Erie Canal Song – Lyrics, Music, History, Videos and more

Following is as much information as we know about the iconic song “Low Bridge! – Everybody Down,” including:

  • Original copyrighted lyrics
  • Sheet music
  • Common myths about the song (there are many!)
  • Song origins and history
  • Audio and video samples
  • Notes on singing the song with school kids 

NOTE – I’ve been singing this song with groups of kids and adults for 25 years now, researching its history as I travel across NYS. Enjoy!  

15 Miles on the Erie Canal lyrics and historyOriginal Copyrighted Lyrics for “The Erie Canal Song”

As originally copyrighted in 1912 and 1913, “Low Bridge! – Everybody Down” has five verses and five choruses!

Print or download the original lyrics here

Low Bridge! – Everybody Down
or, Fifteen Years On The Erie Canal

Words and music by Thomas S. Allen

I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
We’ve hauled some barges in our day, Filled with lumber, coal and hay
And ev’ry inch of the way I know, From Albany to Buffalo

Chorus: Low bridge, ev’rybody down, Low bridge, we must be getting near a town
You can always tell your neighbor, You can always tell your pal
If he’s ever navigated on the Erie Canal

We’d better look ‘round for a job old gal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
You bet your life I wouldn’t part with Sal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
Giddap there gal we’ve passed that lock, We’ll make Rome ‘fore six o-clock
So one more trip and then we’ll go, Right straight back to Buffalo

Chorus: Low bridge, ev’rybody down, Low bridge, I’ve got the finest mule in town
Once a man named Mike McGinty tried to put it over Sal
Now he’s way down at the bottom of the Erie Canal

15 miles on the erie canal lyrics and history - dave ruchOh, where would I be if I lost my pal?, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
Oh, I’d like to see a mule as good as Sal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
A friend of mine once got her sore, Now, he’s got a broken jaw
‘Cause she let fly with her iron toe, And kicked him into Buffalo

Chorus: Low bridge, ev’rybody down, Low bridge, I’ve got the finest mule in town
If you’re looking ‘round for trouble, better stay away from Sal
She’s the only fighting donkey on the Erie Canal

I don’t have to call when I want my Sal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
She trots from her stall like a good old gal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
I eat my meals with Sal each day, I eat beef and she eats hay
She ain’t so slow if you want to know, She put the “Buff” in Buffalo

Chorus: Low bridge, ev’rybody down, Low bridge, I’ve got the finest mule in town
Eats a bale of hay for dinner, and on top of that, my Sal
Tries to drink up all the water in the Erie Canal

The erie canal song, or 15 Miles on the Erie CanalYou’ll soon hear them sing all about my gal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
It’s a darned fool ditty ‘bout my darned fool Sal, Fifteen years on the Erie Canal
Oh, every band will play it soon, Darned fool words and darned fool tune
You’ll hear it sung everywhere you go, from Mexico to Buffalo

Chorus: Low bridge, ev’rybody down, Low bridge, I’ve got the finest mule in town
She’s a perfect, perfect lady, and she blushes like a gal
If she hears you sing about her and the Erie Canal.

Printable lyrics

Sheet Music

Following is a link to the original sheet music. Please note that the final page, which contains verses 3-5, was left out of this PDF scan, but all musical notation is included.

15 Years on the Erie Canal songLow Bridge! – Everybody Down: original sheet music

15 Miles on the Erie Canal: Common Myths

It’s called “The Erie Canal Song”

It’s not. As originally copyrighted, it’s called “Low Bridge! – Everybody Down (or Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal).”

The refrain is “Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”

The refrain, as originally copyrighted, is “Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.” The first appearance of “Fifteen miles” in print is 1926. (See timeline below.)

The refrain is “16 miles on the Erie Canal,” or “16 years on the Erie Canal”

See above.

