The Music Man
Glossary and Notes
- The first seven scenes in Act I take place on July 4, 1912. This was the
first day of the 48-star United States flag; New Mexico and Arizona had been
admitted as states earlier that year.
- The land that is now the state of Iowa was part of the Louisiana Purchase.
It was designated the District of Louisiana in 1804 and organized as the
Territory of Louisiana in 1805. When Louisiana became a state in 1812, the
Territory of Louisiana was renamed the Territory of Missouri. Missouri
became a state in 1821, and the rest of the territory became unorganized. In 1834, the
area of present-day Iowa was added to the Territory of Michigan. In 1836, in
preparation for Michigan becoming a state, the area not to be included in
the State of Michigan was organized as the Territory of Wisconsin.
Burlington became the capital, although Burlington is now in Iowa. In 1838,
all of Wisconsin Territory west of the Mississippi River was organized as
the Territory of Iowa, and the capital of Wisconsin Territory was moved to
Madison; Burlington then became the capital of Iowa Territory. The capital
was moved to Iowa City in 1841. Iowa became a state in 1846, with generally
its present boundaries. The remaining land of Iowa Territory became
unorganized, and was organized as Minnesota Territory in 1849; the delay was
due to disputes over slavery. The capital of the State of Iowa was moved to
Des Moines in 1857.
- Iowa is divided into 99 counties, but has 100 county seats, because Lee
County has two (Fort Madison and Keokuk). There are 1598 townships, and 51
cities that are independent of any township.
- Before World War I, men did not wear wrist watches: they were too much
like bracelets, only to be worn by women. Well-to-do men and railroad
workers wore pocket watches. Because of the necessity to have hands free to
operate artillery during the war, men began to wear wrist watches, and after
the war, no one would accuse a returning doughboy of being effeminate!
Act I, Scene 1
- The first number in the show is called Rock Island, presumably
because the salesmen are crossing into Iowa from Rock Island, Illinois,
which is right across the Mississippi River from Iowa. The first railroad
bridge across the Mississippi was built to connect Rock Island, Illinois,
with Davenport, Iowa, by the Rock Island Railroad Company. A few weeks after
the completion of the bridge, the steamboat Effie Afton cleared the
open drawbridge, then turned and crashed into the bridge and burst into
flames. The owner of the boat sued the railroad, which was defended by a
team of lawyers, including a young Abraham Lincoln. The case made it all the way to
the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided, in 1866, in favor of the railroad. By
the time of our story, the railroad was now part of the Chicago, Rock
Island, and Pacific Railroad (C.R.I.&P.), which ran from Chicago to
Denver and Colorado Springs, and to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where it
interchanged with the Southern Pacific for trains to and from California.
Today, Rock Island IL, Moline IL, East Moline IL, Davenport IA, and
Bettendorf IA, are collectively known as the Quad Cities. (Bettendorf was
originally a small suburb of Davenport, but in 1948, it began to grow to
reach equal status with the others, so that it was proposed to rename the
area the Quint Cities, but that name never caught on.) After World War II,
the C.R.I.&P. was in financial difficulty. The Union Pacific (UP) attempted
to merge it, but the merger was held up in hearings by the ICC for about 10
years. At the end of that time, the financial state C.R.I.&P. was so bad
the UP no longer wanted it. It went bankrupt, and various railroads bought
most of the pieces. Most of what remains of the C.R.I.&P. today is part
of the UP.
- The very first line in the 1962 movie version: “Brighton’s no good for a notion
salesman.” - was added by Willson and is a reference to the town of Brighton,
Illinois, the home of his grandmother whom he visited often and, I understand, may have lived with
for some time. Meredith Willson attended Brighton, Illinois’ centennial celebration in 1969 as the guest of honor. (Contributed by
- The town of River City was based on Meredith Willson’s home town
of Mason City, Iowa. Mason City is commonly referred to as the “River
City”, as the city grew up centered on the Winnebago River. But if the
train trip originated in Rock Island IL,
the River City in this story seems to be
located in Davenport, the first city in Iowa across the Mississippi from
Illinois. But another possibility is that the train entered Iowa on the Rock
Island line from the north, from Minnesota, probably originating in St Paul,
and arrived in the real “River City”, that is, Mason City. Mason
City is about 50 miles from the border, so the train would have been
traveling in Iowa for an hour or more before stopping in River City.
Mason City is located in Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. It is adjacent to, but
independent of, Mason Township.
- notions: small items used in sewing and haberdashery, such as needles, buttons, and thread.
- button-hook: a hook used to pull thread through the holes of a button;
also, in American football, a play in which the receiver runs downfield, then turns back toward the line of scrimmage
- hard goods: also called durable goods; items such as household
appliances intended to be used repeatedly over time, rather than being used
- soft goods: items manufactured from textiles, such as clothing,
mats, curtains, and cushions; also called dry goods.
