When, not why, did the chicken cross the street…er…road?

This is a bit of fluffy whimsy and a bit of formal research.  And how often do they go together?

In my varied and sundry research tasks, I found myself challenged to date the origins, in print, of the old “Why did the chicken cross the road?” query.  Most sources set the date it first appeared in print as 1915, in a how-to manual on vaudeville comedy.

But a quick search on the very useful Google News Archives  showed a few entries that went back as early as 1905.

To get to the bottom of things, I looked into a few historical archives of newspapers and magazines from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and found a number of other chicken-crossing mentions.  The earliest of the bunch dated back to 1847 — more than half a century prior to the “textbook” answer (if, indeed, you can imagine a textbook on corny jokes).

And here it is:




Are we having fun yet?


One Response to “When, not why, did the chicken cross the street…er…road?”

  1. sean says:

    I suspect the original was ‘why did the chicken *try* to cross the road” asked of an early moterist by his kid.
    It does change the concept.