Fifteen miles was the common distance a mule or horse would work before resting

This is “a falsehood made up to explain a falsehood,” says Dan Ward, former curator at The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse NY. Animals typically worked in six hour shifts, which could mean anywhere from 3-20+ miles depending on several factors including the number of locks they encountered and the volume of traffic.

The song has two (or three) verses

The song has five original verses as copyrighted. (See above.)

The chorus repeats after every verse

The song has five choruses – they change after each verse, and only the first chorus mentions “your neighbor” and “your pal.”

The song was sung by the people who built (or worked on) the Erie Canal in the horse and mule days

It’s impossible to say*. Prior to its copyrighted date in manuscript form (1912), there is no printed reference to the song or to the lyrics “Low bridge, everybody down,” though a handful of individuals (detailed below in the timeline) reported having heard the song as early as 1900**.

History of the erie canal songBy the copyright date of 1912, the canal had been enlarged twice and mechanized, with steam engines supplanting most of the horse and mule power. It’s possible that nobody hummed or sang the song on the 19th-century towpath, though there were certainly other canal songs in circulation then.

* see “Did Allen really write the song?” below for some questions on this

** many thanks to Buffalo musician Tyler Bagwell for turning up these references, and for his ongoing scholarship on the song and its origins. His work has informed this page greatly.

Low Bridge, Everybody Down: Origins and History

The song first appeared in print as “Low Bridge! – Everybody Down” (subtitled “Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal”) and was credited to composer Thomas S. Allen (1876-1919) of Natick, Massachusetts. Allen is said to have originally written it sometime between 1905-1912,

Allen’s song was copyrighted by F.B. Haviland Publishing Company in manuscript form in November of 1912, appearing in sheet music form early the following year (© Jan. 11, 1913; 2 c. Jan. 13, 1913: E 301302).

Thomas S Allen, 15 Miles on the Erie CanalThomas S. Allen was a musical jack-of-all trades, working at various stages of his career (and often simultaneously) as an orchestral violinist, “trick” violinist for burlesque and vaudeville shows, music director for theaters and traveling shows, and composer of songs for the vaudeville stage as well as rags, marches, waltzes, and other items for popular and commercial use.

The year “Low Bridge!” was first registered (1912), it was just one of nine songs copyrighted in Thomas S. Allen’s name.

Copyrighted songs of Thomas S Allen, author of Low Bridge Everybody DownTitles to other Allen pieces include “Any Rags,” “Whip and Spur,” “Scissors to Grind,” “Dixie Rube,” “By the Watermelon Vine (Lindy Lou),” “Good-Bye Mister Greenback,” and “Big Chief Battle-Axe.”

“Low Bridge! – Everybody Down” is, by far, his most enduring composition.

Did Allen really write the song?

It’s very hard to be certain. He’s quoted in the original record slip for Edward Meeker’s 1913 recording as follows:

Erie Canal Song - lyrics, sheet music, history

Thanks to Bill Hullfish for uncovering this reference.

However, a 1928 Music Trade Review article gave me some reason to believe that the song may have been in use prior to 1912, and perhaps even before Allen’s 1905 composition date:

Erie Canal Folk Song history

Music Trade Review, June 23, 1928

“Low Bridge” is thematically unlike any other song in Allen’s stable. Did he simply appropriate some lyrics and a theme that were already in use on the canal, embellish them, and claim them as his own as so many others have done through the years?

The Lawsuit

After the song appeared in Sigmund Spaeth’s 1926 folk song collection “Read ’em and Weep, The Songs You Forgot to Remember” as a public domain song (and with the refrain “Fifteen miles – rather than years – on the Erie Canal),” Thomas Allen’s publishing company sued Spaeth’s publishing house (Doubleday, Page and Company) for copyright infringement.

More thanks are due to Tyler Bagwell for turning up some essential information on this lawsuit. As it turns out, the United States District Court, Southern District of New York ruled in favor of Doubleday in 1930 on the testimony of two witnesses who claimed to have heard and learned the song in 1900 and 1906.

