The Oscars

1936

When was the first time a well-known word or phrase was used in print?

FirstMention.com explores the history and origins of famous people and places, and of popular phrases, companies,

brand names, products and ideas, along with familiar words and sayings.

You wouldn’t believe how tough it is to search on the history and origins of The Oscars.

Oh, the history of the Academy Awards is simple enough to pin down.  They began awarding those little gold statues for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and so on back in 1929.

But when did they nickname those little statuettes Oscar?

The search through movie history for the origins of The Oscars is confounded by the number of people with that name who populated the early years of the film business, not the least of which was one Mr. Hammerstein, who hung ot with Mr. Rogers and wrote all those songs.

But diligence will out in the search for the earliest use of the name Oscar to refer to the much-coveted gold-plated statue.

And the FirstMention award goes to…believe it or not…the Salamanca (NY) Republican Press of March 13, 1936, in an article titled Bette Davis Takes ‘Oscar’ Home.

The Salamanca paper didn’t coin the term Oscar, and I have no doubt that there are earlier appearances of the term in print that just haven’t (yet) made it into electronic archives.  Not much earlier, though.  I looked over a lot of Academy Awards articles from 1935.  They all mention the ‘gold statue’, but nary a reference to its name.

But there is some further history avavilable.  Time Magazine, in 1939, attributed the origin of the name Oscar to a People-Magazine-style gossip columnist of the day, one Sidney Skolsky, also known (affectionately or otherwise) as The Mouse.

Mouse’s Return 

…This week Sidney Skolsky joined the growing stable of writers that

Publisher George Backer is assembling for his New York Post. Hollywood thought Publisher Backer had picked the right horse, for Skolsky is one of the ablest columnists in the business (he originated the term “Oscar” for Academy Awards) and by far the most popular. 

Time magazine, September 11, 1939 

No date is given for Sidney’s suppose origination of Oscar, but the article mentions his work at the New York Daily News circa 1934, so someone there should check the archives, please.