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ANSWERED on Tue 14 Aug 2007 - 4:32 pm UTC by Phil Answerfinder

Question: QUOTS

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kemlo 

Customer

 14 Aug 2007 11:15 UTCTue 14 Aug 2007 - 11:15 am UTC 

"If you have to ask the price, you, can't afford it".

Where and when did this famose quote first appeare

Kemlo

 

Phil Answerfinder 

Answer

 14 Aug 2007 16:32 UTCTue 14 Aug 2007 - 4:32 pm UTC 

Dear Kemlo,

“If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it” or words to that effect are popularly attributed to J. Pierpont Morgan, a 19th century American financier, banker, philanthropist, and art collector, when referring to yachting or his yacht.

I have found an account of the conversation in which it arose in Business Education World, 1933, Vol 16, but I do not know how accurate it is. It is clearly not first-hand. The book is available on Google Books with a snippet view so I place the quote here in full.

The topic of yachts came up and Morgan's neighbor said, "I understand that you own a yacht, Mr. Morgan."
"Yes, I do." Morgan replied.
"How much does it cost to run?" his neighbor asked.
"Why do you ask?" Morgan inquired.
"Because," his neighbor replied, "I am interested in buying one.”
 “My good man,” said Morgan, “if you have to ask how much it costs to run, my answer is: Don't buy one!"
http://books.google.com/books?id=5hYVAAAAIAAJ&dq=%22if+you+have+to+ask+how+much+it+costs+to+run%22&q=%22if+you+have+to+ask+how+much+it+costs+to+run%22&pgis=1

Clearly, there may be earlier references but I have searched extensively Google Books, Google news archive, 19th American book collections without success.

If the above account is correct, then it appears in different variations.

“If you have to ask the price of such a yacht, you can't afford it.” or “that if you have to ask the price of owning and running a yacht, you can't afford one.” or “if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it” and so on.

I have found numerous uses of the phrase when referring to yachts, private planes, paintings, and Rolls Royce cars.

Here’s some background information on J.P.Morgan on Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._P._Morgan

According this site, Morgan’s yacht was later used by the US Navy and a picture appears on the second link below.

“This ship is often given as subject of the famous answer to a question of how much it cost. The answer was "If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it." The question may have actually referred to "yachting" and not specifically the yacht."
http://patriot.net/~eastlnd2/O_hydro.htm

Picture
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h85000/h85734c.htm

I hope this answers your question. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification of any part of this research

Phil
answerfinder

 

myoarin 

User

 14 Aug 2007 20:30 UTCTue 14 Aug 2007 - 8:30 pm UTC 

Let me second Answerfinder's posting.
 
Brits  - especially Probo -  can't always be trusted when it comes to information about anything from the "colonies" (as Probo likes to call them), but Answerfinder is a careful researcher and gives good links.

I knew immediately that JPM was the source of the quotation, which was about the cost of maintaining a yacht, not that I move in such circles.

Markvmd, who grew up in Newport, RI, probably could confirm the answer based on hearing the quotation from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from JPM himself.

Cheers, Myo

 

pinkfreud 

Researcher

 14 Aug 2007 21:15 UTCTue 14 Aug 2007 - 9:15 pm UTC 

There's a mention of the quote in a 1926 article:

Wall Street Journal (1889-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Sep 14, 1926. p. 2 (1 page):
      _Can You Afford a Yacht?_
   There are two degrees of millionaires: the kind who can afford a yacht, and those who can't.  At least that is what the late J. P. Morgan seemed to think.  As witness the following:
   A banker, who by most people would be considered very wealthy, able to own a town house, a country estate, a hunting lodge, all kinds of automobiles, and several college bredchildren, one day decided he needed only a yacht to round out his possessions.  After a bit of investigation he thought he'd better ask the advice of an owner of a yacht, and went to the late J. P. Morgan.  "John," he said (that's the kind of banker he was), "do you think I can afford a yacht?"  And the answer was:
    "If there is any doubt in your mind, you can't."

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0405c&L=ads-l&P=12106

 

myoarin 

User

 15 Aug 2007 12:21 UTCWed 15 Aug 2007 - 12:21 pm UTC 

Great to see Pink back on the scene, and probably right on the mark.