In my opinion, this evidence is anecdotal and somewhat flimsy in terms of overturning Allen’s copyright, but the song was ruled to have been in circulation before Allen’s copyright based on the memories of these two individuals.

Is “Low Bridge Everybody Down” a folk song?

Well, one of the hallmarks of “folk” or “traditional” songs is that they don’t rely on commercial distribution to circulate. As such, they can – and do – take on a life of their own, changing as they’re passed from person to person and community to community.

oral tradition folk songs passing from person to personIf we’re using that definition, then “Low Bridge! – Everybody Down” has certainly become a folk song in spite of its possible origins as a published composition by a professional songwriter. Most people now sing “15 Miles” in place of “15 Years.” Others learned it as “16 Miles,” or “16 Years.” Some sing two verses, some know three. Sometimes (thanks to the Kingston Trio, among others) the melody and verses vary almost completely from the original composition.

I’d call that a folk song.

Early Timeline and Changes

1900  John Jacob Niles reported (in 1930) having first heard his father sing the song in this year, and claims to be certain of the date based on a memory of the county and house they were living in at the time

1905  The song is often cited as having been composed in this year, although Allen himself says it wasn’t until he saw the canal at Rochester that he wrote it

1906  Ballad collector and singer Louis B. Hart of Buffalo later recalled hearing the song sung at “the Canoe club about 1906”

1911  Thomas S. Allen moves from Boston MA to Rochester NY for a job furnishing orchestras to the leading hotels and theaters, and says the song is composed around this time (see text from the record slip below)

1912  The song is copyrighted in manuscript form on November 18

1912  Billy Murray makes the first commercial recording of the song (Victor 17250) in Camden NJ on November 18, the same date it’s copyrighted (video below)

1912  The Peerless Quartet(te) records the song for Columbia Records (Columbia A-1296) on December 6; the same recording is released under pseudonyms on several other labels including United (A-1296) by “Quartette”, Aretino (D-750) by “Vocal Quartette,” Standard (A-1296), and Harmony (A-1296) by “The Harmony Male Quartette” (audio below)

1913  The song is copyrighted in sheet music form on Janurary 11 and again on January 13

1913  Edward Meeker records the song on Edison Blue Amberol 1761 (audio below)

1913  Allen, a Massachusetts native, is working at least part-time in Rochester NY, and has been coming (or living) there for at least a few years

map of erie canal in article about the song1924  Henry A. J. Castor of Albany NY writes to song collector and newspaper columnist R.W. Gordon with the first verse and chorus of the song, using “16 years” in place of “15 years” and saying it was “occasionally sung at Canal Meetings in this state and was for a great many years the prime favorite with canal drivers.” Gordon responds by saying “Your enclosure interests me greatly; I have a number of canal songs which have come in from various sailors, but none at all like this.”

1924  The May 7, 1924 issue of the Saratogian newspaper reports on one William Heath singing “a song of his own composition” entitled Low Bridge, Everybody Down

1925  R.W. Gordon, still unaware of Allen’s published composition, receives another handwritten copy of the song from a reader (verses 1, 2, and 5 only), and replies “Certain things about it make me fairly certain that it originated on the vaudeville stage rather than on the canal, and that it is not very old.” 

1926  The song appears in print with “15 miles” in place of “15 years” for the first time, in Sigmund Spaeth’s book ‘Read ‘em and Weep.’ Spaeth claimed two sources for the song – journalist and author George Chappell (“Captain Traprock,” Spaeth called him), and Mike Ross, who worked at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City

1927  Carl Sandburg published the song in his book ‘The American Songbag’, also from George S. Chappell (whom he called “Dr. Traprock”)

1928  F.B. Haviland sues Doubleday, Page and Company for publishing the song in ‘Read ’em and Weep’ without permission; Doubleday counters that the song has been in circulation long before Haviland’s copyright date (see image below)

