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July 28, 2010

Who in the world is David H. Comins?

Does David H. Comins actually exist?

The “Thought For The Day” Listserv had this quote today:
People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
-- David H. Comins
I loved the quote, and wanted to pass it along to my friends, but I was curious about the author, because I had never heard of him.

I’m usually pretty good at digging information out of Google, but so far I’ve come up empty.  Searching on his name, I found countless sites that reproduce this quote, but have no information about who Comins is.

So… Is Comins a one-hit wonder, famous precisely for saying the above quote, but otherwise obscure?  That’s not very easy to pull off, it seems to me.

I did find a Facebook page for a David Comins, but I’d have to get on his Friends list to see any detailed information on him.  There’s a David Comins on LinkedIn, but how would an Information Manager at TimeWarner become famous for a quote on Benjamin Franklin?

C’mon, somebody do my homework for me and point me to a site that tells me who Comins is.

There is a lesson in all of this.  How often to we uncritically pass on things we find on the Internet or receive in our email?  Do any of the people who posted the Comins quote on their websites know anything about Comins, assuming he exists?  I’m willing to bet they don’t.

You’re welcome to prove me wrong.

11 July 2011 UPDATE:
The hunt for David H. Comins still rages on, given the number of visits to this post through search engines.  I decided to have another look to see if anything else had turned up on him.  I think we've got him!  It seems that the possibility that I dismissed above as the least likely has ended up being the reality about our mystery man.

All of those sites referring to him as an author may want to reconsider that description, given that pretty much the only thing he ever got published was... that quote.  It was a reader submission for a magazine article.  In real life, it looks like he was a real estate broker in Manchester, Connecticut for quite a while, but he's well past retirement now.  I wouldn't be surprised if he’s spending his golden years marveling about how famous—yet obscure—he is.

18 December 2015 UPDATE: The links in the previous update no longer work, so I thought I'd update my search.  A recent book called The Official Rules has this entry for "Comins's Law":

There's no way to know where the authors got their information, but the citation supports my 2011 findings: that Comins lived in Manchester, Connecticut, and that the quotation originally appeared in a magazine article (HW = Harper's Weekly).  He may still be there, if Pipl's data is accurate.

Conclusion, reiterated: David H. Comins is famous for this quotation, and nothing else.  If it weren't for his submission to Harper's, he wouldn't exist at all, as far as the internet is concerned.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the blog post! We were doing a Cryptoquote in a newspaper and it was his quote about Benjamin Franklin. I had never heard of him and was trying to figure out who he is and I came across your blog!

Tim said...

Happy to be helpful!

KAZ said...

Your links to the "reader submission for an article", and to "real estate broker in Manchester" are both bad.

Do you have anything else I can use as a reference? I hate posting quotations without a reference.

Tim said...

Hello, KAZ. I'm the same way about quotation sources.

Alas, the shelf life of internet links...

Hard data about Mr. Comins is fading even further into obscurity. I tried to follow the breadcrumbs again, but what I found is not much to build a case upon. You can see what I found in the post update.

KAZ said...


Of course this evidence doesn't lend itself well to citation inline with a quote, but at least I can say I saw it and felt confident the quote isn't apocryphal, if challenged.