Origin of Rosie the Riveter

I’ve having trouble with competing claims about the origins of this phrase.

The earliest claim that appears to have a date is a song “Rosie the Riveter,” by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, written in 1942 but not released until early in 1943 by the Four Vagabonds and by Kay Kyser. (The name was simple alliteration, they said.) Soon after, a May 29, 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell cemented the phrase in the public consciousness.

There is a competing poster by J. Howard Miller that shows a woman war worker flexing her muscle under the slogan “We Can Do It!” This was never intended to be Rosie the Riveter but has often been adopted as “the” official poster, since it was issued by the War Production Board. It also was probably produced in 1942 but not released until 1943.

http://www.shopthehenryford.org/ [comes up in a search, so I can’t link directly to it]

In fact, the song and poster probably came out about the same time, and so one reinforced the other inadvertently.

But a much older book, the 1956 Miracle of World War II: How American Industry Made Victory Possible, by Francis Walton, gives a totally different origin without reference to the other two.

That phrase doesn’t show up at all on Google, though, and I can’t find any reference to a Lockheed publicity campaign of that era.

Can anybody lock down a date for first use of the phrase or shed some light on the Lockheed connection?

Wiki is always a good place to start. Rosie the Riveter.

That reads like a bad junior high textbook, and doesn’t nail down the early origins, either.

That’s why I said it was a good place to start.

I often find as much, or more, info in the links than in the actual articles. But I thought the wiki article placed the origin at:

From the L.A.Times 28 Dec. 1942, pg A1

The next hits I find for “Rosie the Riveter” are (both _L.A.Times)

12 Jan. 1943–“It isn’t glamorous. Not all the girls look like magazine covers, and Rosie the Riveter is just doing a steady everyday job.”

16 Jan. 1943–“Two women wearing working slacks and defense plant badges walked into a swanky furrier’s last week and each picked out a fur coat. When they had made selections each pulled a wad of bills out of the watch pocket in her slacks, paid cash in full, put on her purchase and walked away with it. Rosie the Riveter knows what she is working for and gets it. The furrier, though, is still a little dazed.”

Then the song first is mentioned in The Washington Post 18 Jan. 1943

So, the song was pretty familiar by that day I would say.

Damn! I hate when I post without doing a complete search, but my Newspaperarchive hits were all 1943, until I found one hiding in 1942. And it’s interesting.

A 21 Dec 1942 column by Robbin Coons where he says he listened to the radio “a few days ago” and he heard the song “Rosie the Riveter.”

So, I guess the song was on the air by that date for sure.

I can do better than that. I gave in and paid the money for the Newspaper Archives. Worst formating I’ve ever seen, and weirdest search, but you can dig some nuggets out of the dross.

A whole bunch of references to the song “Rosie the Riveter” show up in early December 1942, as early as Dec. 3 in the Dunkirk Evening Observer in a “In Hollywood” column by Erskine Johnson. The same column shows up in the Frederick Post and the Frederick News on Dec. 5, in the Helena Independent on Dec. 8, the Newark Advocate on Dec. 15, and the Mansfield News Journal on Dec. 21.

Since I can’t believe the column started in Dunkirk, NY, perhaps you can find a bigger newspaper that carried it.

No mention of any connection to Lockheed anywhere, though. And definitely before the other poster was exhibited.

So it looks like the song came first. Now just to find out when and by whom it was first played or publicized. So much for the February 1943 date given in books.

FYI, there is a Rosie the Riveter National Historic Park in Richmond, CA at the site of the old Kaiser shipyards. The web site for the park is http://www.rosietheriveter.org/ . There’s a contact page where you can send questions - they might be able to help you.

Who do you think I am, jinx? Why does everyone assume that I didn’t do even the most basic Google search before starting a thread with that much information in it? Especially when I mentioned searching Google in the OP?

Has anyone found a recording of the song? I’d like to hear it.