1929  Vernon Dalhart records the song electronically (Columbia 15378-D) on January 16, and acoustically (Harmony 831-H, Velvet Tone, Viva labels) under the pseudonym Mack Allen on January 21

1929  Frank Crumit makes an unreleased recording of the song for the Victor label on January 25

1930  The United States District Court, Southern District of New York rules that the song was in oral circulation prior to the 1912 copyright, though the evidence is quite flimsy

1934  John and Alan Lomax publish the song in ‘American Ballads and Folk Songs,’ as collected from Rev. Charles A. Richmond of Washington DC

Early Recorded Versions: Low Bridge, Everybody Down

Billy Murray, November 1912:

Harmony Male Quartette, December 1912:

  1. Low Bridge Everybody Down - Harmony Male Quartette

Edward Meeker, 1913:

  1. Low bridge!- everybody down (The Erie Canal Song)

Singing the Song With Kids

I’ve had the great pleasure of singing this song with groups of fourth grade students (and lots of other age groups) for decades now, and the joy it creates never fails to amaze me.

Same for audiences of adults, by the way. It’s a beloved song.

A few notes on singing the “Erie Canal Song” with kids:

low bridge everybody down - dave ruch

  • I love to burst their bubble by singing “15 Years on the Erie Canal” as they sing “15 Miles on the Erie Canal” during the first verse. It clashes with the way they’ve learned it (for those who have) and they’ll playfully begin shouting their version back to me as if I made a mistake! This provides a wonderful “teachable moment” about the origins of the song.
  • Most kids (and adults) have only heard two verses, at most. I love to sing all five, and students seem to love hearing them.
  • When we get to the “Low bridge” part, I always have the kids shout “duck!” and then we all duck our heads as we’re singing “everybody down.” My friend Jerry Raven taught me that, taking a cue from some middle school students he had been singing with.

Have anything further to contribute? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section below, or directly by email at dave “at” daveruch “dot” com.

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63 Responses to Erie Canal Song – Lyrics, Music, History, Videos and more

  1. This song has been on my mind because I have been reminiscing about my grade school years. I lived in St.. Paul, Minnesota and attended a public school. In 1961 I was in 5th grade and my teacher Mr. Galatowitsch sang with us every day, He had a beautiful deep voice, he was wonderful to listen to. We sang the Erie Canal song often. It’s possible it was in the 5th grade music text. It was a catchy song and I guess that’s why I remember it. We also sang the standard patriotic songs such as America the beautiful. My school had an itinerant music teacher who taught with an autoharp. I really enjoyed the sound of the autoharp. In 1962 the school had a talent show. An 8th grader sang Wayfairing Stranger and strummed a guitar and it really impressed me. I’ve always loved Folk Music ever since hearing Mr. G. singing Erie Canal. In college I went to the local coffee houses to listen to folk music. I still listen to folk music and have added in Irish & Scottish folk through the years. My love of folk music started with the Erie Canal song, the autoharp and Wayfaring Stranger. I have enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Hello: Very much enjoyed your site on Low Bridge, a song I learned from my father as a little boy growing up in Southern California. My mother, Lois Earls, was born in 1916 in Pittsford, NY and lived at 6 Austin Park literally steps away from the canal. My father, Don Smith, grew up in Macedon, born in 1909, and lived at 570 SR 31, a home built by his grandfather, Samuel Smith, circa 1863, not far from the canal. His grandfather, owned the farmland across the street where the Goodwill store now sits. My dad was a musician, as were his parents, Lewis and Margaret Smith, and they performed in the NY/PA regions as The Smith Family Entertainers. It seems highly likely the Erie Canal song would have been included in their musical repertoire.. His sister, Merle Smith, was a music teacher. In Macedon. Would very much welcome hearing from anyone who has information about that trio. Thanks, and best regards,

    Lew Smith
    Merritt Island, FL

  3. This song popped into my head the other day; really enjoyed finding your website and learning the history. Here’s a question for you though: the song refers to the mule as “she”. Mules are always male, although they can’t reproduce. Any reason for this in the song?

