Found initially on 44 bikes
This text is often attributed to Miriam Hamilton Keare « an environmentalist whose love of civic duty drove her to serve on more than 30 boards and committee » (strangely, no Wikipedia page exits of such a figure), including by the Chicago Tribune Staff Writer who wrote her obituary on January 19, 2000, adding that Ann Landers twice printed those « rules » in the Tribune .
1. If you open it, close it.
2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
3. If you unlock it, lock it up.
4. If you break it, admit it.
5. If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can.
6. If you borrow it, return it.
7. If you value it, take care of it.
8. If you make a mess, clean it up.
9. If you move it, put it back.
10. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
11. If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
12. If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.
After 1955, the « Ask Ann Landers » column was written by Eppie Lederer.
I found more than just two occurences of « Ann Landers’ Golden Rule » (note that as syndicated material, columns signed Ann Landers appeared in many different newspapers):
- A reply to reader Brass Knuckles Beats the Golden Rules, published on July 11, 1972 (« …the golden rule is better than brass knuckles…) », suggests that « Golden Rule » was published prior to that date and well known by Ann Landers column readers.
- On December 21, 1977 the list is republished, extended by reader Daily Reader In New York (suggesting M.Y.O.B. as rule #13), with the following addition: « May I add just one more -If it brighten someone’s day, say it. » This is the earlier version I have found.
- The Rules are republished on October 27, 1982 (in reply to Maimie in Dubuque, who requested the « 12 golden rules you ran a while back« ). They are not attributed but are followed by « I just thought of a couple more, Maimie: (13) If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (14) If it will brighten someone’s day -SAY IT! ». As they are preceded by « I have found’em« , it is safe to believe that Eppie Lederer’s filing was not perfect, and she and her staff lacked access to Google News.
- On July 22, 1983, at the request of reader Tonstant Weeder in Texas (« …and this time, glue it to the dresser »), the 14-rule version is republished with the words « I just thought of a couple more » inserted between rule 12 and rule #13. That is the same version as in 1982, but without the word « Maimie« , which is logical.
- The 14 Rules are republished under the title « Golden Rules for Easier Living » on July 2, 1985 at the request of reader SOS in Kansas, exactly in the same form as in 1983 (« I just thought of a couple more… »).
- On December 20, 1986 the Rules are republished (at the request of reader Constant Reader in Tenessee) in the 12-rule format under the title « Golden Rules for Living« . There is no attribution. Strangely, on that date several other newspapers have published a list shortened to the first 7 Rules.
- On April 21, 1990, the Rules are published again, refering to prior publication in 1986. The text is still not attributed, but is sligthly different. The 12 rules are this time followed by: « I just thought of a few more: (13) If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (14) If it will brighten someone’s day, say it. (15) If it will tarnish someone’s reputation, keep it to yourself. » This is the first, and only, known 15-rule version published by Ann Landers
- On April 27, 1995, at the request of a reader known only by his address in Battle Creek, Mich, the Rules are republished in the 12-rule format under the title « Golden Rules for Living (author unknown)«
- On February 15, 1996 the 12 Rules are republished at the request of no one, but with the justification that « What follows is one of those columns that people attach to their refrigerator doors, which is where I saw it recently (…) it dawned on me -it had appeared in my column several years ago« . A filing issue, for sure.
- On August 28, 1999, the 12 rules are reposted (at reader Frustrated in Texas‘ request). This time the title is « Golden Rules for Living / by Miriam Hamilton Keare« . It is the first known attribution to Ms Keare. In addition, it is the earliest known version that exists in HTML format, available on Chicago Tribune web archive.
- On April 18, 2001 (in reply to Ed in Las Vegas), the 12 Rules appear, again attributed to Miriam Hamilton Keare.
So only twice attributed to Ms Keare, but published, in various formats, at least 11 times over 30 years…