Joke Origin: To Double Your Money You Should Simply Fold Your Bills and Put Them in Your Pocket

Kin Hubbard? Will Rogers? Elbert Hubbard? Abe Martin? Max Eastman? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator®
6 min readApr 25


Packet of folded bills from Unsplash

Question for Quote Investigator: Proselytizers for get-rich-quick schemes are ubiquitous online. A popular joke describes a comically easy way to obtain illusory wealth. Here are two versions:

(1) To get rich you should convert your money to bills. Next, you should fold the bills, and you will double your money.

(2) The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.

This joke has been attributed to two prominent U.S. humorists: Kin Hubbard and Will Rogers. I have not seen a solid citation. Would you please help?

Reply from Quote Investigator: This family of wordplay gags has a long history, but it is difficult to trace because the phrasing varies. The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1805 within “The Green Mountain Patriot” newspaper of Peacham, Vermont. Boldface added to excerpts by QI

A PUNSTER observing a person folding some bank bills, a few days since, remarked, ‘You must be in excellent business, for I see you double your money very easily.’

The 1805 punster remains anonymous. Frank McKinney Hubbard, best known as Kin Hubbard, employed the joke in 1908 many years after it had entered circulation. The attribution to Will Rogers is unsupported.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1816 the same instance of the quip appeared in “The Watchman” of Montpelier, Vermont.² By 1840 the joke had traversed the ocean and appeared in “Woolmer’s Exeter and Plymouth Gazette” of Devon, England:³

As a broker was folding some bank bills, a wag observed “You must be growing rich fast, for I perceive you readily double your money.”

In 1845 “The Knickerbocker” monthly magazine of New York published an elaborate version of the jest which included an additional type of wordplay: “increases” versus “in creases”:⁴

If you will take a bank-note, reader, and while you are folding it up according to direction, peruse the following lines, you will arrive at their meaning, with no little admiration for the writer’s cleverness:

‘I will tell you a plan for gaining wealth,
Better than banking, trading or leases;
Take a bank-note and fold it up,
And then you will find your wealth in-creases.

‘This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,
Keeps your cash in your hands, and with nothing to trouble it,
And every time that you fold it across,
’Tis plain as the light of the day that you double it.’

In 1846 the “Morning Courier” of Louisville, Kentucky printed an instance while acknowledging a New York newspaper:⁵

To increase, says the New York Sunday Mercury, means “to make more.” It adds that it has been truly observed, that if you fold a bank bill once, you will double your money; and that the more you fold it; the more you will find it in creases.

Also, in 1846 several newspapers reprinted the version immediately above including the “Weekly Sentinel” of Vicksburg, Mississippi.⁶

In 1852 “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” of New York printed the extended version that had appeared in “The Knickerbocker” in 1845.⁷

In 1898 “The Vinita Leader” of Oklahoma printed a humorous piece about deceptive advertisements:⁸

The next ad. he answered read; “How to double your money in six months.” He was told to convert his money into bills, fold them and he would see his fortune “in creases.”

In 1908 “The Indianapolis News” of Indiana published a cartoon depicting Abe Martin by Kin Hubbard. The joke appeared in the caption of the cartoon. Hubbard wrote informally and used numerous contractions:⁹

Th’ safest way t’ double your money is t’ fold it over once an’ put it in your pocket. A feller that’s got sense enough t’ see things jist as they are is called a cynic.

Kin Hubbard’s version of the gag appeared in many newspapers such as “The Princeton Daily Clarion News” of Indiana.¹⁰

In 1910 “The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest” printed an instance. The prominent editor and wordsmith of the journal was Elbert Hubbard (unrelated to Kin Hubbard):¹¹

To Cecil: To double your money — fold the bill carefully and put it in your pocket

In 1926 Kin Hubbard published a collection titled “Abe Martin: Hoss Sense and Nonsense” containing revised material from his long running newspaper feature. Kin included a slightly different version of the gag under examination:¹²

Th’ only absolutely safe way t’ double your money is t’ fold it once an’ put it in your hip pocket.

