callithumpian adj, n Also calithumpian, cal(a)thumpian, calthumpian, kalathumpian, kalithumpian [Attested (also in the form gallithumpian) in England from the mid-eighteenth century, and later from Australia and South Africa, in connection with real or imaginary organizations with more or less subversive or ludicrous purposes; the association with riotous noise-making, which prevails in the US, appears to be derived from the activities of a particular “Callithumpian club” in New York City beginning in the 1820s, for which see 1b below.]

1a Used as part of the name, or to designate a member, of any of var clubs or societies. obs

1810 Columbian (NY NY) 15 Aug [3]/1, The Serenade. We were promised, in a pompous manner, a grand serenade last evening by the Calathumpian Glee Society, from off the battery; and the weather being extremely fine, the citizens assembled in great numbers and paraded to and fro for a long time in anxious expectation of the promised treat. [DARE Ed: The performance was disappointing, but nothing suggests that it was not intended as a genuine entertainment.] 1820 Palladium of Liberty (Warrenton VA) 2 June [3]/3 KY, We copy the following singular advertisement from the Louisville Advertiser. . . To all True and Worthy Helzybelzyans and Callathumpians, Brothers:—You are directed to appear at the Great Mound on Monday morning next at the first appearance of the Great Light properly armed for hunting. Great Squirrel Hunter and Big Fish Catcher will provide themselves with lines to carry the scalps. . . By order, De Grove, Grand Helzybelzian. C. Sale, Grand Callathumpian. 1835 Doylestown Democrat & Farmers’ & Mechanics’ Gaz. (PA) 10 June [3]/4, Calathumpian Debating School. Question to be discussed on Saturday afternoon . . at the Bridge Point School, “has the career of Napoleon Bonaparte, been advantageous in [sic] mankind?” “Ladies are respectfully invited to attend.” 1852 Townsend Fancies 116, I was just now looking over Mystifico’s address before the Callithumpian society, delivered some few years since. I was present at the time. Never shall I forget the solemnity of manner, with which he gave the following passage. 1856 Sun (Baltimore MD) 24 July 1/5, Watchman Sears testified that he was standing on the corner of Boyd and Poppleton streets at the time mentioned, where the “Calithumpian Fishing Club” was forming for the purpose of an excursion down the bay, and that a difficulty took place between the deceased and Wm. H. Lepson. 1868 Buffalo Express (NY) 11 Nov [4]/6, Several young Rochesterians have formed a society for the purpose of giving private theatrical entertainments. They call themselves “Kalithumpians.” 1900 St. Albans Daily Messenger (VT) 26 Oct 5/4, The Calthumpian Club and ladies, to the number of fifteen took a tally-ho ride to Abercorn, Que., Thursday evening, and took supper before returning. 1903 Coffeyville Rec. (KS) [20 Aug 4]/1, Remember the boys who compose the Calithumpian Mandolin club and come out to their concert Friday night at the Y. M. C. A. 1909 Buffalo Courier (NY) 4 June 7/2, The regular monthly meeting of the Calithumpian Club, a social organization in Lackawanna City, will be held tomorrow night at Greene’s Hotel. . . The club has a large membership and it has taken an active interest in the affairs of the district and the new city.

b Spec, in connection with a club in New York City devoted to celebrating New Year’s Eve with raucous noise-making and other riotous behavior, and a similar organization in Baltimore, evidently established in imitation of it. hist

1825 Natl. Advocate (New York NY) 14 Jan [2]/1, It is not known, perhaps, to many of our citizens, how much they are indebted to the Kalathumpian Club for the life and merriment which has been displayed in this city for several years past on New-Year’s eve. . . The annual meeting is on Christmas Eve. . . The second meeting is on the Wednesday night between Christmas and the New-Year, when each member brings his instrument, and a rehearsal takes place. Whoever is in possession of the instrument that produces the most discordant sound is selected to lead the Club, which is composed of apprentice clerks, d[itt]o mechanics, idle fellows, with a sufficient number of sturdy porters and waiters, and a few of the milling fancy to do the fighting, if any is necessary. . . Thus prepared, the club meet at 12 o’clock on New-Year’s Eve—the moment the old year has departed by the St. Paul’s clock, the leader passes the word—“Go it, Jerry![”] . . and the whole band is in full blast on their way up town, each member blowing and striking with all his wind and main strength. c1830 in 1939 NY Hist. Soc. Qrly. 23.16 NYC, On New Year’s Eve different parties of young men and boys parade the streets, shouting, singing, blowing penny-trumpets and long tin horns, beating on kettles, firing crackers, hurling missiles, etc. A celebrated detachment of these Rioters has long assumed the name of the “Callithumpian Band.” Ibid 17, The streets of the City that night were absolutely thronged with watchmen so that it was impossible for the Callithumpians to effect any meeting. 1841 Sun (Baltimore MD) 21 July [2]/3, Calithumpian Club—A club under this cognomen was recently formed in the “west end of town.” . . The members of this association, now numerous, may often be seen parading the streets after dark, headed by marshals on horseback and accompanied by music . . produced by tin pans, horns, and other instruments alike pleasant to the ear. Their object, however, does not seem to be music alone.—Those who advise them to a better course are threatened with immediate and signal punishment—officers are set at defiance; other persons menaced with their vengeance, and houses threatened to be pulled down. 1844 (1845) Child Letters from NY 28 NYC, The watchmen were out in double force; a precaution which is deemed necessary to preserve public peace on this noisy anniversary [=New Year’s Eve]. The notorious Callithumpian Band are by these means kept within bounds. In former years they played all manner of mischievous tricks—such as taking down the sign of a cabbage from a provision shop and nailing it over a tailor’s door; putting “Coffin-Warehouse” on the doctor’s walls, . . &c. 1844 Sun (Baltimore MD) 25 Mar [4]/3, Meredith was arrested for improper conduct, kicking at somebody’s door, &c.; he is, according to the evidence of witnesses a member of a gang calling themselves the “Callithumpians,” who have threatened to have the life of any officer who shall arrest one of their number.

