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I thought of checking the "Dictionary of Superstitions," Opie & Tatem. The earliest citation they have for "Teeth, disposing of" is:
1686 Aubrey /Remaines 1881, II/ When children shaledtheir Teeth the women use to wrap, or put salt about the tooth, and so throw it into a good fire.
Then, no citations until the 1800s, when there are six more, with various combinations of salt, fire, and, in several, concerns about dogs or pigs getting at them and a dog-like or pig-like tooth growing in its place.
In the twentieth century, there's one more salt one (1953) and one more burn-in-fire one (1973). The other two are the only two fairy-related hits:
1954 (Girl, 14, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs) Put a toothunder your pillow and a fairy will give you sixpence for it.
1987 (Boy, 8, Manchester, Lancs) You put it underyour pillow, and then you write a message, 'Dear
Tooth Fairy, would you leave my tooth?' And in the morning you find the tooth still there, and you find 20p - or 50p if you're lucky.
So this is consistent with the proposition that the fairy/Tooth Fairy idea is not very old.
I checked some texts written between 1850 and the 1930s. The thing most commonly placed under a pillow was a revolver no teeth were mentioned.
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
I thought of checking the "Dictionary of Superstitions," Opie & Tatem. The earliest citation they have for "Teeth, disposing of" is:

I found this in "The Golden Bough" of Frazer. Unfortunately the edition I have (an abridgement called "The New Golden Bough" lacks footnotes and citations, so no dates are attached to these customs. The implication is that they were current at the time of writing, the late 19th century.
"A similar belief has led to practices intended, on the principles of homoeopathic magic, to replace old teeth by new and better ones. Thus in many parts of the world it is customary to put extracted teeth in some place where they will be found by a mouse or a rat, in the hope that, through the sympathy which continues to subsist between them and their former owner, his other teeth may acquire the same firmness and excellence as the teeth of these rodents.

Thus, in Germany it is said to be an almost universal maxim among the people that when you have had a tooth taken out you should insert it in a mouse's hole. To do so with a child's milk-tooth which has fallen out will prevent the child from having a toothache. Or you should go behind the stove and throw your tooth backwards over your head, saying, 'Mouse, give me your iron tooth; I will give you my bone tooth.' After that your other teeth will remain good.

German children say, 'Mouse, mouse, come out and bring me out a new tooth'; or 'Mouse, I give you a little bone; give me a little stone'; or 'Mouse, there is an old tooth for you; make me a new one.' Jewish children in South Russia used to throw their cast teeth on the roof with the same request to the mouse to give them an iron tooth for one of bone; just as the Singhalese wil throw them on the roof, saying, 'Squirrel, dear squirrel, take this tooth and give me a dainty one!' In Bohemia a child will sometimes throw its cast tooth behind the stove, asking the fox to give it an iron one instead.

An Armenian generally buries his extracted teeth at the edge of the hearth with the prayer:'Grandfather, take a dog's tooth and give me a golden tooth.' In the light of the preceding examples, we may conjecture that the grandfather here invoked is not so much the soul of a dead ancestor as a mouse or a rat."

John Varela
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John Dean filted:
Ah - the silver threepenny bits. We used to have Christmas dinner at my Auntie's and the pudding always had ... swap the threepenny bit for a sixpence. Which I always did and I thought she was silly to let me.

Had Auntie heard the old joke that ends with the line "the first time I take the other one, they stop playing the game"?...r
Donna Richoux on the Tooth Fairy:
I'm wondering now how old this custom is; somehow it feels modern and not something that goes back beyond a century or so.

In the early 1940s it was a silver threepenny piece in my case. Looked very like a sixpence but smaller. Just "the fairies" as in your case.

COD10 gives no date for "tooth fairy", but MWC11 dates it to 1962.
Here is an interesting piece of negative evidence, "Denise Montgomery" in the Stumpers List reports:
A 1928 book by Leo Kanner (Folklore of the Tooth) makes no mention of a tooth fairy.
Also interesting is that the Spanish had the place under the pillow ritual, but still used a mouse for retrieval.
Early in the 1900s, the Tooth Fairy made most of
her appearances in France.
The dictionary people should know that the Cecil Adams crew has a piece on this; they found a play written in 1927, and a magazine article written in 1949.
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also. (Does the Wizard of Oz figure into this?)
COD10 gives no date for "tooth fairy", but MWC11 dates it to 1962.

Several posters in this thread report the "tooth fairy" use from the 1950s. I am also among those remembering the "tooth fairy" from the 1950s. The MWCD11 editors need to take their noses out of their collection of citation slips.

