A broom is hung at the mast-head of ships about to be sold, to
indicate that they are to be swept away. The idea is popularly taken
from Admiral Tromp; but probably this allusion is more witty than true.
The custom of hanging up something to attract notice seems very common.
Thus an old piece of carpet from a window indicates household furniture
for sale; a wisp of straw indicates oysters for sale; a bush means wine
for sale; an old broom, ships to sell, etc. etc. (See Pennant.)
A new broom.
One fresh in office.
New brooms sweep clean.
Those newly appointed to an office find fault and want to sweep
away old customs.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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