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of knot, which the adherents of the royal party called "a macaroni" out of deri-
sion. We must own to an entire want of faith in this story. The probability is
that the tune is not much older than the time of its introduction into America.
We know that it was popular in England at that time, having been printed in
one of Thomson's country dance books as "Kitty Fisher's Jig."

Kitty Fisher, as everybody knows, was a celebrated character in the middle of
the last century. She was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds more than once, and
ultimately married Squire Norris of Bemmendon, in Kent. Lucy Lockit was
also a well-known character in the gay world. She was not so fortunate as her
friend in making a good marriage nor in having her face handed down to pos-
terity by the Court painter.

The well-known rhymes to this tune, still sung by children

Lucy Lockit lost her pocket

Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a bit of money in it,

Only binding round it.

have some covert allusion, understood at the time, but now forgotten.

We give a copy of Thomson's version of the tune, which is written in triple
time. It was afterwards altered to common time, as now known:

- f-

104 Ya nkee Doodle .

Strange to say, this account appears to have escaped the atten-
tion of Admiral George Henry Preble when he prepared the second
edition (Boston, 1880) of his "History of the Flag of the United
States." The admiral's article on "Yankee Doodle" (pp. 746-753,
not in the first edition of 1872) does not pretend to be based on
original research. It is merely a resum6 of the various accounts
thus far published. Yet it contains a few statements that call for
consideration. He says:

There is an earlier version of the words in England which I heard repeated
by my father in my childhood days, which runs:

Nankee Doodle came to town

Upon a Kentish ponvj
He stuck a feather in his hat,

And called him Macaroni.

As I heard it repeated, the second line was, Riding on a pony, or, Upon a
little pony . . .

In the English opera written about the middle of the eighteenth century, by
Dr. Arne, is the comic song of "Little Dickey," who resents the arrogance and
attempted tyranny of some older boy. The last stanza runs thus:

Did little Dickey ever trick ye?
No, I'm always civil, etc.

The air of the song is what we call "Yankee Doodle, " but it is not so called in
the opera. . . .

Innumerable have been the verses that have been adapted to it [Yankee
Doodle], but it is believed the following were those best known and oftenest
repeated by our fathers during the war of 1776, and they are said to have been
sung at the battle of Bunker's Hill in 1775. Words additional or similar were
repeated to me by my father fifty years ago, as those familiar to him when a
boy, during the revolutionary times. Perhaps their order of following is not

Then follow 17 stanzas of " Yankee Doodle, or Father's return from
Camp," in the main identical with the stanzas given in Farmer &
Moore's Collections, but clearly accumulated from different versions.

The last few quotations illustrate that by 1880 the matter of
"Yankee Doodle" had fallen entirely into the hands of compilers,
whose sole object it seems to have been, and still seems to be, to
accept more or less credulously the numerous conflicting statements
and to weave them indiscriminately into a smooth, entertaining
tissue of facts and fancy. The first to really analyze this ragout was
Mr. William Barclay Squire, and he contributed to the first edition
of Grove's Dictionary of Music (1879-1889) an article on "Yankee
Doodle," which at that time was by far the best, and is still valu-
able. Mr. Louis C. Elson, in his useful book on the " National Music
of America," 1900, added in the main merely information received
from Mr. Albert Matthews, of Boston. Nor does the amount of his
original critical research rise above what may be expected from a
book plainly designed and written in a style to satisfy the popular

Ya nkee Doodle. 105

demand for more or less verified facts on our national songs. This
applies even more strongly to Mr. Kobb6's chatty " Famous Ameri-
can Songs," 1906, who also caught a glimpse of Mr. Matthews's un-
published mine of data. From the same source come the following
excerpts from Dr. George H. Moore's paper "Notes on the origin
and history of Yankee Doodle," read before the New York Histor-
ical Society on December 1, 1885, and before the New England His-
torical and Genealogical Society on December 7, 1887. As was
stated in the introduction to my report on "Yankee Doodle," Mr.
Moore's paper was never printed, though it was mentioned in the
Magazine of American History for January, 1886, in the Boston Post
of December 8, 1887, and in the New England Historical and
Genealogical Register for January, 1888. Mr. Albert Matthews, as
he informed me under date of January 3, 1909, rediscovered the
manuscript and copied long extracts. "Moore," says Mr. Matthews,
"picked to pieces various theories about 'Yankee,' but accepted
without criticism the Farmer & Moore version." Clearly Mr.
Moore's unpublished paper can not have influenced subsequent
writers very much, but it is essential that so much of it be printed
here as was available through the courtesy of Mr. Albert Matthews:

