Word Origin & History
"something resembling the handle of a pan," 1851, especially in ref. to geography, originally Amer.Eng., 1856, in ref. to West Virginia (Florida, Texas, Idaho, Oklahoma also have them). Meaning "an act of begging" is attested from 1849, perhaps from notion of arm stuck out like a panhandle; verb panhandle
"to beg" is from 1903.