Doing a land office business

Posted by ESC on November 19, 2001

In Reply to: Doing a land office business posted by steve on November 19, 2001

: does anyone know the origin of this saying?

LAND-OFFICE BUSINESS - "Prior to the Civil War, the U.S. government established 'land offices' for the allotment of government-owned land in western territories just opened to settlers. These offices registered applicants, and the rush of citizens lining up mornings long before the office opened made the expression 'doing a land-office business,' 'a tremendous amount of business,' part of the language by at least 1853. Adding to the queues were prospectors filing mining claims, which were also handled by land offices. After several decades the phrase was applied figuratively to a great business in something other than land, even, in one case I remember, to a land-office business in fish." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).