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I read on TV Tropes that:

The use of a banana peel as an injurious prop is actually alarmingly realistic and a reference to its ubiquity on the streets of American cities in the early part of the 20th Century. Refrigeration and shipping speed had combined to make bananas the most popular fruit in the country, and in that age before anti-littering laws, people would just eat the fruit and discard the peels wherever they were. As they rotted, the peels would become quite slippery and thus dangerous to tread upon.

(btw, is that true?), but I wonder: who used it first in a gag?

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    Wikipedia starts with 1854 - so it was a pre-film era joke. – knut Apr 4 '16 at 21:05
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    This amazingly detailed link will answer all your questions, and then some (Long story short: They first appeared in film around 1913-15, on stage around 1900, and in written jokes in the last half of the 19th century) – Walt Apr 4 '16 at 21:27
  • I'm not so sure of the veracity of your source: (1) refrigeration was available long before the 20th century (witness Aussie beef in England) and (2) bananas are shipped green. – Cascabel Apr 4 '16 at 23:31
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IMDB has a own keyword "Slipping On A Banana Peel" Titles and it mention as first film The Flirt (1917). You can check the sketch at Youtube.

But the list is uncomplete, e.g. one of the best banana scenes The Battle of the Century (1927) is missing.

So I'm sure there are older films with at least a short banana scene.

  • ... but the trope doesn't originate with film, as the link in the comment above points out. – Catija Apr 4 '16 at 21:22

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