Talk:To hell in a handbasket

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This is an interesting if elusive idiomatic phrase. The article could benefit from additional commentary - for instance, Michael Quinion posts an interesting discussion at which is useful. There is also an interesting and suggestive reference to a stained glass window in Fairford church, Gloucestershire, which shows a blue devil conveying a woman to purgatory / hell in a wheelbarrow, which may have a bearing on the discussion (q.v. From the admittedly patchy evidence it appears that the main impetus for the phrase's popularity (in its 20th-century form) is due to its sonorous alliteration. Earlier versions appear to have a more thoroughgoing etymology, but the modern phrase seems to have been adopted for its sonority and quaintness of expression. For no good reason except that of free association I tend to think of the term as applying to the weird events that transpired at Salem, Massachusetts - where outward appearances of virtue belied an inner corruption. The usual definition of "going to hell in a handbasket" emphasizes swift and easy - even obvious - deterioration but perhaps it also implies a keeping up of appearances, a semblance of innocence or an unwillingness to admit to the problem publically? The term anyway seems to refer to a social malaise which is difficult to root out, and which threatens to unravel the fabric of society.

Ironiclogic (talk) 12:36, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

There is no suggestion that the expression was invented by Judge Morris. But there are no other references to other uses for 100 years. Surely there must be other people who used the expression, probably before Morris. It sounds like something out of Dickens, so may not even be of American origin.Royalcourtier (talk) 05:35, 12 July 2014 (UTC)


I would could this phrase somehow be related to beheadings where the head falls into a basket? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:46, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

I believe you are quite right. See my link below. - KitchM (talk) 20:41, 21 September 2013 (UTC)


I've found several sources which point to the phrase "to hell in a handcart" as the ancestor of the Americanized phrase, "to hell in a handbasket." Do you think this is worth adding to the article under some sort of "origins" section? Memeca16 (talk) 04:54, 13 September 2010 (UTC)

I came here to find the origin of the phrase "to hell in a handcart", until I read the Wiki page I'd never heard the phrase "to hell in a handbasket", perhaps some acknowledgement is needed of its different usage in different places. Here in the UK we are going to hell in a handcart! (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 13:26, 5 December 2015 (UTC)

The proper term is "to hell in a hen basket". A hen basket is a wicker basket designed for carrying chickens; the basket cradles the chicken, but restricts its movement. The phrase got corrupted by city folk that didn't know what a hen basket was.--Drvanthorp (talk) 00:51, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

I am city folk. I don't know about hen baskets. Your claim sound interesting but what is your source??? Ironiclogic (talk) 05:37, 27 March 2011 (UTC)

While passing through Oklahoma about 40 years ago, I stopped at a small town museum in Crescent, OK. They had a "hand basket." The description on the piece stated that the term originated in the plains. Since there were few trees, what wood was locally available would not be splurged on a casket. The womenfolk (of course, who else) began making elongated baskets large enough to hold a body with three handles on each side. The dearly departed was wrapped in a cloth/quilt and placed in the basket. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Nchavez66 (talkcontribs) 15:48, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

This link might help everyone. hell in a handbasket or handcart - KitchM (talk) 20:46, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
The idea that the term was originally "Hen basket" is entirely speculative. "Hen baskets" have nothing to do with the metaphor. We should not assume that "Hell in X basket" implies a human being carried in the said basket, obvious though that may seem. The origin could be more obscure. There is evidence that the term is of English origin. To quote from the article at "The English preacher Thomas Adams referred to 'going to heaven in a wheelbarrow' in Gods Bounty on Proverbs, 1618: Oh, this oppressor [that is, one who was wealthy but gave little to the church] must needs go to heaven! What shall hinder him? But it will be, as the byword is, in a wheelbarrow: the fiends, and not the angels, will take hold on him."Royalcourtier (talk) 05:49, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

Order of the Sons of Liberty[edit]

Why does "Order of the Sons of Liberty" link to "Knights of the Golden Circle?" Is it the name of a chapter? An alternate name for the same organization? I think there needs to be some clarification on one of the pages. (talk) 05:39, 11 June 2015 (UTC)