Phrases are often a part of language that gives people an idea about a topic or subject, and they convey an entire concept with just a few words. For those who want to know more about them, one of the most interesting ones is jump on the bandwagon. Many people take it to mean joining a popular movement or political issue, and they are quite correct. Where it came from is actually a very interesting tale.
When the circus used to come to town, one of the ways they attracted customers before television, radio and internet was to put a band on a decorated wagon and have horses draw it through the town where they would soon set up. The band would play music as they were driven about the streets, and the word would spread through town. It was one of the easiest forms of marketing available at the time, and it was a very successful ploy.
While a band wagon was first mentioned in a book written by P.T. Barnum, it was actually a fairly common conveyance at the time. There were no cars in the middle of the nineteenth century, and only boats and trains were available for travel over long distances. While the circus would come to utilize trains for many years in the future, they all had a band wagon for getting out the word they were open for business.
The phrase did start with the circus due to the bandwagon, but it became more popular as time went on with other groups. Politicians found it a particular apt way to campaign, and those who were considered winners or front runners eventually began selling seats on their own wagons. It was believed by many that the luck of those about to win their own races would help others, and joining them was seen as a positive message to voters. Many politicians would charge for a seat on their wagon, and then the person could jump up and join them. This is where the jumping part of the phrase became popular.
While there was no guarantee that joining a popular politician would actually help their own bids for office, there were plenty of candidates looking for support from others. Modern communications methods have cut out the popular band wagon rolling through town, but it has not stopped the phrase from being part of the group knowledge of people who vote.
Today’s votes and circus attendees rely on modern communication to get word to them about candidates and circus shows, but the phrase lives on as a popular way to describe the concept in just a few short words.