making local government more ethical

Little Tin Box

The musical Fiorello, about Fiorello LaGuardia, the mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945 known for cleaning up corruption, is being revived later this month for the Encore! series at Lincoln Center in New York.

So it's a good occasion to share the lyrics of one of the musical's most famous songs, "Little Tin Box" (see below). The song is the imaginings of crooked politicians about how they would explain their high-spending ways to a judge. The lyrics are by Sheldon Harnick, and the music by Jerry Bock. You can hear the original cast recording of the song here. Or read the lyrics below:


Little Tin Box
“Mr. X, may we ask you a question?
It's amazing, is it not,
That the city pays you slightly less than fifty bucks a week,
Yet you've purchased a private yacht?”


“I am positive your Honor must be joking!
Any working man can do what I have done.
For a month or two I simply gave up smoking,
And I put my extra pennies one by one

“Into a little tin box,
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is nothing unorthodox
About a little tin box.
In a little tin box.
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is honor and purity,
Lots of security,
In a little tin box.”

“Mr. Y, we've been told you don't feel well,
And we know you've lost your voice,
But we wonder how you managed on the salary you make
To acquire a new Rolls-Royce.”


“You're implyin' I'm a crook and I say no, sir!
There is nothin' in my past I care to hide.
I been takin' empty bottles to the grocer
And each nickel that I got was put aside
(That he got was put aside)

“Into a little tin box,
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is nothing unorthodox
About a little tin box.
In a little tin box,
A little tin box
There's a cushion for life's rude shocks.
There is faith, hope and charity,
Hard-won prosperity,
In a little tin box.”

“Mr. Z, you're a junior official
And your income's rather low,
Yet you've kept a dozen women in the very best hotels,
Would you kindly explain how so?”


“I can see your Honor doesn't pull his punches,
And it looks a trifle fishy, I'll admit.
But for one whole week I went without my lunches,
And it mounted up, your Honor, bit by bit.
(Up your Honor, bit by bit.)

“It's just a little tin box,
A little tin box
That a little tin key unlocks.
There is nothing unorthodox
About a little tin box.
In a little tin box,
A little tin box
All a-glitter with blue-chip stocks.
There is something delectable,
Almost respectable,
in a little tin box,
In a little tin box.”
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