Green’s Dictionary of Slang

snollygoster n.

[? Ger. schnelle Geister, lit. ‘wild host’, and thus a bird of prey that terrorizes man, or schnelle Geeschte, lit. ‘quick spirits’, also defined as a monster. According to Safire (Political Dict., 1978), it was coined during or near the time of the US Civil War (1861–5). There may be a link to the Maryland snallygaster, a mythical monster supposedly part reptile and part bird, designed to terrify ex-slaves out of voting]

(US) a shrewd, unprincipled person, esp. a politician.

Locomotive (Marion Co., IN) 27 Sept. 1/2: Now, here I am, a rale self-propelling double-revolving locomotive snolly goster, ready to attack.
[US] ‘The Black Brigade’ in C. Elliot Songs of Yale (1870) 82: We am de snolly-gosters An’ lubs Jim Ribber oysters.
Atlanta Constitution (GA) 1 Oct. 4/2: Down here in Georgia we know the snollygoster too well. They are always hanging around the skirts of our enemies and all good democrats hate them.
Windsor Rev. (MO) 30 Mar. 4/2: The Colonel [...] states that the word ‘snollygoster’ originated in Georgia, and was applied to an unscrupulous, place-hunting, small-fry politician.
[US]Inter-Ocean (Chicago) 3 Mar. 3/7: Snollygosters have apparent control by one vote.
[US]Lincoln (NE) State Journal 7 Sept. n.p.: We once knew a miserly old snollygoster who used to look in the mirror to see the reflection of a saint.
Tampa Times (FL) 2 Dec. 4/1: His friends lovingly called him ‘Snollygoster.’ [...] Ham was of the old school.
Frankfurst index (KS) 31 Aug. 3/2: The snollygoaster is a fellow, who, when he can’t lick ’em, joins ’em. A smooth chap, too.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 9 Sept. [synd. col.] Truman, a snollygoster, used that word in a speech and newsmen discovered that it means ‘a pretentious politician, a swaggering, prattling fellow.’.
[US]A.J. Liebling Honest Rainmaker (1991) 158: A long-legged snollygoster with a profile like Andy Gump.
Message-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY) 27 Mar. 32/7: With the May primary only a month or so away, watch for the snollygoster to make his appearance.
Press & Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) 27 Dec. 17/3: ‘Snollygoster in the South, it’s a polite way of calling a man a — — ’.
Gren Bay Gaz. (WI) 16 June E5/5: A ‘snurge’ is a despicable person [...] Many ‘snurges’ grow up to be ‘snollygosters’.