Short Snorters
October 27, 2010 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Short Snorters: "A short snorter is a banknote inscribed by people traveling together on an aircraft. The tradition was started by Alaskan Bush flyers in the 1920s and spread through the military and commercial aviation...When the short snorter was signed, the collector would have to produce it upon request, if not, they are bounded to give the signer a drink." Some examples: Flickr, A Hawaiian one dollar bill, A bill with some real WWII history, Scrolling Multinational Short Snorters, and a British ten-shilling note.
posted by srboisvert (24 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Notice how beautifully people could write in the olden days. We could do these for MetaFilter, but you wouldn't be able to read them.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:50 AM on October 27, 2010

Marvelous post. Fascinating topic I'd never heard of before.
posted by nickyskye at 5:55 AM on October 27, 2010

Hey neat. Oddly enough, this is one of the first things I discovered completely via the internet, that seemed to hold a glimpse of what the internet would become. I think I came across it while researching swing dance culture, at a 1940s reenactment ListServ, in like 1999. So I believe that has been around for a while, but it has grown quite a bit! Such a cool phenomenon - thanks for the post!
posted by Miko at 6:05 AM on October 27, 2010

The General Hoyt Vandenberg short snorter was started in June 1942 flight over the mid-Atlantic. The Harry Hopkins short snorter was collected on July 25, 1942, by an aide of Franklin D. Roosevelt at a London Conference. The D. Ray Comish short snorter was collected January 1943 at the Casablanca Conference by Dixie Clipper. The Averell Harriman short snorter were collected art the January 1943 Casablanca Conference as well. The signatures were collected by Averell Harriman. The General George S. Patton snorter signatures were also collected at the Casablanca Conference. The Yalta short snorter signatures were collected on February 4–11, 1945 by Steve Early at Yalta, on the Crimean Peninsula.

The Casablanca conference of 1943 was the meeting of Roosevelt, Churchill, and De Gaulle (in Casablanca) to plan the European war strategy which in 1943 was anything but certain.

And there was time for - and interest in - drinking games.
posted by three blind mice at 6:13 AM on October 27, 2010

Very interesting, thanks for a great post!
posted by Daddy-O at 6:36 AM on October 27, 2010

Wow, thanks for this. 7 years ago, I began a very brief stint in industrial sales. One of the first things one of the senior sales guys made us do is to take out a dollar bill, sign it, and then have everyone in our sales class (~20 people) sign it. Then, if we ever at a sales conference and someone asked to see it and we didn't have it, we had to buy a round of drinks.

He even called it a short snorter. I thought the dude just made the whole thing up. Never thought to research it.
posted by pencroft at 7:44 AM on October 27, 2010

Sort of (just barely) related are Challenge Coins.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:00 AM on October 27, 2010

Neat! This is a custom I wasn't aware of until now--thanks for sharing it.

I am signing everyone's virtual $5 right now in my beautiful handwriting.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:27 AM on October 27, 2010

The PBS television show History Detectives recently had a segment on 'short snorters.'

Interesting tidbits:
"But quantity did not always mean quality. While the most famous autograph on [collector Grover] Criswell’s roll was that of John F. Kennedy’s older brother Joe, many were signed by presidents and prime ministers.

The tradition was brought up to date in the 1960s as America entered the space age. The tradition of ‘Astronaut Signed Dollar Bills’ began at the grand opening of the Houston Astrodome in 1965.

Throughout the Gemini III-XIII and Apollo 7-11 missions, the astronauts all carried $1 bills signed by their fellow crew members, some even sporting Neil Armstrong’s signature.

And in true Short Snorter tradition, anyone unable to produce their bill during the mission would be the one buying the drinks when they got safely back to earth."
posted by ericb at 8:35 AM on October 27, 2010

A bill with some real WWII history ... The General Hoyt Vandenberg short snorter was started in June 1942 flight over the mid-Atlantic.

The subject of the PBS History Detectives segment:
"A man in New York City has a British ten-shilling note dated July 25, 1942 that is an autograph hunter’s dream: a single slip of paper, called a 'Short Snorter', signed by almost every luminary on the Allied side of World War II: from Patton, to Churchill to Roosevelt.

The date on the bill is the same as a major Allied meeting held in London, where a momentous decision was made that would set the stage for the rest of World War II. Nazi troops were advancing across Europe. The time had come for America to join the battle, and for the Allies to open a second front - but where?

History Detectives finds out whether this short-snorter was witness to the fateful agreement that forged the alliance between America and Britain."
posted by ericb at 8:43 AM on October 27, 2010

My wallet's got a zippered section just behind where you'd put bills, the same size as the billfold, just partitioned. I've never exactly been sure why, and I've had the wallet for a couple of years now. This is a compelling rationale for such a compartment.
posted by explosion at 9:23 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a 1 yuan note, central bank of china, printed by the Chung Wah Book co. LTD serial # B339397d dated 1936. on the portrait side 7 U.S.names (assumption they are all american as i have found three names that are american and 4 names in Chinese.) and 4 chinese names. 4 have ascribed the date, may 1945.

The dates led me to think it was a soveighner rather then a short snorter. Hard to track the american names as most have shortened first names etc.
posted by clavdivs at 9:52 AM on October 27, 2010

great post
posted by clavdivs at 9:53 AM on October 27, 2010

I'm amazed that that this is something I've never even heard of before. It seems like something I would have at least stumbled upon as a reference or a plot device in a noir movie or crime drama.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:04 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

And this post is the reason I love Metafilter. I can't wait for an excuse to create one myself!
posted by indiebass at 10:44 AM on October 27, 2010


My dad has one of these. It's a 1934 Sliver Certificate, US dollar, signed by the guys in his squadron in WWII.

I was unaware of the tradition and my dad's a bit senile, so he probably doesn't remember.

Thank you for this.
posted by mmrtnt at 10:56 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ah, the "short snort" refers to a drink. Not what I was expecting from a tradition involving a banknote.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:44 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is an awesome tradition that needs to be re-awakened. Mefi's should do this at meet ups.
posted by Skygazer at 11:50 AM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

in a noir movie or crime drama.
that is why I love 'this' place. the gems and the jewels.
as a further addition, would it be...ethical to track down these names further, esp the chinese names and make a respectful inquiry say even to give it to a family who would want it.
posted by clavdivs at 12:16 PM on October 27, 2010

I demand that short snorters become a tradition of MeFi meetups.
posted by Shohn at 12:40 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I adore the idea of meetups generating their own traditional material culture.
posted by Miko at 2:07 PM on October 27, 2010

From what I can tell, a Chicagan (sp?) MeFite would be broke if he/she ever lost his/hers due to how often they meet up and how many people show up.
posted by TrishaLynn at 3:18 PM on October 27, 2010

Wow - this was a twofer for me - I also didn't know that US currency in Hawaii was stamped 'HAWAII' so that it would be worthless in the event of a Japanese invasion. Great post, thanks.
posted by cftarnas at 9:29 PM on October 27, 2010

The first thing that came to my mind was challenge coins, too.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:16 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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