- fancy goods: luxury items
- noggin: a small mug, cup, or ladle; sometimes a measure equal to a
gill [pronounced jill], that is, a quarter or half pint, that is 4 or
8 fluid ounces
- piggin: A small wooden
pail or tub with a handle; a cream pail
- firkin: a small wooden
barrel or tub; as a measure of volume, a fourth of a barrel, about 9 gallons or 34
liters; there are various definitions, and there are different firkins for
wine, for beer, and for ale; in the Bible (John
2:6), firkin is used to translate the Greek
μετρητης, a unit of capacity equal
to about 10 gallons.
- And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
2And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
3And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.
4Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
5His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
6And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
7Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
8And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
9When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
10And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
- hogshead: a large cask or
barrel, or a unit of of volume or capacity
ranging from 63 to 140 gallons (238 to 530 liters). (The wine hogshead was 53
gallons; the brewery hogshead was 6 firkins.)
- cask: a container made and shaped like a barrel for holding
liquids; also a unit of measure.
- demijohn: a large bottle with a narrow neck, usually encased in
wickerwork; probably from French dame-jeanne = “Lady Jane”,
perhaps from its resemblance to a stout woman in 17th century costume.
- flypaper: paper with a sticky or poisonous coating, now
usually hung from the ceiling, used to catch or kill flies.
- The Model T Ford was built between 1908 and 1927, and was
considered the first inexpensive automobile, making automobiles accessible
to middle-class Americans.
- two-by-four kinda store: In this context, “two-by-four”
means “unimportant, insignificant”, from an earlier meaning of “cramped”. A “two-by-four” today usually means a
length of timber: untrimmed it originally had a cross section of two inches
by four inches; trimmed it becomes a joist with a cross section of 1½ by
- The Uneeda Biscuit was one of the first crackers sold in a branded
package, wrapped in a sanitary package of waxed paper, folded at the top. Previously, crackers
were unbranded and sold from a cracker barrel.
Mothers would send their young sons to the general store with a paper bag
with instructions to fill the bag with crackers from the barrel. The
National Biscuit Company used this as part of Uneeda Biscuit advertising
symbol, which depicts a boy carrying a pack of Uneeda Biscuit in the rain.
In 2009 (after over 110 years), Nabisco discontinued the Uneeda biscuit,
concerned that the product was not sufficiently profitable.
- cracker barrel: a cylindrical barrel
from which unbranded crackers were stored for sale in a general store; made
obsolete by packaging crackers like the Uneeda Biscuit; there were also sugar
barrels and pickle barrels (the pickles would be submerged in
brine). Cracker-barrel has become an adjective suggesting
country general store.
- Mail Pouch cut plug: a popular brand of chewing tobacco, sold in hard plugs that would be cut with a knife. The grocery store owner would use a mechanical device to cut the plug into flakes to sell or make hand-made cigarettes to sell.
- milk pan: shallow milk pans with flaring shoulders were common household items until the mid-1800s. Milk was allowed to sit until the cream had risen to the top and could be easily removed with a shallow spoon or skimmer. Glass pans were advertised as "preferable to all others" because they were "non-conductors" and therefore kept the milk "uninfluenced by storms or climate." But milk pans were also made of ceramics.
- tierce: an old measure of capacity equivalent to one third of a pipe, or 42
wine gallons (≈ 159 liters); or a cask or vessel holding this measure.
(The wine gallon was adopted in 1707 in the reign of Queen Anne [1702-1714]
and became the standard gallon in the United States. Subsequently Great
Britain adopted the imperial gallon, which is larger. The 1707 act also
standardized other wine cask units: 1 tun = 252 gallons; 1 pipe or butt =
126 gallons; 1 puncheon or tertian = 84 gallons; 1 hogshead = 53 gallons; 1
tierce = 42 gallons; 1 barrel = 31½ gallons; 1 rundlet = 18 gallons.)
- A mandolin is a musical instrument in the lute family and is usually plucked with a plectrum or “pick”. It commonly has four courses of doubled strings tuned in unison. The courses are normally tuned in a succession of perfect fifths. It is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello, and
mandobass. (The cooking tool is a mandoline.)
- jews-harp: is a musical instrument consisting of a flexible metal or bamboo tongue or reed attached to a frame. The tongue/reed is placed in the
performer’s mouth and plucked with the finger to produce a tone. It has no
particular connection with Jews or Judaism. It is native to central Asia,
and is used by all tribes of Turkic peoples.
- To pay the piper means “to
But Harold Hill not only gets away with his misdeeds, he profits from them.