Dr. Shuckburgh unquestionably played an important part in the proceedings
which resulted in making Yankee Doodle a national tune. He took the initia-
tive step. He married to verse, (not immortal, for not a line of it can be proved
to exist to-day) but to a song sufficiently popular to be remembered for many
years, the old fashioned jig which had charmed his childhood and lingered in
his memory to become the (vehicle) inspiration of his comic muse in later
years . . . Dr. Shuckburgh undoubtedly scored (achieved) a success in his
Yankee Doodle Song, hitting off the men and events of the time, in a style which
readily admitted additions and alterations to fit occasions. That song was a
satire more or less clever of the New Englander and his ways written originally
from the point of view of an Englishman long domesticated in New York, and
reflecting the prejudices of the British tory and the Albany Dutchman the
intellectual apparatus of that extraordinary mythical creature, the genuine
Knickerbocker. What that first Yankee Doodle Song was is mainly left to con-
jecture . . . The only verses I have met with, which carry any appearance of
having been a part of the original are the following:

There is a man in our town,

I pity his condition,
He sold his oxen and his sheep,

To buy him a commission

When his commission he had got,

He proved a nation coward
He durst not go to Cape Breton

For fear he'd be devoured.

Another verse has less authority:

Yankee Doodle came to town

Put on his strip 'd trowse's
And vow'd he could n't see the town (place)

There was so many houses.

106 Yankee Doodle.

So far the literature on the origin of "Yankee Doodle" moved in
a few distinct channels, but in 1905 two theories were added that
have very little in common with those previously advanced, com-
bined, embellished. In the German magazine " Ilessenland " (vol. 19,
1905, pp. 20-23), Mr. Johann Lewalter published an article under the
title: "Der 'Yankee Doodle' ein Schwalmer Tanz?" In other
words, the author endeavored to prove the probability of a Hessian
origin, but his knowledge of the literature is very slight and he did
not exercise discrimination in the use of his sources, so that most of
his article is not worthy of consideration. As to his hypothetical
question, it is sufficient to abstract from the article the following:

In Langenscheidt's "Land und Leute in Amerika" it is said that probably
the air of the folksong "Yankee Doodle " has its origin in a military march played
by the Hessian soldiers in the War for Independence.

The same origin is hinted at in the eighth volume (1880) of Spamer's "Illus-
triertes Konversationslexikon". Mr. Lewalter then calls attention to the fact
that the principal recruiting station in 1776 was Ziegenhain in the Schwalm, the
fertile province of Hesse, to the further fact that "Yankee Doodle" in form,
musical spirit and rhythm bears a peculiar resemblance to the genuine dances
and folksongs of the Schwalm region. Therefore, he concludes, it may be claimed
that this song, played by the Hessian troops as a march, was imported by
them to America in those days. Finally, the fact should be noted that during a
country fair in the Schwalm in the fall of 1904 "Yankee Doodle " was played as a
Schwalm dance, and men and women danced to it as they would to one of their
own traditional airs without discovery of the substitution.

It will be seen later on how suddenly his Hessian theory collapses,
if the historical test is applied. Much more complicated but much
more fruitful in its application is a theory advanced by Mr. William
H. Grattan Flood in the "Dolphin" (Philadelphia, 1905, vol. 8,
pp. 187-193) under the title "The Irish origin of the tune of Yankee
Doodle." In this interesting article Mr. Grattan Flood, an enthusi-
astic student and champion of Irish music, first sets out to undermine
principally the English origin. Then, in the footsteps of the eminent
English folk-song collector, Mr. Frank Kidson, he refers to the
"Earliest printed version" of "Yankee Doodle" in the first volume
of James Aird's "Selection of Scotch, English, Irish, and Foreign
Airs," printed at Glasgow in 1782. Without further preliminaries
Mr. Grattan Flood then proceeds:

The very structure of this tune is seen to be decidedly Irish and apart from
any other argument intrinsic evidence should point to its Irish origin. . . . The
above printed version by Aird in 1782, antedates the "Two to One " (1784) version
by two years, and is much nearer the Irish original ['All the way to Galway'],
with the strongly marked C natural (the so called "flat seventh") so charac-
teristic of seventeenth century tunes in D major. However, the oldest form of
the tune is also given here as it appears in a MS dated 1750, the authenticity of
which is beyond question. The manuscript was written at different times
between the years 1749 and 1750, and the owner's name is given, dated Decem-
ber 1, 1750.