2 Pertaining to or consisting of a band of people assembled to make a noisy racket or more or less discordant music, often grotesquely costumed; a member of such a band.

a In celebration of var holidays (in later use chiefly the Fourth of July) or occas as a spontaneous expression of high spirits—often in combs callithumpian band, ~ parade. Cf amarugian n, antiques and horribles n pl, callithump n, v

1828 Commercial Advt. (NY NY) 23 Dec [2]/2, The former boyish amusements, and the discordant clattering peals of the “Callithumpian Bands,” as the collections of boys furnished with conchs, tin-horns, tongs, kettles, warming pans and shovels, have been not inaptly denominated, were for a long series of years comparatively harmless. . . But for several seasons past, amusement has been turned into riot. 1837 Daily Natl. Intelligencer (DC) 23 Nov [3]/5, Calithumpian Serenading.—On last Tuesday night . . a number of persons, probably not less than a hundred, and, for the most part, very young men, undertook to celebrate, in this city, the late Whig triumphs. . . Sallying forth about midnight, with a Calithumpian band of extraordinary strength, the party proceeded along Seventh street, and, in front of the Postmaster General’s dwelling, set up such tremendous noises, with drums, fire-pokers, rattles, gutter-spouts, catcalls, horns, tongs, shovels and other similar instruments, as must have roused from their quiet slumbers every person in the immediate neighborhood, and perhaps to some distance beyond it. 1839 Rodney Telegraph (MS) 20 Apr [2]/3, The Calithumpian Band. . . But the hill saw another sight / Which ’woke the girls in dread affright, / When at the hour of deep midnight / The Calithumpians gather’d round! / And by the boarding-school arrayed, / Tin buckets rang, tin trumpets brayed, / And pot-lids clashed, and cow-bells made / The tallest kind of noise! 1848 [see 2b below]. 1851 in 1951 AmSp 26.182 NC, [Diary entry dated 22 Feb:] Ten of the boys were summonsed before the Faculty to stand their trial for going on a “Calithumpian spree” the night before—they were all dismissed. 1867 Janesville Gaz. (WI) 29 June 1/4, Callithumpians.—All those persons who wish to join this company for the coming fourth of July, will meet at the Court Room on Monday evening, July 1st at 8 o’clock to organize. 1872 Tama Co. Republican (Tama IA) 20 June [3]/3, Exercises [sic] in the square will commence at 11 o’clock A. M. and will be conducted in the the following order: . . 15. Grand and imposing display of the Calithumpians. 1880 Oskaloosa Independent (KS) [3 July 3]/2, The 4th At Oskaloosa. Programmee. [sic] . . 12. A monstrous procession of wild Sioux Indians in war paint, and Calthumpians in their unique costumes. 1896 Worthington Advance (MN) 25 June 1/4, Calthumps Attention! Every one, both old and young, should take interest in the Calthumpian Parade. Those who intend putting on any acts, are requested to see Foster Moore as soon as possible, who will give them all necessary data. Masks will be furnished by the committee. 1909 DN 3.409 cnME, Calathumpian. . . One dressed up to represent a ragamuffin in a procession. 1910 Hope Pioneer (ND) [7 July 7]/3, The first thing was the parade. The Hope band headed the procession . . and was followed by the automobiles and callithumpians. . . The first prize in the Callithumpians went to the Bachelor Club who had a big float depicting scenes from actual bachelor life, and reminiscences from their departed member Mr. E. J. Milligan. 1916 Democratic Messenger (Eureka KS) [29 June 5]/1, All who wish to participate in the 4th of July calithumpian parade are requested to report to Geo. Ervin. 1916 DN 4.305, Callithumpian . . Applied to rowdy bands with horns, tin pans, etc., on New Year’s Eve, esp. in Baltimore. . . Also Kan., Va. 1925 Helena Independent (MT) 29 Apr 4/1, Already a number of towns in the eastern part of Montana are making plans for the celebration of the Fourth of July—an observance of the old fashioned sort, with callathumpians, an anvil chorus at sunrise, pink lemonade and the reading of the Declaration of Independence and an oration at the grove. 1941 LANE Map 409 (Serenade) 1 inf, neMA, Callithumpian band, the grotesque band at the head of ‘a parade of horribles and antiques’ on the Fourth of July; 1 inf, ME, Callithumpian band, on the Fourth of July. 1942 AmSp 17.213 CA, An inquirer wishes to know whether the so-called Callithumpians, or groups of ‘horribles’ who, in his boyhood days in California, used to come at the end of Fourth of July and other processions wearing all sorts of garbs and grotesque disguises, are still extant anywhere. 1985 La Crosse Tribune (WI) 25 Sept 20/4, 1985 Maple Leaf Parade. . . 12. Calthumpian Parade Club, Eau Claire Jaycees.