It would be interesting to know how many pithy quotations are really "improvements" on the original comment.

 

Roger Browne 

Researcher

 15 Aug 2007 12:42 UTCWed 15 Aug 2007 - 12:42 pm UTC 

Myo, it's not just "pithy quotations" that can be improvements on the original wording.

David Sarokin investigated the origin of the well-known riddle "Why did the chicken cross the road?". He writes:

   "Most sources set the date it first appeared in print as 1915,
    in a how-to manual on vaudeville comedy"

But David found the same riddle appearing at least as early as 1847, if you change the wording to "Why does a chicken cross the street?":
    http://web-owls.com/2007/06/12/when-not-why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-streeterroad/

 

daisey 

User

 15 Aug 2007 17:24 UTCWed 15 Aug 2007 - 5:24 pm UTC 

It appears the conversation was between  Morgan and Henry Clay Pierce in 1902.

"How much does it cost to run a yacht?"
"You cannot afford to run a yacht."  replied Mr Morgan.
"Why, I'm pretty warm you know."
"Yes, but anyone who has to ask how much it costs to run a yacht cannot afford to keep one."
The "Pretty warm you know"  is a marvellous phrase but is usually omitted.


Daisey

 

kemlo 

Customer

 15 Aug 2007 17:27 UTCWed 15 Aug 2007 - 5:27 pm UTC 

To Answerfinder
 Thank you for the Links, Well done

Kemlo

 

Phil Answerfinder 

Researcher

 16 Aug 2007 07:05 UTCThu 16 Aug 2007 - 7:05 am UTC 

Kemlo,

Following on from Daisy’s helpful comment (although not sourced), I have found the following reference to it.

In this book on yachting. Unfortunately it is only a snippet view so I cannot see if it quoted from an original source.
http://books.google.com/books?id=-Q0hAAAAMAAJ&q=%22Pretty+warm+you+know%22%22&dq=%22Pretty+warm+you+know%22%22&pgis=1


A shortened version mentioning Pierce appears in several places. This is an example.
"You have no right to own a yacht if you ask that question."
-J. P. Morgan Sr., in answer to a question by Henry Clay Pierce on how much it costs to own and run a yacht.
http://www.pbase.com/image/33827233

And in the book The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When (Paperback) by Ralph Keyes, the author makes the following observation,

“ “If you have to ask how much they cost, you can’t AFFORD one.” J. P. Morgan’s alleged response to an inquiry about the cost of his yachts is considered the epitome of wealthy imperiousness. (Some attribute the thought to Cornelius Vanderbilt.) No dependable evidence exists that Morgan actually said this, however, and biographer Jean Strouse doubts that he did. Calling the mot “implausible,” Strouse concluded, “Morgan was a singularly inarticulate, unreflective man, not likely to come up with a maxim worthy of Oscar Wilde.” The closest analogue Strouse could find on the record was Morgan’s response to oil baron Henry Clay Pierce: “You have no right to own a yacht if you ask that question.”
 
Verdict: Morgan’s sentiments, not his words.”
http://www.amazon.com/Quote-Verifier-Said-What-Where/dp/product-description/0312340044


As for Pierce, this is a short biography.
"Henry Clay Pierce (1849-1927)
Henry Clay Pierce was a businessman and financier who was considered one of the four richest men in the country. His business interests included railroads, oil and finance."
http://www.picturehistory.com/find/p/6143/mcms.html

And it appears he was not put off by this conversation and he did buy a yacht in 1906.
http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/y1/yacona-i.htm


Phil
answerfinder

 

daisey 

User

 16 Aug 2007 09:24 UTCThu 16 Aug 2007 - 9:24 am UTC 

Sorry about that,

I got the quote from the book "Salt-water Palaces" by Maldwin Drummond
page 112.
 
I have also looked in "Sixty Years of Yachts" and found in chapter 13
"Stories of American Yachtsmen", several similar anecdotes about the high cost of yachting.

Daisey

 

Phil Answerfinder 

Researcher

 16 Aug 2007 09:47 UTCThu 16 Aug 2007 - 9:47 am UTC 

Thank you Daisey!

 

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