Yankee Doodle. 107

By way of illustrating the changes which a tune undergoes in seventy or eighty
years, I think it is well to give the version as noted by Dr. Petrie in 1840, but, as
will be seen, the changes are unimportant.

Thus "Yankee Doodle " can rightfully be claimed as a product of Ireland. . . .



The chronological enumeration of the theories on the origin of
"Yankee Doodle" will have disclosed their genealogy and concatena-
tion sufficiently to now warrant neglect of such dates, references, and
inferences that are mere variations and aberrations from the original
source. The examination of this amazing labyrinth of conjectures
will be based entirely on such analytical data only as possess some
real substance. The other data will be treated as not existing.
Much of the analytical evidence has become quite familiar to his-
torians, but much will have the flavor of novelty. However, no
distinction will here be made between old and new data, except when

To sum up, since 1775, when the origin of "Yankee Doodle"
began to arouse interest, it has been claimed that

1. The song of "Yankee Doodle" was composed by a British
officer of the Revolution.

2. The air had its origin in a military march "Schwalmer Tanz,"
introduced into this country by the Hessians during the war for

3. The first part of the tune is identical with the Danza Esparto,
and the tune had its origin in the Pyrenees.

4. The air is of Hungarian origin.

5. The tune was introduced by German harvest laborers into

6. The air was composed by the fife-major of the Grenadier Guards
about 1750 as a march.

7a. The tune was founded on an English tune common among the
peasantry of England previous to the time of Charles I.

7&. It was set during the time of Cromwell to various ditties in
ridicule of the protector. One of these began with the words "The
Roundheads and the Cavaliers ;" another

Nankee Doodle came to town

Upon a Kentish pony [or Upon a little pony]

He stuck a feather in his hat

And called him Macaroni.

were known as early as Cromwell's time, and indeed applied to him.

108 Ya nkee Doodle.

8. In the reign of Charles II the tune was sung to the words, per-
petuated as a nursery rhyme:

Lucy Locket lost her pocket

Kitty Fisher found it.
Nothing in it, nothing in it

But the binding round it.
[or, Not a bit of money in it

Only binding round it]

9. The air is the same as of the New England jig "Lydia Fisher,"
which was a favorite in New England long before the American

10. The earliest printed version of the air "Yankee Doodle"
appears in 6/8 time in "Walsh's collections of dances for the year
1750" under the title of "Fisher's Jig."

11. The air is identical with "Kitty Fisher's Jig" as printed in one
of Thomson's country dance books in triple time.

12. "Yankee Doodle" is identical with an "Air from Ulysses,"
opera by J. C. Smith.

13. The air "Did little Dickey ever trick ye" in an opera by Arne,
composed about 1750, is the same as "Yankee Doodle."

14. Doctor Shackburg, wit and surgeon in the British army
encamped in 1755 near Albany, composed a tune and recommended
it to the provincial officers as one of the most celebrated airs of martial
music and that this joke on the motley assemblage of provincials took

15. Doctor Shuckburgh wrote the Yankee Doodle verses to an old-
fashioned jig.

16. The air is of Irish origin and is identical with "All the way to

These 16 theories have here been grouped not chronologically but
amicably to a process of elimination. The majority of these theories,
on close inspection, relate rather to the early use of than to the origin
of the song. It will therefore facilitate the process of elimination
if some consequential data on the use of the air in America until the
time of our war for independence are here brought together.

In the New York Journal, October 13, 1768, we read in the "Jour-
nal of Transactions in Boston, Sept. 28, 1768:"

Sept. 29. The Fleet was brought to Anchor near Castle William, that Evening
there was throwing of Sky Rockets, and those passing in Boats observed great
Rejoicings and that the Yankey Doodle Song was the Capital Piece in their Band
of Music."

Writing of the events at Boston in 1769, the late Mr. Fiske in his
work on the "American Revolution" (vol. 1, p. 65) says:

On Sundays the soldiers would race horses on the Common, or play Yankee
Doodle just outside the church-doors during the services.