b In protest or celebration of a wedding—freq in combs callithumpian band, ~ serenade. Cf callithump n 1, shivaree n B1

1848 Bartlett Americanisms 61 NY, Callithumpians. It is a common practice in New York, as well as other parts of the country, on New-Year’s eve, for persons to assemble with tin horns, bells, rattles, and similar euphonious instruments, and parade the streets making all the noise and discord possible. This party is called the Callithumpians, or the Callithumpian Band. On wedding nights the happy couple are sometimes saluted with this discord by those who choose to consider the marriage an improper one, instead of a serenade. 1850 Sunbury Amer. (PA) 13 Apr [2]/5, [Letter:] But there is another kind of riots to which the Hon. Judge referred, with great propriety and no little force. And these are the common riots at weddings called “Bellings,” “Calathumpian Serenadings” &c.These have been carried to such a length in this and neighboring towns, that they have become an intolerable nuisance and disgrace. 1854 Riley Puddleford People 94 MI, Another amusement, frequent in the country, was the turning out of the ‘Calathumpian Band.’ The band, I am aware, did not originate with Puddleford. Newly-married couples were serenaded before it ever had an existence there. But this band was one of the very finest specimen. No one knew exactly who its members were; but they were always on hand, soon after a wedding, in full uniform, with all their instruments in order. . . It assembled, usually about eleven o’clock at night, around the quarters of the newly-married couple, and within a day or two after marriage. Its members were dressed up like an army of scare-crows. 1870 Reading Times & Dispatch (PA) 25 May 1/3, Last week a case was before the Court in Norristown in which a criminal prosecution had been brought against twenty-four young men for indulging in a calathumpian serenade in Upper Providence township . . in honor of the marriage of one of Mr. Taylor’s daughters. The party to the number of about 35 gathered around a fire built near the place and from thence marched to Taylor’s with bull fiddles, guns, bells, and other articles calculated to make a noise. 1894 Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) 25 June 4/5 NJ, A calithumpian band, composed of villagers who went out to serenade Stacy Woodward, 68 years old, who married his 18-year-old housekeeper, were treated to a dose of bird-shot from the groom’s Queen Anne musket. 1905 Harrisonburg Daily News (VA) 27 Dec 1/3, Badly Hurt in a “Calathump.” While participating at night in a calathumpian serenade at the home of Jacob Varner, in Highland county, David Eve had his hand and arm badly hurt by the explosion of the old gun with which he was furnishing a part of the “noise.” 1905 Adams Co. Independent (Littlestown PA) 4 Mar 2/1, To complete the event the calithumpian band of Germany township put in a timely appearance to rattle-band the happy crowd. In no time Mrs. Feeser so filled them with delicacies and substantials that they became so content as to forget to rattle-band any more. 1913 DN 4.4 ME, Callithumpian band. . . A noisy crowd playing on tin horns and pans which serenaded a newly married couple. Ibid, Callithumpian serenade, . . A serenade by a callithumpian band. It was often a token of disapproval. 1915 Allentown Morning Call (PA) 30 Nov 1/2, During the evening the calthumpian band of the Allen Fire Company, No. 7, serenaded the newly weds. 1916 DN 4.305, [Footnote:] In Va., a callithumpian parade is a farce serenade used especially on the occasion of the wedding of unpopular men. 1921 Billings Gaz. (MT) 30 Mar 5/4, Elmer A. Walker surprised his many friends by returning from a winter’s visit in Missouri, accompanied by a better half. His neighbors gathered and gave them an old-fashioned Calithumpian serenade. 1941 LANE Map 409 (Serenade) 8 infs, nNEng, Cal(li)thumpian band [several informants equate this with serenade, or say that it plays music at a serenade]; 1 inf, nwMA, Callithumpian band, jocular name for the serenaders; 1 inf, cwCT, Callithumpian party; 1 inf, cCT, Callithumpian reception, also used. ‘The groom gives ’em five dollars to quit, and they all go out and get full’; 2 infs, ce, cCT, Callithumpian. 1944 Gaz. & Daily (York PA) 27 Nov 13/3, A calithumpian band serenaded Mr. and Mrs. William Joseph, who recently married. After the musical entertainment, members of the group were given a treat at the Ort restaurant. 1949 N. Adams Transcript (MA) 9 Nov 18/8, The “Calthumpian Band” called on Mr. and Mrs. Homer Dary Monday at midnight and were graciously entertained. Entertainment was enjoyed with piano and guitar selections from the “band” and singing by all. 1960 N. Adams Transcript (MA) 7 Sept 8/2, The Calthumpian Band put on another surprise concert Saturday night in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Bartlett, who were recently married. The party was attended by about 80 local friends. 1967 DARE (Qu. AA18, . . A noisy neighborhood celebration after a wedding, where the married couple is expected to give a treat) Infs PA17, 55, Callithumpian band; PA35, Callithumpian party.

