Dorothy Sloan -- Books

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October 26, 2007

Rare Songster including “The Death of Crockett”
Sung to the Tune of The Star Spangled Banner

222. [PIERPONT, John (attributed)]. The Washington Songster. New York: Turner & Fisher, No. 74 Chatham Street; Philadelphia: 15 N. Sixth St., n.d. [ca. 1846?]. 256 pp. (generally numbered on rectos only), wood-engraved frontispiece (i.e. pp. [1-2]) of George Washington standing by his horse, vignette on title (portrait of Washington), other vignettes in text. 24mo (11.7 x 8.2 cm), original dark brown, straight-grain sheep, spine lettered and decorated in gilt. Binding moderately worn, spine extremities chipped, joints rubbed, some peeling of sheep (mostly confined to lower cover), lacking front flyleaf, front endpaper moderately browned. Text very fine, except for moderate light foxing to interior. Overall a very good copy. Lower flyleaf with contemporary ink signature of John F. Cummings dated 1857. Minor doodlings in pencil on final blank and endpapers.

            First and only edition. Garrett & Goodwin, The Mexican-American War, p. 280. Sabin 62761. A scarce and interesting collection mostly comprised of topical American popular songs, including pirate and naval songs, war songs, patriotic ditties, and love songs. In many cases the tunes are named, but no music is printed. For example, the song “Paul Jones: Liberty’s Brave Buccaneer,” is sung to the tune, “Star Spangled Banner” (p. 136). Because the songs relating to the Mexican-American War indicate that the war is possible rather than in progress, the songster was probably printed when the conflict was imminent. It is believed that the book was compiled by John Pierpont (1785-1866), a Connecticut-born Congregational minister, radical abolitionist, and Cold Water Army advocate.

            At a time when Manifest Destiny was a rising force in the nation, numerous songs herein reflect the national drive to extend the country from sea to shining sea and, if necessary, fight to accomplish that goal. Many of the songs reflect a war-like attitude towards expanding the nation by force. For example, “Song of the Settlers of Oregon” reads in part: “’Ere Britons own the ground we till, | Our dearest blood we’ll freely spill” (p. 109). Others relate to the Mexican-American War. Few trans-Mississippi events, however, seem to have inspired more of these songs than the fight for Texas, which is featured in nineteen of the nearly two hundred songs printed, with titles such as “A War Song for the Texian Volunteers,” “For Texas and Her Star,” “The Santa Fe Prisoners,” “The Female Volunteer for Texas,” and “Uncle Sam’s Song to Miss Texas.” The last, sung to the tune “Yankee Doodle,” threatens to defeat all foes, Mexican and British, who menace that fair creature. One song, by T. A. Durriage, urges listeners to “Remember the Alamo” (p. 106).

            No Texas song, however, can match the crescendo of “The Death of Crockett,” sung to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner, a song that could easily be sung today by practically anyone, since the tune itself is so familiar (pp. 17-18):

They came! like the sea cliff that laughs at the flood,

Stood that dread band of heroes the onslaught repelling;

Again! and again! yet undaunted they stood;

While Crockett’s deep voice o’er the wild din was swelling.

“Go ahead!” was his cry,

“Let us conquer or die;

And shame to the wretch, and the dastard who’d fly!”

And still, mid the battle cloud, lurid and red,

Rang the heroes’ dread cry—Go ahead! Go Ahead!

A rare, excellent look into the popular U.S. imagination inflamed by tales of Oregon, Texas, and the Mexican-American War, and the possibilities of Manifest Destiny. ($500-1,000)

Sold. Hammer: $500.00; Price Realized: $587.50

Auction 21 Abstracts

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