In 1922, the ice-cream manufacturers T. Wall & Sons Ltd., London, created a sales force who travelled round the streets on box-tricycles which displayed the slogan stop me and buy one—as explained on the firm’s website:
It all started from a butcher’s shop in St James’s Market in London. T. Wall & Sons Ltd had made sausages since 1786, but in 1913 chairman Thomas Wall had a eureka moment to increase summer sales and save the jobs of his employees. He realised that sausages aren’t the most refreshing snack during the summer. So, he decided to experiment and started serving up delicious ice cream to cool down the customers instead.
But, that idea had to be put on ice. It wasn’t until 1922 – after World War One – that ice cream was back on the menu and T. Wall & Sons started making ice cream in the American way.
It was then that Wall’s was born, and our delicious ice creams were soon delighting the good people of London. At first, they made their way through the streets via horse and cart, and then by our famous ‘Stop Me and Buy One’ tricycles. The number of Wall’s tricycles on the road increased from 10 in 1922 to 8500 in 1939.
Published in The Citizen (Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England) of Friday 11th April 1930, this advertisement for Wall’s Ice Cream depicts the box-tricycle:
There are now 2,000 Wall’s Ice Cream Tricycles
One, at least, is in your own district. At any time he is ready to bring delicious Ice Cream right to your door. There’s no trouble. Just display the Wall’s Card in your window and the man with the tricycle will call.
Remember, also, that Wall’s Ice Cream is made from pure, nourishing dairy produce; Snofrutes from real fruit juices. Their purity is ensured over and over again—by the Certificate of the Institute of Hygiene and by continual laboratory tests. That is why the products of Wall’s Ice Cream dairies are so good and wholesome, and why they keep so well!
Make your choice from—
Wall’s Standard Ice Cream Bricks (sufficient for four persons) 9d
Double size 1/6
Chocolate Coated Bars 4d
Tubs (with spoons) 4d
Quarts—Vanilla or Strawberry (in non-returnable containers, which keep the contents hard for five hours) 3/-
Wall’s Ice Cream
Certified pure by the Institute of Hygiene
A Wall’s card in your window will bring the tricycle
The following paragraph, published in The Lancashire Daily Post (Preston, Lancashire, England) of Thursday 8th July 1926, bears witness to the popularity of those box-tricycles and of the slogan:
A SUMMER JOKE!
Not far from the centre of Manchester, yesterday, a tar-boiler stood unattended for a short time, and a labourer pausing from his work near by and producing a lump of chalk, inscribed on its dripping sides the legend, “Stop me and buy one.”
The slogan stop me and buy one became an idiomatic expression referring—often jocularly—to any person going from one place to another with something to sell. For example, the following paragraph is from Gossip of the Day, published in The Yorkshire Evening Post (Leeds, Yorkshire, England) of Friday 26th June 1931:
A Society Note.
A contemporary alleges that the so-called “London Season” is neither more nor less than a marriage market, conducted on attractive but fundamentally mercenary lines. We have not space to refute this ridiculous charge at length, says the “Spectator,” but we take this opportunity of contradicting the malicious rumour—emanating, no doubt, from the same source—that Lady ——, whose four daughters are among the ugliest and most unpopular of this year’s debutantes, attends all social functions in London in a car to which has been affixed the legend: “Stop Me! Buy One!”
A figurative use of the phrase occurs in Bee’s Notes On Sports Of The Day, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Tuesday 3rd June 1930, about the transfer fees paid by Everton F.C., a football club based in Walton, Liverpool:
The signing of Rigby began the cycle of purchases. McPherson and Williams, of Swansea, were the next move—a very expensive move, taking the best part of ten thousand pounds out of the exchequer; next came the signing of Johnson, of Manchester City, whose “figure” has never been published aright and would doubtless be a startling revelation if the truth were told. Coggins, Thompson, the half-back, and others have all added their weight to this tale of “Stop me and buy one.”
The slogan also came to be used attributively in phrases such as “stop me and buy one” principle, referring to any itinerant enterprise. For example, the following paragraph is from Miscellany, published in The Manchester Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Tuesday 5th November 1929:
The crash on Wall Street is reported to have produced “new poor” in American cities who are ready to sell anything they possess in order to meet their liabilities; it is said that they even drive abroad in cars labelled “Yours for $100” on the “Stop Me and Buy One” model.
Box Office On Wheels.
Manchester Hippodrome’s latest enterprise is a box-office on wheels. It will be a familiar sight in Manchester and district from to-day, travelling round the streets on the “Stop me and buy one” principle. It will visit factory gates during the lunch hour (whether only on pay-days is not disclosed) and will be in market places on market days.
Two attributive uses of the phrase occur as late as Saturday 8th December 1990 in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Merseyside, England):
Judge jails ‘stop me and buy’ drugs gang
By Echo reporter
Three men and a girl drove around a Liverpool suburb to sell £10,000 worth of drugs to young people, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
They toured the Speke area visiting regular customers on a “stop me and buy one” basis, said Mr Jack Cowan, prosecuting.
There is an allusion to the original slogan in the caption to the photograph illustrating Pauline’s close Encounter of charity kind, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) of Wednesday 20th November 1996:
Stop me and buy one . . . Pauline gets in some practice at selling ice creams
Echo celebrity columnist and radio star Pauline Daniels1 has been busy raising a lot of lolly for charity.
She will be acting as the ice cream lady at a special showing of the classic Hollywood movie Brief Encounter2 at the Woolton Picture House, raising funds for Children in Need.
1 Pauline Daniels (Pauline Ann Malam – born 1955) is an English actress.
2 Brief Encounter is a 1945 British film directed by David Lean, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.