‘Pulled Papers’

Where does this expression come from? So-and-so pulled papers to run for some political office. A Google search yields a bunch of references in Massachusetts newspapers. Revere. Waltham. This expression describes the act of requesting nomination-signature forms for a certain political office from the appropriate official in a town or city hall. It sounds like diner talk to me. Local yokels chewing over the latest political gossip. What’s interesting is the knowing tone of expression: “Joe Malarkey pulled papers to run for Council.” An insider’s argot. Saying it this way makes politics sound more like a contact sport, maybe a blood sport. “She pulled papers.” There’s something assertive, aggressive in the  verb. Pulled from whom? Pulled out of what….somebody’s hands or a nomination-papers vending machine?  Maybe as a Lowellian I hear a toughness in the language. Politics ain’t beanbag, and all that. Go pull some papers. We need more candidates for everything everywhere. In 1972, ten people ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the Fifth District. They all pulled papers.