Context: Thomas Chandler Halliburton (1796–1865) was a Canadian jurist who was also a humorist. His alter ego and pseudonym was Sam Slick. Sam first appeared in a series of letters that ran in The Nova Scotian, a weekly paper, in 1836. These were later issued in book form under the title, The Clockmaker; or, the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slick-ville. Sam is a shrewd and ingenious Yankee peddler, dealing in clocks; he sells his wares among the Nova Scotians, who are usually not so quick-witted as he, and he never fails to take advantage of them. Like the later and somewhat similar creation of William Sidney Porter (O. Henry), Jeff Peters, Sam is an unscrupulous but loveable rascal. His adventures were so popular that he appeared in a number of volumes, and at length Halliburton sent him abroad in 1843–1844 to provide a commentary on the British. In this book, The Attaché; or, Sam Slick in England, Sam makes the following comment (Chapter 24): "I want you to see Peel, Stanley, Graham, Shiel, Russell, Macauley, Old Joe, and so on. These men are all upper-crust here." However, credit for the more or less universal popularity of this term should, perhaps, go to James Fenimore Cooper, who used it six years later. Cooper was the first American novelist to reach widespread fame beyond the borders of this country. His historical novels of pioneer America were read avidly throughout the English-speaking world. He later wrote a number of works embodying social criticism and expressing his conservative point of view. The Ways of the Hour is one of these. In it he deals with the evils of the jury system, and of laws which restrict the individual but do not protect him. The story itself is a murder mystery. Mary Monson, a beautiful girl of unknown background, is accused of arson and murder; the old couple she has been staying with have apparently been killed and their house burned. Their money is missing. Jack Wilmeter, nephew of lawyer Tom Dunscomb, has fallen in love with Mary. In the following passage, Jack and the sheriff's wife speculate on the girl's background:
Although Mrs. Gott and John Wilmeter had very different ideas, at the bottom of the requisites to form a lady, and the pronunciation of the good woman was by no means faultless, she cordially assented to the truth of the young man's eulogy. Indeed, Mary Monson, for the hour, was her great theme; and, though still a young woman herself, and good-looking withal, she really seemed never to tire of uttering her praises."She has been educated, Mr. Wilmeter, far above any female hereabouts, unless it may be some of the––s and––s," the good woman continued. "Those families, you know, are our upper crust–not upper ten thousand, as the newspapers call it, but upper hundred, and their ladies may know as much as Mary; but, beyond them, no female hereabouts can hold a candle to her! Her books have been brought in, and I looked them over–there isn't more than one in three that I can read at all. What is more, they don't seem to be all in one tongue, the foreign books, but in three or four."