  4. I really appreciate having all this information about the song, and being able to hear early recordings. I printed up a lyric sheet with all 5 verses for tonight’s Americana jam session with friends. BTW I’m familiar with another tune of Thomas Allen’s – Dance of the Lunatics. Catchy number!

  5. I’m looking for a different Erie Canal song that has a chorus that goes, “All day long we sweat and bend, to Albany and back again, on the Er-I-E, on the Erie Canal.” When I google, this song pops up first, and then one about a storm. Do you know anything about the song I remember?

  6. My own addition, given the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal:

    I’ve got a story, a tribute to Sal.
    Two hundred years on the Erie Canal.
    It grew this country, not just locale.
    Two hundred years on the Erie Canal.

    It’s how the Empire State was named,
    Lady Liberty was famed,
    It formed the cities and towns we know
    From Albany to Buffalo.

  7. I was taught this song — and an accompanying pantomime — when I was 4 years old at Saint Benedicts in Eggertsville, New York,, a village in Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo. Fifty years later, I still remember every word and gesture. It makes me very happy to have this sentimental tie to my hometown and my husband and dearest companion of 30 years gets a kick out of it. We’d love to take one of the historic tours that trace the old Erie Canal. Western New York has so much fascinating history and I feel fortunate to have grown up there. Buffalo’s warm, hardworking and generous residents have a strong immigrant work ethic, a deep commitment to education, history and the fine and performing arts, etc. and traditional. values that emphasize hard work, entrepreneurship, fairness, tolerance and charity. It’s thrilling to see Buffalo doing so well after decades of economic struggle: few cities deserve it more.

    I now live a stone’s throw from the entrance to the first canal built in the U.S. — the Middlesex Canal in Eastern MA — which was an inspiration for ‘Clinton’s Ditch’.

  8. When I was an elementary school music teacher in Rockland County, NY, I taught this song to 4th graders every year – the song collection I had used “15 miles” and I grew up in CT, so I was none the wiser! I’m now a college band director in upstate NY, and I ran across a concert band setting by Maurice Whitney from 1955 titled “The Erie Canal” which sets this melody but calls it a “Traditional Tune” – no mention of any composer of the original song!

  9. I have fond memories of singing this song in elementary school. Fond, but faulty memories, because I searched for it using the line “14 miles on the Erie Canal,” and didn’t even recall the words “low bridge.” Thank you for this website.

  10. Hi Dave,
    Have you had any issues with the “Now he’s way down at the bottom of the Erie Canal” line and younger students?

    • Hi Anne – no issues to report, though I am generally singing this with older elementary students (4th grade).

  11. So interesting – thank you for all the info on this song. My name is Sally and my brothers used to tease me by singing this song to me when I was a girl. It bugged me until I decided to turn it back on them and I sang at the top of my lungs, “I’m a good ‘ol worker and a good “ol pal, 15 miles on the Erie Canal!” My brothers have continued to sing the song to me on my birthday for more than 50 years; it’s become Sal’s song”. I so enjoyed learning something about the song. My grandfather farmed with mule power, so the mule connection is interesting, as well. Transporting goods and people by canal and mule and horsepower was important in Great Britain, as well. Dicken’s novel “Our Mutual Friend” features canals and there is a great episode of the British mystery series “Morse” about a murder on one of the canal boats,

    • Great story Sally, and I’m glad this was helpful for you. England had lots of experience building canals by the time NY was undertaking this project, and in fact, we “imported” some British help to work out some of the engineering puzzles associated with building a canal of this scale on such varied terrain.

  12. I use this song with my adult English as a Foreign Language students. We all duck as we sing “Low bridge, everybody down!” Not only is it fun to sing, but it also provides great opportunities for teaching vocabulary and history.

  13. I’m pretty sure I remember seeing the song performed by a large cast singing and dancing. Was it used in a movie or a Broadway show some time in in the 40’s or 50’s?