Ya nkee Doodle. 109

Unfortunately Mr. Fiske did not refer to his authority for this almost
incredible bit of information; nor did Mr. Elson, when he wrote in
his book on our national music (p. 145) :

A little later [than 1769], when the camps were in the town of Boston, the British
custom was to drum culprits out of camp to the tune of "Yankee Doodle," a
decidedly jovial Cantio in exitu.

The next reference carries us to the commencement of hostilities.
When the news of the affair at Lexington (Apr. 19, 1775) reached
Lord Percy in Boston, says the Reverend Gordon in his History in a
letter dated "Roxbury, April 26, 1775," he ordered out a reenforce-
ment to support his troops.

The brigade marched out playing, by way of contempt, Yankee Doodle . . .

James Thacher has almost literally the same in his Military Journal
under date of April 21, 1775. A further contemporary reference is
found in the "Travels (1st ed., vol. 2, p. 50) of Thomas Anburey, the
British officer, who, under date of "Cambridge, in New England, Nov.
27, 1777," wrote as follows:

. . . the name [of Yankee] has been more prevalent since the commencement
of hostilities. The soldiers at Boston used it as a term of reproach, but after the
affair at Bunker's Hill, the Americans gloried in it. Yankee Doodle is now their
paean, a favorite of favorites, played in their army, esteemed as warlike as the
Grenadier's March it is the lover's spell, the nurse's lullaby. After our rapid
successes, we held the Yankees in great contempt, but it was not a little mor-
tifying to hear them play this tune, when their army marched down to our

Anburey, of course, alludes to General Burgoyne's surrender at
Saratoga, October 17, 1777. Again the military bands of the Conti-
nental army are said to have used "Yankee Doodle" as their paean
at the climax of the war when Lord Cornwallis surrendered at York-
town, October 19, 1781, but Robin, Knox, Thacher, Anburey, Chas-
tellux, Gordon, and Johnston do not confirm this popular legend. I
distinctly recall having seen it told by a French memoir writer of the
time, but unfortunately am unable to retrace my source.

On that occasion the British army marched out to the tune of "The
World turned upside down." So it was in more than one respect.
Clearly, before and during the first stages of the war, "Yankee
Doodle" was considered a capital piece by the British soldiers to ridi-
cule the New Englanders, but the latter blunted the point of the joke,
and indeed used it in rebuttal by appropriating the tune with all its
associations for their patriotic field music. This curious process
found an echo in one of our very first by-products of the war. John
Trumbull's "M'Fingal" was first published at Philadelphia in 1775.

110 Yankee Doodle.

In the first, original edition the first canto "The Town Meeting' 1


When Yankies skill 'd in martial rule,
First put the British troops to school ;
Instructed them in warlike trade,
And new maneuvres of parade,
The true war dance of Yanky-reels,
And val'rous exercise of heels.

and later on the lines occur:

Did not our troops show much discerning,
And skill your various arts in learning?
Outwent they not each native Noodle
By far in playing Yanky-doodle;
Which, as 'twas your New-England tune
'Twas marvellous they took so soon?

A New England tune or not, "Yankee Doodle" was common prop-
erty in New England before the war for independence. Not alone
this, it is easily proven that the tune was well known south of New
England, too, at least nine years before the war. In my writings I
have had repeated occasion to point to Andrew Barton's comic opera
"The Disappointment, or The force of credulity," New York, 1767,
in this connection. This, the first American opera libretto, unmis-
takably belongs to the class of ballad operas, that is, operas in which
the airs were sung not to new music but to popular ballad tunes.
Now, as Sabin, without attracting proper attention at the time, dis-
covered as early as 1868, there appears in the 1767 edition, though not
in the 1796 edition, of this coarse, yet witty, libretto, written in Phil-
adelphia, but printed in New York:


O! how joyful shall I be,

When I get the money,
I will bring it all to dee,

O! my diddling honey.

(Exit, singing the chorus, yankee doodle, etc.)

It follows conclusively that the air of "Yankee Doodle" was suffi-
ciently popular in America in 1767, or more correctly, in Philadel-
phia, to be used in a ballad opera. It further follows from the above
that the words of the chorus refrain were so well known in 1767 that it
was sufficient to print: " Yankee doodle, etc."

The fact that the air of "Yankee Doodle" was popular in America
in 1767 renders it impossible for a "British officer of the Revolution"
to have "composed" the song. If at all true, this tradition can only
mean that he either added some verses to a current text or wrote an
entirely new set of verses.

