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Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Burning of Washington, D.C.

On August 19 I caught a show on National Public Radio worth sharing with everyone.  Breaking: British Burn Washington is done in the style of breaking news from the battlefront with various correspondents and even debating "experts" about whether the War of 1812 should have been undertaken.  (If the NPR link is confusing because of other current news archived with it, be sure to look for "Breaking.")  Two hundred years ago the young United States fought this "Second War of Independence" from Britain.  NPR was a bit premature as the date was August 24 according to everything I have found.  The War of 1812 is often overlooked among other U.S. conflicts, so the Bicentennial reminds us just how close we came to losing.
Listening to the program it was easy to imagine the horror of that historic day.  My own historical programs look at "History as seen by the 'average' person" as opposed to the many people who portray famous people.  If anyone famous would entice me, it's Dolley Madison.  Back when I did three articles specifically on the War of 1812 I mentioned her in 12 Reasons to Remember the War of 1812 (reason 9), but 13 Resources to Remember the War of 1812 (resource 10) took us to pages 14 to 17 of "The Burning of Washington" by Anthony S. Pitch published in White House History (Fall of 1998), an article that also gives a "You Are There" feeling to how the day went.  For some unusual facts about this special First Lady and a sidebar taking you to resources about her, I recommend the FAQ page of The Dolley Madison Project.  Hearing the radio program, with it's excellent feeling of being in the midst of the burning of Washington, it hit me: I've ancestors named Dolley!  I ought to look and see how close to the war years they were born.  That sidebar I mentioned includes a page about her name and makes me more convinced than ever her name was chosen by members of my mother's family because of Dolley Madison.  She wasn't Dorothy or Dorothea, no matter how much others might try to make her that.  She was Dolley.  So were they.  It wasn't a nickname, nor was it Dolly.
Engraving of Dolley Payne Madison done in 1812 by ?William Chappell. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Here in Michigan The Michigan Commission on the Commemoration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 has resources to know more about it's impact here.  Wikipedia has a page of links to both Canadian and State Bicentennial resources.

The final page of Anthony Pitch's article discusses looting after the burning of the President's House (not yet called the White House) and the Capitol.  Looking at other news on the N.P.R. archive of the same day, looting and international threats against the United State are in the news.  There are many quotes about history repeating itself.  General Patton said: Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.

Just to show the issue is still touchy,  UPDATE:

British embassy apologizes after tweet joking about burning the White House during the War of 1812 (Be sure also to read the Huffington post article, "Torch of Friendship" mentioned in the sidebar.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Finding Old-Time Music

Stephen Foster
I do many historical programs and often include music. I need to find resources guaranteeing when a song was sung. Music, like literature, accumulates like a snowball.  Some older songs die out, but many remain and new songs are added to the repertoire.  Here on this site, Civil War music includes a list of songbooks primarily war related, but the popular exception comes with Stephen Foster's songs, which avoid the focus of that conflict and Foster died near the war's end. Their timing and continued popularity cannot be overlooked.  Richard Jackson created for Dover the Stephen Foster Song Book.

Another Dover book mentioned in my article was Theodore Raph's  American Song Treasury listing 100 songs with brief introduction.  The contents are praised in Amazon reviews, but not its layout if you wished to perform directly from it.   It's a paperback now with a Kindle edition, so that might change the complaint.

Maymie R. Krythe's Sampler of American Songs is a hardback which is less a songbook, although the music is given, but the subtitle reveals its true value: Background and Lore Connected with 18 of Our Most Famous and Beloved American Songs.  They aren't all old songs, but 14 of them are, including some of that war material to give information about songs.  Although she only gives a few songs, Krythe goes into more background on songs than is mentioned in song anthologies.

A similar book, but covering far more songs, is Frank Luther's Americans and Their Songs.  He chronologically covers from earliest colonial times up to 1900, listing year written and published, the period when popular, and association with a period or group, or with a famous person, place, or event in American history throughout the 19th century and into the present. 

Earlier I also mentioned Ballads & Songs of the Civil War by Jerry Silverman as it is generally well-regarded, but revised my opinion after I discovered an interesting contradictory view from a music historian who noted the book would be better labeled "arrangements." His review states, "I once owned a copy of Silverman's CW songbook, but threw it away after noting the number of times it re-worded lyrics.  It is a secondary source at best, and should not be used if you are going for detailed authenticity."  He sited the two books from Dover Publications which opened this article.  He further noted, "For their books they actually photographed original sheet music specimens, qualifying them as primary sources for research."