In 1936 Max Eastman published a book about humor titled “Enjoyment of Laughter”, and he highlighted this quip:¹³

Abe Martin’s remark that “the only sure way to double your money is to fold it and put it in your hip pocket,” will serve as an example of what we mean by wit.

Will Rogers died in 1935, and he implausibly received credit for the quip posthumously. For example, in 1970 an advertisement for an estate planner in a Rutland, Vermont newspaper contained the following:¹⁴

“The best way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.”
(Will Rogers)

In 2000 a columnist in the “Florida Today” newspaper printed excerpts from an email that was circulating which contained statements attributed to Will Rogers:¹⁵

“WILL ROGERS’ Wisdom” is the title of Satellite Beacher Frank Aaron’s e-mail. We selected these nuggets from it: . . .

5. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
6. There’s two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.
7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.

In conclusion, the earliest instance of this family of jokes located by QI appeared in 1805. The creator was an anonymous wit. Several versions with unnamed authors appeared during the 19th century. In 1908 Kin Hubbard published an instance, and nowadays he often receives credit. The attribution to Will Rogers occurred very late and was not substantive.

Image Notes: Picture of a packet of folded bills from Nathan Dumlao at Unsplash. Image has been cropped.

Acknowledgement: Great thanks to John Henderson of the Project Wombats mailing list who posted a collection of sayings attributed to Will Rogers which included the quip explored in this article. Also, thanks to discussants Bill Davis, Pete McCallum, Donna L. Halper and John Cowan. Special thanks to researcher Barry Popik who previously explored this topic and located a 1910 instance from Kin Hubbard.

[1] 1805 December 31, The Green Mountain Patriot, Scraps, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Peacham, Vermont. (Newspapers_com)

[2] 1816 September 10, The Watchman, A Pun, Quote Page 4, Column 2, Montpelier, Vermont. (Newspapers_com)

[3] 1840 July 18, Woolmer’s Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, American Drolleries, Quote Page 4, Column 3, Exeter, Devon, England. (Newspapers_com)

[4] 1845 January, The Knickerbocker or New York Monthly Magazine, Volume 25, Number 1, Editor’s Table, Start Page 73, Quote Page 85, John Allen, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

[5] 1846 December 14, Morning Courier, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 2, Column 1, Louisville, Kentucky. (Newspapers_com)

[6] 1846 December 16, Weekly Sentinel, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 1, Column 4, Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Newspapers_com)

[7] 1852 October, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Volume 5, Number 29, Editor’s Drawer, Start Page 705, Quote Page 708, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

[8] 1898 June 16, The Vinita Leader, Doesn’t Take the Paper, Quote Page 1, Column 6, Vinita, Oklahoma. (Newspapers_com)

[9] 1908 May 20, The Indianapolis News, Abe Martin, Quote Page 18, Column 4, Indianapolis, Indiana (Newspapers_com)

[10] 1908 May 22, The Princeton Daily Clarion News, (Untitled short item), Quote Page 2, Column 1, Princeton, Indiana. (Newspapers_com)

[11] 1910 February, The Philistine: A Periodical of Protest, Edited by Elbert Hubbard, Volume 30, Number 3, Quote Page 92, The Roycrofters, East Aurora, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

[12] 1926, Abe Martin: Hoss Sense and Nonsense by Kin Hubbard, Quote Page 108, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified with scans)

[13] 1936, Enjoyment of Laughter by Max Eastman, Chapter 1: Witty Jokes and Ludicrous Perceptions, Quote Page 49, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Reprint facsimile in 1970 from Johnson Reprint Corporation, New York) (Verified on paper in reprint)

[14] 1970 October 9, Rutland Daily Herald, (Advertisement for J. Robert Stewart, Life & Estate Planning, State Mutual of America. Worcester, Massachusetts), Quote Page 20, Column 5, Rutland, Vermont. (Newspapers_com)

[15] 2000 March 31, Florida Today, U-boats off coast foiled U.S. radar by Milt Salamon, Quote Page 16A, Column 4, Cocoa, Florida. (Newspapers_com)



Quote Investigator®

Garson O'Toole specializes in tracing quotations. He operates the website which receives more than 4 million visitors per year