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arkansas traveler background information

This 1870 Currier and Ives lithograph was inspired by The Arkansas Traveller, a melody with a story that appeared around 1850 when the tune came into vogue among fiddlers. Arkansas artist Edward Payson Washbourne painted this famous scene in 1856. The image depicts a wise-cracking, fiddle-playing squatter's encounter with a sophisticated city-slicker or traveler. The dialogue and tune, performed and recorded by Steve Porter and Ernest Hare in 1922, are part of the American Variety Stage collection at The Library of Congress. Between 1901and1919, Len Spencer recorded the song for a variety of record companies such as Edison and Columbia. In 1925, The Blue Ridge Duo recorded a square dance version for the Edison Record Company.

Arkansas Traveller: Scene In The Back Woods Of Arkansas
Created/Published [New York]: Currier and Ives, 1870
Prints and Photographs Division, The Library of Congress

Image Caption Text: Traveller, - To Squatter, - Can you give me some refreshments and a night's lodging? - Squatter, No sir - Haven't got any room, nothin to eat (fiddles away) - Traveller - Where does this road go to? - Squatter, - It don't go anywhere, it stays here, - (Still fiddling) - Traveller, - Why don't you play the rest of the tune? Squatter - Don't know it, - Traveller - Here give me the fiddle - plays.

A brief historical timeline of The Arkansas Traveller is presented below.
February 23, 1847 First printing of the melody by W. C. Peters under the title Arkansas Traveller and Rackinsac Waltz
1851 Tune is called A Western Refrain
1858-1863 Famous dialogue story probably appeared first in two sheet music editions by Mose Case
December, 1863 Almost identical copy was published by Oliver Ditson & Co., Boston with the credit to Mose Case
1858 - 1860 Version by Col. Faulkner with large colored lithograph entitled The Arkansas Traveller, designed by one of the natives and dedicated to Col. S.C. Faulkner, contains melody, but no dialogue
1870 Currier and Ives publish two prints entitled The Arkansas Traveller and The Turn of the Tune
1876 Large cardboard printing by Col. S. C. Faulkner or B. S. Alford. Faulkner claims to have been the original Arkansas Traveller in 1840


Arkansas Traveler for Violin sheet Music.

Currier and Ives. 1870. Arkansas Traveller: Scene in the back woods of Arkansas. The Library of Congress

Fuld, James J. The Book of World-Famous Music. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1996. pp. 107-108.

Mercer, Henry Chapman. On the Track of the Arkansas Traveler. The Century illustrated monthly magazine. 1896.

UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive Archive

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