In the case of "tooth fairy," it looks as if it is a matter of not having a sufficiently large collection of citation slips. But as for citing opinions about usage, memories rather than what has appeared in published works: The editors of MWCD11 and others like them (the editors of the OED, for example) do not want to rely on people's memories for when a usage may have begun. The editors of the OED don't even accept cites from private diaries which have not previously published (although they do, according to some rule I don't really understand, accept cites from such published works as Pepy's diary).

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
... as for citing opinions about usage, memories rather than what has appeared in published works: The editors of MWCD11 ... (although they do, according to some rule I don't really understand, accept cites from such published works as Pepy's diary).

I suppose the distinction is between works to which in principle one has access, so that the editors' dictionary entries can be judged in context and perhaps disagreed with, and works of which this isn't true: a published edition of Pepys' diaries is therefore accepted because accessible, my manuscript diary is ignored. If this is the OED's reasoniong, then probably diaries and letters lodged in libraries where anyone may read them should be accepted as evidence.
Alan Jones
... as for citing opinions about usage, memories rather than ... understand, accept cites from such published works as Pepy's diary).

I suppose the distinction is between works to which in principle one has access, so that the editors' dictionary entries ... then probably diaries and letters lodged in libraries where anyone may read them should be accepted as evidence. Alan Jones

Not quite the take I got from it. I rather thought that what was meant was that the OED/MWCD11 and such do not accept cites from yer average Pinky Tescadero diary even if they be as interesting and cogent as, say,
"Jan. 25, 1954...oh and then Fonzie said that it would be so-o-o-o "cool" (a usage I had never heard before) to jump a shark on a motorcycle..."
while from Pepy's diary, the same lexicographers are perfectly willing to accept as legit any number of cites from such as his "Small Cakes Recipe":
Take one pound of very fine flower (a spellyng of
"flour" which has never before crossed these eyes), and put to it half a pound of sugar. Add one pound of currants well washed. When your flower (see
above) is well mixed with the sugar and curants, you must put in it a half a pound of melted butter,
three spoonfuls of milk, with the yolks of three
new-laid eggs beat with it, some nutmeg; and if you please, three spoonfuls of Sack.
When you have mixed your paste well, you must put it in a dish by the fire, till it be warm.
Then make them up in little cakes, and '***' them (a usage I have ne'er before made acquaintence
of) full of holes. Bake them in a quick oven
unclosed, until the entire City be burnt to the
Ground. Afterwards sprinkle them with sugar.
The Cakes should be about the bigness of a
hand-breadth and thin; of the cise (sic-a spellyng I have never before encountered) of the Sugar
Cakes sold at Barnet You know what I mean.
(snip)
Then make them up in little cakes, and '***' them (a usage I have ne'er before made acquaintence of) full of holes. Bake them in a quick oven unclosed, until the entire City be burnt to the Ground. Afterwards sprinkle them with sugar.

Don't you *** pastry? I think of it as standard procedure - it allows steam to escape during cooking.
As also in the nursery rhyme:
"Patacake, patacake, baker's man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can!
Pat it and *** it and mark it with B
And put it in the oven for baby and me."

Katy Jennison
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while from Pepy's diary,

The man's last name was Pepys.
the same lexicographers are perfectly willing to accept as legit any number of cites from such as his "Small Cakes Recipe":

Something very odd is going on there. The Complete Diaries are at: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/4/2/0/4200/4200.txt
and there is no such recipe.
I do find three web pages that mention Pepys' name somewhere near this recipe (which appears without any editorial comments about "spellyng") but they clearly credit it to:
Small Cakes - after a recipe from Sir Kenelme Digby, 1669. from "The Closet of Sir Kenelme Digby Opened."
Digby or Digbie's food and drink recipes are quoted in various places on the Web.
So, what is the connection to Pepys? Did he write the parenthetical editorial notes, and if so, where? The connection that these web pages give is simply the Great Fire of London. Pepys wrote a history of the Great Fire, and these cakes of Digby/Digbie's might have been the sort that might have burned and started the fire.
Take one pound of very fine flower (a spellyng of "flour" which has never before crossed these eyes), and put ... warm. Then make them up in little cakes, and '***' them (a usage I have ne'er before made acquaintence of)

Since Pepys uses "***" as a verb a dozen times in his diaries, with various senses, this make me think these aren't his comments but someone of today (writing in mock old-fashioned style) who only knows it as obscene.
full of holes. Bake them in a quick oven unclosed, until the entire City be burnt to the Ground. Afterwards ... cise (sic-a spellyng I have never before encountered) of the Sugar Cakes sold at Barnet You know what I mean.

Where did you get this from, please?

Best Donna Richoux
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