A rain check was originally a voucher issued at baseball games that were rained out, allowing the spectators to return to watch another game. From the National Police Gazette of 10 May 1884:
The Toledo [baseball] Club will give rain-checks this season.
The term quickly spread to other types of sporting events and eventually to any offer that was not taken up immediately. From the Chicago Daily Tribune of 16 April 1896:
An effort was made…to have the coming committee meeting postponed...Rain checks, however, might be given.1
There is a commonly told tale that the first rain check was issued by the minor league New Orleans Pelicans and owner Abner Powell sometime in 1887-89 (the dates vary depending on who is doing the telling). But as can be seen from the 1884 quote from Ohio, this claim is not true.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton