meaning and early instances of ‘memory lane’

Usually in phrases such as to take a trip down memory lane, the noun memory lane denotes an imaginary path through the nostalgically remembered past. It is of American-English origin.

I have noticed that this noun appeared as memory’s lane, that is to say, with memory in the genitive. The earliest instance that I have found is from the following advertisement published in The Milwaukee Daily News (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) of Wednesday 11th October 1876:

At Hempsted’s
Temple of Music,
408, 410 and 412 Broadway.

The following are the latest and most popular vocal pieces published by me and sent free of postage to any part of the union on receipt of price:
Wandering down sweet memory’s lane—Addison….35c
Over the Hillside—Richmond………………………….25c [?]
Annie Mayne—Fosher…………………………………..35c
The Suicide. Temperance Song—Towne……………..35c
I have found no work to-day. A fine concert piece for soprano, tenor and bass voices……………………………………………………..50c
Gone to the Summer Countrie—Richmond…………15c [?]

State agent for the celebrated
Steinway Pianos

And Clough & Warren organs, both of which have received the first premium at the Centennial Exhibition.

'memory's lane' - Milwaukee Daily News (Wisconsin) - 11 October 1876

The second-earliest occurrence that I have found is from That Frozen Pipe, published in The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) of Sunday 2nd January 1881; in this humorous story, the owner of a house tells of his misfortunes when he crawls under his house in order to heat the frozen water pipe with a flat-iron:

When you have come as near as may be to the frozen spot, hold the flat-iron on the pipe and settle down for ten minutes of meditation. You won’t have traveled down memory’s lane over half a mile before something will happen. The pipe will burst exactly on a line with your eyes, and you will have cause to wonder all the rest of your life how a gallon of water could have collected at that one point for your benefit.

The earliest instance of the form memory lane that I have found is from After Twenty Years, a poem by one Paul Terhune, published in The Evening Star (Independence, Kansas) of Tuesday 28th January 1902:

We sat together, he and I,
And talked of days long since gone by;
Of friends and people we had known,
And of our relatives at home;
Of boyish fears and hopes and plans.
And journeys into foreign lands;
Of our first sweethearts and our wives—
In fact, reviewing all our lives,
From schoolboy days to manhood’s prime,
We wandered through the aisles of time.

Back once more through Memory Lane
We sauntered, hand in hand, again,
Two boys, heart-free from toil and care,
Joyous, contented, unaware
Of life’s true meaning or its goal,
Or of the passing of the soul
Unto a higher sphere than this;
Thus did our lives glide on in bliss.
Air castles built we, day by day,
To see them fall and fade away.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.