The second theory on the list collapses for the same reason. The
Hessian military can not have introduced the tune to our country
as it was popular in America long before their arrival here. On the

Yankee Doodle. Ill

contrary, it becomes probable that the Hessian bands exported the
air from America. However, not chronology alone, but logic forbade
the acceptance of the Hessian origin, since according to Mr. Lewalter's
own account " Yankee Doodle" was merely grafted on the Schwalm
peasants by way of experiment. They danced readily enough to the
tune, but Mr. Lewalter's story clearly shows that they did not con-
sider it one of their traditional dance tunes. This plain observation
should discourage further efforts in this direction, which would pre-
sumably be based on the fact that the British military service included
Hessians long before 1775, indeed before 1767.

Similar objections must be raised against the theories of the Biscay
and Hungarian origin. They were advanced almost one hundred
years after " Yankee Doodle" had become popular in America, time
enough for any tune to find its way into any country and to be so
assimilated that its foreign origin is entirely forgotten. That Hun-
garians danced to it fifty years ago proves absolutely nothing except
that "Yankee Doodle" with its rhythmic accents appealed to them.
Kossuth and his friends, experts in revolutions but not in musical
history, recognized in "Yankee Doodle" one of the old national airs
of Hungary ; this also proves nothing except that they knew the air.
It is the same with the Biscay origin advanced by Mr. Buckingham
Smith in 1858. Had he contented himself with recording the use of
the tune in Biscay, one may be puzzled by the coincidence that two
Turanian nations were willing to naturalize "Yankee Doodle." But
Mr. Smith goes further, and he claims that "the first strains are
identically those of the heroic Danza Esparta [!] as it was played to me
of brave old Biscay." Are they? I quote without comment the first
bars of this " Ezpata Dantza" (sword-dance), as published by Charles
Bordes in "Archives de la Tradition Basque," under title of "Dix
danses . . . du Pays Basque Espagnol," 1908:


As a fifth theory we have that promulgated by Duyckinck's Cyclo-
paedia in 1855:

It is not impossible . . . that Yankee Doodle may be from Holland. A song
in use among the laborers, who in time of harvest migrate from Germany to the
Low Countries . . . has this burden

Yanker didel, doodel down

Didel, dudel lanter,
Yanke viyer, voover vown,

Botermilk and Tanther.

The Duyckincks received their information from a person who in
turn relied on the memory of a Dutchman who "had listened to it at
harvest time in his youth." This circuitous route may explain why

112 Yankee Doodle.

the chorus refrain, as quoted above, belongs to no known language.
In itself the fact that the words are neither German, Dutch, or Eng-
lish proves nothing and should not have been advanced so hastily by
Lossing, Elson, and others, since such nonsense rhymes are common
to all people. Here are a few examples taken at random from books
hi the English language. O'Keefe has this nonsense in one of his


Ditherum, doodle adgety

Nagity, tragedy rum,
Gooetnerum foodie nidgety
Nidgety, nagety mum.

In the libretto to the "Castle of Andalusia" occurs this:

A master I have, and I am his man,

Galloping dreary dun
And he will get married, as fast as he can

With my haily, gaily, gambraily,
Giggling, niggling, galoping,

Galloway, draggletail, dreary dun.

Finally, in the American songster "The Blackbird," New York,
1820, I noticed the refrain on page 39:

With my titol teedle turn

Likewise fol lol feedle fum
Not forgetting diderum hi,

And also teedle tweedle dum.

Sense there is not in these samples of nonsense rhymes, yet who
would deny that they are based on the English language? Conse-
quently, the "Yanker didel, doodel" lines with the one word Boter-
milk (buttermilk) as an anchor of sense may either have been
intended as a Dutch nonsense rhyme, or they are the unintelligible
Dutch corruption of a Low German (Plattdeutsch) chorus refrain,
or they are merely the result of travel of the original English ' ' Yan-
kee Doodle" refrain corrupted more and more, as it passed from
America into the German lowlands, thence to Holland, and from
there back to America. I am inclined to think that this is the
most plausible explanation, rather than to simply discredit, as has
been done, the narrative in Duyckinck's Encyclopaedia, and to accuse
the editors of having invented the silly lines out of the whole cloth.
After all, the substance of their statement is merely that during
the first half of the nineteenth century harvest laborers from the

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