3 as adj; Of sound: raucus, discordant.

1886 Harper’s New Mth. Mag. 73.213/2, The call [on the exchange] lasts ten or fifteen minutes, and occasionally has the accompaniment of callithumpian discord. 1946 Blesh Shining Trumpets 155, Then the swift notes poured out, a black, calithumpian music.

Etymological Supplement:

1750 in 1903 Proc. Dorset Nat. Hist. and Antiquarian Field Club 24.38, In 1750 both seats at Dorchester were vacated . . . The merits of three candidates who then took the field are set forth in as many stanzas composed by “Sappho.” . . A third candidate was Robert Browne, of Frampton. . . “Mighty Browne” (says Sappho) was “Huzza’d by Mobbs, a Calithumpian crew.”


1839 Fraser’s Mag. 20.629, The Callithumpians were a set of wicked wags, who, whenever they found any body soft enough to believe them, furnished him with a text, by the mere uttering of which he was to pass through all turnpikes free. . . When a new member was received, the former ones carefully informed the turnpike keepers all round the victim, that they would be answerable for any gentleman who should pass through the turnpike, and utter the cabalistic word, “Callithumpian.” It did very well for one day; but the next, the charm was broken.


1859 (1882) Brierley Tales & Sketches 1.48, He was relating something about the “Peterloo” times, about drilling companies, gun exercise, and pike grinding. He had gotten to a passage about his “feyther an’ owd Jammie Ogden, two gradely red wot [=“extremely red-hot”] Jacobins o’th’ gallithumpian breed, ut could smell a pa’son a fielt off, an’ ud rayther see a quart o’ ale upo’ th’ table any time than goo an’ harken him praich.”


1882 Walford’s Antiquarian Mag. 2.189 (as of mid 18th cent.), In November, 1770, there was a contested election at New Shoreham, Sussex, which led to a pseudo-charitable society . . called the “Christian Club,” becoming the subject of parliamentary inquiry. . . The club offered its collective vote to the highest bidder, and shared the proceeds of the sale. That such an association existed at Dorchester, Dorset, the two documents which I here lay before the readers of this magazine sufficiently prove. They consist (1) of a rough draft of a public protest against the constitution of the “Gallithumpian Club,” as it was called; and (2) of a printed list of its members, with MS. additions.


1894 New South Wales, Australia Statistical Register for 1893 and Previous Years 530, [In a table of religions from the census of 1891, “Calathumpian” appears as the response of 4 people.]


1934 Wells Lionel de L. Wells 7 (as of c1887), For example, I remember a man named Stevens, a gigantic Able Seaman, joined the ship and L.’s Division on discharge from three month’s imprisonment for desertion from some other ship. I remember that he had deserted to the diamond mines at Kimberley. . . Stevens “fell in” with the Presbyterians. L., however, having seen his certificate, in which he was entered as “Church of England,” sent for him and asked him why being Church of England he had joined the Presbyterians. “Well, sir,” said he, “ I used to be Church of England before I deserted to the mines, but now I’m a ‘Calithumpian.’” “What is a ‘Calithumpian’s’ place of worship ?” said L. “The nearest pub, sir,” said the rascal.

1995 Age (Melbourne Australia) 27 Oct 7/5, “No federal government, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Labor, Liberal, National Party or kalathumpian, I haven’t yet seen a group of federal politicans [sic] that have ever trusted the states,” Mr Kennett said.