Although the phrase "almighty dollar" was not popularized until the 1900s, similar phrases had been used much earlier. For example, the British writer Ben Jonson wrote in 1616:
Whilst that for which all virtue now is sold,
And almost every vice, almighty gold.
The "dollar" version of the phrase is commonly attributed to Washington Irving, who used it in the story "The Creole Village," first published in the 1837 edition of The Magnolia, a literary annual:[note 1]
The almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, seems to have no genuine devotees in these peculiar villages; and unless some of its missionaries penetrate there, and erect banking houses and other pious shrines, there is no knowing how long the inhabitants may remain in their present state of contented poverty.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton is often credited with coining the related phrase "pursuit of the almighty dollar", which he used in his 1871 novel The Coming Race. More obscure uses of the phrase can be found as far back as 1852.
In popular culture
"The Almighty Dollar" is the name of a 2007 Ozzy Osbourne song from his album Black Rain. The song argues that money and greed are destroying the planet by blinding people to problems such as global warming and pollution.
The words "Almighty Dollar" are repeated in the 1973 funk hit single "For the Love of Money" by The O'Jays. The song cautions against the intense desire for money and the negative effects that such desire can have on a person's personality and actions.
- The story was also reprinted in its entirety in the November 1836 issue of The Knickerbocker magazine within a review of The Magnolia.
- Cryer, Max (2010). Who Said That First. Exisle Publishing Limited. p. 16.
- Irving, Washington. "The Creole Village," The Complete Works of Washington Irving, Vol. 27. Roberta Rosenberg, editor. Boston, Twayne Publications, 1979, xxii.
- Bulwer-Lytton, Edward (1871). The Coming Race.
My father died shortly after I was twenty-one; and being left well off, and having a taste for travel and adventure, I resigned, for a time, all pursuit of the almighty dollar, and became a desultory wanderer over the face of the earth.
- "The Wants of Social and Domestic Life". Genesee Farmer. 13 (11): 832. November 1852.
In the eagerness of our pursuit of the almighty dollar, how prone we are to forget the wants, and neglect the duties of domestic life.
- McIntosh, Charles (February 1853). "The Garden". Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. 73 (448): 138.
Their pursuit of the all-mighty dollar is too passionate and intense to admit of interruption from the recreations of horticulture.Excerpt from The Book of the Garden, William Blackwood & Sons, 1852.