the Whigs.
One Daniel Leffel, a typical early-time tavern-keeper, an unusually, even for that time, enthusiastic Whig and supporter of Harrison, the proprietor of the Sugar Grove tavern, located just west of Springfield, Ohio, on the National Road, thought it best to ward off the odium heaped on his party by the rustic farmers illiteracy by accepting the situation and making the most of it. So, before the campaign ended, he caused the letters 0. K. to be painted immediately over a front door of his Sugar Grove tavern, in large capital letters, and thence forth gave it out, that they meant that his tavern was "Oil Korrect."
This is, with little doubt, the first place these two letters — O. K. — were used with the artificial meaning they now so universally possess. From this use, with this meaning, at first little by little locally, matters were O. K.-ed, until now millions use the expression without doubt as to its meaning, or question as to the propriety of its use, or without inquiry or knowledge of its origin.
Dan Leffel built better than he knew — so the Jackson Township farmer. O. K. has conic to stay.
Whatever of local differences there may be as to the details of the farmer's banner-inscription, or as to the great Urbana- Harrison convention, there is a concurrence as to the mis-spelling of the words — all correct, and that they were, on the banner, spelled "Oil Korrect."
The Sugar Grove House (thus inscribed) was used as a wayside tavern — a stopping place for movers using the National Road as a throat to pass to the great west — some "cheer" was dispensed there to local and other patrons — stories of gambling, etc., etc., have been told as a part of the entertainment furnished — for about forty years, and only ceased when the mover and cattle-driver ceased to move, or drive, by ordinary road, as in the good old times. Dan Leffel is dead, and some question whether his life and character were such as to secure for him an 0. K. for the better world. However, this may be, his use of the letters 0. K. will go on so long as the English language is written.

The House (shown above) a few years ago, with the picturesque land around it, passed to the ownership of the Ohio State Masonic Home. The stately buildings of this Home, where practical, fraternal charity is now dispensed, over towered the old tavern.
It was spared until 1901, then torn down to further clear and beautify the Masonic Home grounds. The originally inscribed letters "0. K." remained above the door about sixty
years and until the brick upon which they were painted were removed and scattered by the destroyer.
Attempts have been made to otherwise account for the origin of O. K. as so generally used, on suppositions, and theories, and probabilities, but only the foregoing has any real foundation.
O. K. is found in the Century Dictionary where it is said: "The origin is obscure; usually said to have been originally used by Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the U. S., as an abbreviation of All Correct spelled (whether through ignorance or humorously) Oil Korrect: but this is doubtless an invention."
Another speculation there refers the use to "Old Keokuk," an Indian Chief, who is said to have signed treaties with the initials, "O. K."These suggestions as to a definition are all inventions, born of a desire to find a plausible origin for the much used expression.
Additional articles can be found online by googling "Daniel Leffel".

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