  14. I sing this with my ESL students. We duck when we sing “Low Bridge,” and there is a lot of both history and vocabulary to learn.

  15. Thank you for all the background information on this song/topic. I teach the 4th grade and the subject of the Erie Canal is barely mentioned in a chapter on immigration in their textbooks, however, I extend the learning on this topic. I love to teach students interesting background information on many subjects – I feel it motivates them, but also serves as an example to digging deeper when researching – something my students typically do not do well at this age.

    I, am of the generation that thought the song was called the “Erie Canal” song and also thought it was “…15 miles on the Erie Canal…” (not 15 years). I think back on the education I had around this song and it was rather minimal. I wanted my own students to hear and learn the song, but I also wanted them to know the origin, the meaning, etc. and your site gave me that and more. Thank you!

    • Welcome Candy! I’m so happy to hear that this was helpful for you and your kiddos. 4th grade is the year that our local students here in New York State learn state history, and, of course, the Erie Canal figures prominently. I’m going to email you a few more resources that might be helpful for your immigration and SS units.

  16. Thanks for this video, Dave! Very interesting! I have rediscovered this song through a recently renewed interest in the Erie Canal, and canals in general.
    I remember this song in my elementary school songbook; second or third grade in the mid 1960s. Just the first verse, though. Thanks for publishing the lyrics and early recordings; I am trying to learn all the verses!

  17. Dear Mr. Ruch,

    I found your site after seeing you on CBS Sunday Morning (nice job, by the way). Like many others, I sang the song in elementary school, in my case in Florida. Our songbook had the 15 mile version. It’s one of only three or four songs that we sang that has stayed with me all my life.

    It was only in the past few years while doing genealogical research that I found out that my great-grandfather emigrated to western New York from Germany in the late 1800s. As an adult, he owned a house on the banks of the Erie Canal in Tonawanda, NY. That part of the canal was later filled in and became Niagara Street.

    One of his brothers was a “bank watcher” near Lockport. The bank watchers inspected the banks that were above the surrounding terrain for leaks.

    • Hi Hank – I think most of us learned the “modernized” version of the song with “15 Miles…” in the refrain. From everything I’ve read and heard, Tonawanda was a colorful place through that period – I bet he’d have some great stories to tell.

  18. I am 89 years old, and I have always known the Erie Canal song, “Low Bridge, Everybody Down”.. I was singing it onstage when I was five years old. I was born on my father’s dramatic tent repertoire show , “Lew Henderson Players”, playing in Minnesota. We presented legitimate drama with vaudeville acts between acts, and before each play a “Musical Presentation” was presented. Each presentation had a theme such as Sailor, Dutch, Circus etc. The Sailor presentation included “Erie Canal”, among others.. I am on Facebook as Billie Lou Henderson, and have a small web page, “Lew Henderson Players”. I find this and other articles so interesting. Because of the depression, and the death of the era so much history has been lost. Some of what is left can be found at The Theatre Museum in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Also on Facebook.

    • I love hearing from people of your generation!
      Authentic perspectives like yours add richness to our history deprived educational system. I am an elementary teacher who sees too much testing and too little time to enjoy the arts.
      Kids are no different inside…. they are still fascinated with stories of our older citizens and loved ones.
      Keep going strong, Billy Lou!!!

  19. I am a Schenectady native and attended in 1976 Lincoln Elementary on Robinson Street our 2 Nd grade teacher was the first in many years of learning how the song worked while embracing the history and historical values of what our cities had done for not only New York but a lot of the United States how important it was to go “ever upward ” while “entering to learn and going fourth to serve” , so many years and lifetimes later in life I was heartwarmed and taken in awe that in Utica someone who I became very fond and admire of knew the very same song from her youth and the “canal connection” we shared but never knew how a conversation of a canal could turn into a lifetime together.