In talking about the situation of arrangements versus primary sources the Library of Congress came up.  Their Music page can take you to a wide assortment of downloadable "old-time" sheet music of Public Domain songs at the bottom of the Music page.  Lyrics are also given in addition to photocopies of the original covers.  If you are trying to location the actual music, use "notated music" for your search term and then search within that.  Civil War music was often Marches and Military Music.  That section is just up from the bottom of the page.  Notice also "We'll Sing to Abe Our Song" among the sheet music as it's part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana which is also online. Later I'll mention a Lomax book.  The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip is online, too, but the book by Alan Lomax covers all regions. 
Don't you love that the library is open 24/7 online?!?  If I was to choose the spot where my taxes went, it would be the Library of Congress and maybe also the museum collections online.

Yet another resource can be Google Images, but you need to note the song you are seeking.  Here are only 2 of my results when I requested "Bicycle Built for Two." 

Among instruments I play are the guitar and dulcimer.  They might have been played by a schoolteacher due to relative affordability and portability.  Some schools even managed pump organs or an upright piano, but those were more likely in well-established communities and not for the pioneers.  Mark Nelson's Favorite Old-Time American Songs for Dulcimer and Albert Gamse's The Best Dulcimer Method--Yet! give dulcimer tablature and also the chords, so they can work for guitar, too.

Three other good basic works are Alan Lomax's Folk Songs of North America which groups over 300 songs by region and topically within a region. Poet Carl Sandburg's American Songbag is nearly as large, but is only grouped topically, making it less easy to find by period.  Lomax's regional grouping is slightly better due to the way regions were settled.  The Fireside series from Simon and Schuster has editor Margaret Bradford Boni grouping 131 songs from 1890 back to colonial times in Fireside Book of Favorite American Songs.

It's great to know a bit about historical songs when creating a historical program.  It's a requirement to know IF a song fits the era you are doing and IF any changes have been made.  Songs of the past use the folk process and so changes can be especially tricky to discover.   In that October 19, 2011 article on Civil War music I mentioned one such change: how the Hutchinson Family Singers took "Old Rosin the Beau" and made it an Abolition movement song, "Roll on the Liberty Ball" and later Lincoln's campaign song, "Lincoln and Liberty, Too."  Would that all changes were so easily traced!  Still the books listed above give some good basic resources.

May old-time music enrich your life and any storytelling.  In the meantime I'm looking ahead to my next segment of Keeping the Public in Public Domain.  (Those Dover books are a perfect example of the value of Public Domain.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

One-Room Schools and Music

The One-Room Schoolteacher program is adaptable because rural one and two-room schools cover a long time in U.S. history.  This coming week I'll do programs related to pioneer times in the "Wild, Wild West."  Here in Michigan our pioneer times were in the first half of the 19th century.  Teachers out west in the second half of that century faced many of the same challenges, but had added materials and ideas of the times.

Music was both an enrichment of classroom time and an educational tool.  We've all probably chanted or rapped the multiplication tables.  Nowadays Multiplication Rock is popular and Mr. R's World of Math and Science gives math songs from Early Learning through a bit of geometry.  The best example of educational use going back in time is in a song using Yankee Doodle to tell of the Presidents and often a brief bit of history. For just the presidents' names still to the tune of Yankee Doodle, this YouTube version goes all the way up to the second Bush in 2007.  YouTube also has many other songs for the topic, a few even "piggyback" existing songs to learn the presidents.
The Mountain Democrat newspaper for Placerville, California on July first, 1893 posted this version of Yankee Doodle as written by J.D. Elder, a teacher from the Burwood School.

George Washington, first President,
By Adams was succeeded.
Tom Jefferson was next the choice;
The people’s cause he pleaded.
Madison was then called forth
To give John Bull a peeling.
James Monroe had all the go
In the “Era of Good Feeling.”

‘Twas J.Q. Adams then came in
And next came Andrew Jackson,
Who’d licked John Bull at New Orleans
With such great satisfaction.
Then Van Buren took the chair;
Then Harrison and Tyler –
The latter made the Whigs so mad
They thought they’d “bust their biler.”

We then elected James K. Polk;
The issue that did vex us
Was, “Shall we ‘do up’ Mexico
And ‘take in’ little Texas?”
Taylor then got in the chair,
But soon had to forsake it.
Millard Filmore filled it more,
Frank Pierce then said, “I’ll take it.”

Old Jim Buchanan next popped in.
Abe Lincoln then was chosen;
He found the current of events
Was anything but frozen.
Andy Johnson had a time;
The Senate would impeach him,
But as it took a two-thirds vote
They lacked one vote to reach him.

And now we come to U.S. Grant,
The man who fought at Shiloh,
And Hayes and Garfield, who was shot –
They both came from Ohio.
Arthur then the scepter held,
To Cleveland turned it over.
Ben Harrison sandwiches in,
And now again it’s Grover.

That's certainly a good song up through 1897 when Grover Cleveland's second term ended.  I prefer one that goes a bit into the 20th century since my programs aren't always just pioneer times.  Another plus is that for this program I can stop at an appropriate point in the song by ending with Chester Alan Arthur changing the words to "Whose term we hope ends peaceably with Chester Alan Arthur."  This also is a song that lets me include a great story about the Curse of Tecumseh  or Tippecanoe.  The Curse of presidents elected every 20 years started with Governor Harrison and ended with President Reagan.  There's a fascinating story behind it!