  20. Thank you thank you thank you for this. I can still recall getting laughed out of a elementary school music class for insisting it should be “years” instead of miles. We lived near Albany, and I for damn sure knew that Buffalo was slightly farther than 15 miles away.

  21. “Once a man named Mike McGinty tried to put it over Sal
    Now he’s way down at the bottom of the Erie Canal”

    Dave, do you think this was a made-up incident, or was there actually a Mike McGinty? I’d love to know the backstory of this!

    • Hi Ed – I’d love to know as well. So far, no notes or personal papers from Thomas S. Allen have surfaced in regards to the song, so we only have the information presented above from the 1913 Edward Meeker liner notes and our own research.

  22. I liked this song since I learned it in (I think) third grade. I still like it. This is the first place I have encountered the Mike McGinty line that I learned back around 1960.

  23. Dave, this is one of a handful of folk songs we were taught in the third grade in a NYC public elementary school. The source was Margaret Bradford Boni and Norman Lloyd’s “Fireside Book of Folk Songs” (1947), which gave two stanzas (and “fifteen miles”) under the title “The Erie Canal.”

    I’ve always liked the song, and over the years have evolved my own version, which I sing only to myself. The biggest difference is in the the third stanza, which I put together from forgotten sources (none of them involving this song) and finished up with a pun of my own. “Folk” or “fake”? In this case, who cares?

    There never was a mule like my old Sal,
    Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
    There never was a worker like my old gal,
    Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
    She’s a durn good mule for the shape she’s in,
    Henry said it’s from drinking gin,
    So Sal let go with her iron toe,
    And kicked his ass back to Buffalo.

  24. Nice article. The Columbia and Harmony recordings are the same recording. Columbia reissued its recordings on a number of “client” labels at this time, usually hiding the artist behind a pseudonym. The same recording was also released on United A1296, credited there to simply “quartette,” and it probably appeared on some other labels too.

  25. You don’t mention Peter Spier’s 1970’s picture book of this song. A lovely book only marred by the pretty much total lack of any people of color working along the canal.

    • Hi Louise, thanks for your comment. That is a nice book, and you remind me that I haven’t looked at it in a while. Will do.

  26. I have a school-oriented songbook called Songs Americans Sing (Silver Burdett Company 1948) that includes the song. However it’s the folkified version with 2 verses (15 miles) and one chorus and titled “The Erie Canal.” It is included in a program called “Over Mountain, River & Plain” and is sandwiched between “Home on the Range” and “Red River Valley.” Like all of the songs in the book it is treated as public domain with no writer credits or copyright acknowledgements.

    This doesn’t add anything to what you know but it is an example of how the song got spread in versions different from the presumed original.

    • Thanks Dave! That sounds like the same “generic” version that still gets printed today in school textbooks and elsewhere. It’s fun to try to figure out how, when, and why that happened.

  27. Hello, thanks for the information. I sing all these verses and choruses plus one more about “Big Foot Sal, the best damn cook on the Erie Canal.”

    • Great to hear Rose, thanks. The “Big Foot Sal” verse is one of many “floating” verses that find their way into various Erie Canal songs such as “The E-ri-e Was Risin” and “A Trip on the Erie.”

    • A verse about “Big foot Sal” appears in the 1935 movie, “The Farmer Takes a Wife,” which is a fine movie about the Erie Canal (based on Walter Edmunds 1929 novel, “Rome Haul”).

  28. Thanks, Dave.
    I presume you have waded through and evaluated entries for this song on www., for your sleuthing to date. As you know, Mudcat contributions can be speculative and not always reliable leads, but often they are submitted by dedicated song sleuths who open up obscure connections and thus avenues for further pursuits and confirmations.

    • Hi Bob – great to see you here. Yes, I always make it a point to consult Mudcat where, as you say, lots of interesting things can turn up.

      (On another note, remind me to tell you about the home recordings I’ve recently discovered of a Chateaugay NY fiddler of French Canadian descent – fascinating!)

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