I'm going to insert Wikipedia links for easy access to basic information on each president.  Wherever those links don't explain a historical reference I'll either add that parenthetically or as a link.

George Washington, the choice of all,
By Adams was succeeded.
Then came Thomas Jefferson
Who bought the land we needed.
Madison was called upon
To keep our noble men.     (I presume this is about England impressing U.S. sailors)
And James Monroe ushered in
John Quincy Adams was the next
And then came Andrew Jackson
And after him Van Buren came
And the Panic's wild distraction.
Then Harrison for one month ruled,  (death by pneumonia introduces "The Curse")
And Tyler came in order,
About a little border.
Then General Taylor was the choice,
But after one year only
Death called the hero to his rest
And left the chair to Fillmore.
Then Pierce and James Buchanan came
And the War closed thickly lower.
And Lincoln was the chosen one,
The statesman for the hour.
Johnson of Tennessee.
And Grant a war time here
The Silent Man was he.     (? His throat cancer came after the presidency)
Then R.B. Hayes was counted in, then
Garfield, second martyr,
Whose term was ended peaceably by
Next Cleveland came and Harrison, (grandson of first President Harrison)
Then Cleveland came once more.
Then Roosevelt came to serve the state,
The people called him Teddy.
Then William Howard Taft came on,
For duty ever ready.
Then Woodrow Wilson came to fill the
Loftiest of stations.
He steered the Ship of State throughout
The World War of the Nations.
Next Harding ruled a few short months, (half of his term)
And Coolidge then succeeded.
Hoover served his country well
Wherever he is needed.

The text for this song was found in an excellent PioneerSchool Teacher Guide put together for the Fort Worth Log Cabin Village) with the assistance of Heritage Village School, Lincoln Nebraska, Diane Winans, Eagle Mountain Elementary, Shelly Couch, Saginaw Elementary, and the Log Cabin Village Staff.

This song goes to the early 1930s as views of Hoover and the Depression probably would change the final two lines.  It's an interesting challenge to update the song, throwing in an occasional memorable fact which also helps the rhyme.  World War I might need rewording to allow for World War II.  There's certainly more a teacher might want to cover on presidents than the few comments of the song, but it does help make history and presidential names more memorable than mere name recital to Yankee Doodle.  

Music was certainly more than just a memory aid.  Next time I'll look at Old Time Music resources for programs.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Douglas - Assipattle and the Mester Stoorworm - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

To tell at the 165th Highland Games of the St. Andrew's Society of Detroit, this is a bit earlier than my usual posting time.  North Oakland County Storytellers once again will tell in the Wee Bairns area.  I plan to tell this story among others.  It's a favorite of mine with a monster sea serpent (positively dragonlike! -- some call it a Scandinavian dragon), a princess, a feisty hero, magical items, and a lot of humor.  The story in its Public Domain format from the classic text by Sir George Douglas is longer than a briefer version you might check, Virginia Haviland's Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Scotland, but it's good to find as much as possible when developing a story. 

Something I never thought about was the hero's name, Assipattle.  I incorrectly believed my audience heard the explanation about his name.  That first part of it, for example, has to do with Ashes just like variants of Cinderella and there are many points where he is a "Cinderfella."  My husband and wonderful roadie, Tom, noticed parents uncomfortable with the name throughout the story.  They apparently thought it was a name about "paddling" a part of his anatomy!

For that reason after the story I include here the notes about the tale.  That brief article is the only comment on any story Douglas gives other than some brief footnotes and his thorough introduction to the book.  The book is online in various versions, but some omit a large part of the book.  The Gutenberg online edition is one of those.  Thank heavens for and the Indiana University edition.  Their copy is presumed to be from 1901 and is called Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales.  My own copy is a reprint of the 1892 edition and is called Scottish Folk & Fairy Tales.  The sections some editions miss include this tale from the  "Giants and Monsters" section.  In case you doubt the story's popularity, search Google for Assipattle and the mester stoorworm.  Even a one-act play, lyrics, a slightly retold version by Elizabeth W. Grierson, and much more can be found because this tale from the Scottish Orkney Islands became popular throughout Scotland.

 Don't you just love the princess's name?  Now about that horse's name


Is it any wonder I prefer to use the translation of the horse's name as Swift-Go to the original of Teet-Gong after the reaction to Assipattle's name?  Sir Douglas's notes explain a bit more including his own identification as Assipattle.

Here's a modern picture book version by critically acclaimed Scottish children's author, Theresa Breslin and illustrated by Matthew Land:

Notice the book refers to him as a dragon. 

Next week will look at another program I do, the One-Room Schoolteacher.  

Until then. . .

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    

There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!