- Tarring and
feathering was a form of punishment dating back at least as far as
the time of the crusades (12th century). It was never used as official
punishment in the United States, but was sometimes administered by a
mob. In rural areas, both pine tar and chicken feathers were usually
plentiful. The person (almost always a man) to be punished was
stripped to the waist, and hot tar was poured over him. Then feathers
were thrown at him, or he was forced to roll in feathers. He was
usually paraded around town as a form of humiliation, with the hope that he
wouldn’t return. Usually he was tied to a rail (a long wooden pole or
beam), paraded around, and finally run out of town. The feathers usually stuck to him for several
- thimble rigger: One who
cheats by thimblerigging, or tricks of legerdemain: a thimblerig is a sleight-of-hand swindling game in which the operator palms a pellet or pea while appearing to cover it with one of three
thimbles, shells, or cups, and then, moving the cups about, offers to bet that no one can tell under which cup the
- neck-bowed Hawkeyes:
Iowans in bow ties, which were more commonly worn 100 years ago than today.
(Iowa is known as the Hawkeye State.)
Act I, Scene 2
- The Palmer House
is a historic hotel in Chicago, IL. The first hotel, known as “The
Palmer”, opened in 1871, but only for 21 days, as it was destroyed in
the Great Chicago Fire. Rebuilding began almost immediately, and the Palmer
House Hotel opened in 1875. It was seven stories high and was one of the
fanciest hotels in the world. It was advertised as the world’s only
fireproof hotel. From 1923 to 1925 a new 25-story hotel was built on the
site. In 1945, Conrad Hilton acquired the hotel and it became the Palmer
House Hilton. It underwent a major renovation from 2007 to 2009, and is now
known as The Palmer House - A Hilton Hotel. Chocolate brownies were invented
at the Palmer House in 1893.
Gothic is a painting by Grant Wood that resides in the Art
Institute of Chicago. It depicts a farmer and his spinster daughter
standing before a house with an oversized window in a style called
Carpenter Gothic. Wood painted American Gothic while on a visit to the
town of Eldon in his native Iowa. The painting dates from
1930. It was intended to be a positive portrayal of rural
American life, and has become one of the most familiar images of the
20th century in America. However, it has been parodied in numerous
films, cartoons, and shows, including The Music Man, in the
song Iowa Stubborn.
- Location of the cities mentioned in the song Iowa Stubborn, and
population in 1910:
- Dubuque (NE: 38,494) is right across the Mississippi River
from Illinois and near the junction of three states: Iowa, Illinois, and
- Des Moines (SC: 86,368) is the state capital and largest city
and the location of the Iowa State Fair (then and now). It is named for
the Des Moines River: the French name Rivière des Moines means “River of the Monks.”
(E: 43,028) is on the Mississippi about halfway between Chicago and Des
- Marshalltown (C: 13,374)
- Mason City (N: 11,230) is Meredith Willson’s home town;
location of the footbridge and lumber yard.
Keokuk (SE: 14,008) is located on the Mississippi at the southeast
corner of the state. It was named for Sauk Chief Keokuk.
- Ames (C: 4,223) is close to the geographic center of the
State of Iowa and location of Iowa State University.
- Clear Lake (N: 2,014) is the smallest of these cities, and
may be included in this list because, in Act I, Scene 1, the conductor
announces that the population of River City is 2212, about the
population of Clear Lake in 1912. (It was near Clear Lake that on
February 3, 1959, the plane carrying Charles Hardin Holley [“Buddy
Holly”], Richard Steven Valenzuela [“Ritchie Valens”],
and J. P. Richardson [“The Big Bopper”] crashed, leaving no
- Some of the larger cities not included, with 1910 population: Cedar Rapids
(E: 32,811), Sioux City (NW: 47,828), Waterloo (E: 26,693), Council Bluffs
- Some of the towns Willson considered, because of their peculiar names,
but did not use: Correctionville (NW: 935 [2010 population was 821]), Diagonal (SW: 509
), and What Cheer (SE: 1720 )
- Some unusual town names in other states: Oregon (Boring, Bend, Drain),
California (Cool, Drytown, Volcano, Rough and Ready, You Bet, Bootjack:
all “Mother Lode” settlements), Nebraska (Wynot), Kansas (Zyba),
- drawers: undergarments with legs that cover the lower parts of the
- livery stable: a stable where horses and vehicles are cared for or rented out for pay.
- rig: a carriage, buckboard, sulky, or wagon together with the horse or horses that draw it.
- tank town: a town where steam trains stopped only to take on a supply of water; hence any small, unimportant, or uninteresting town.
- grip: slang for a traveling bag, suitcase, or valise.
- Steam automobiles were first built in France around 1873. Around
1900, steam automobiles were the most popular kind. But with improvements in
the internal combustion engine, and the introduction of the electric
starter, and the Model T Ford, the steam automobile was in decline.
- billiards: originally, an umbrella term that refers to three
categories of what are called cue sports:
- carom billiards: a family of games played on a pocketless table (This
is the usual sense of the term billiards, and the sense Harold
Hill is using. Hill is making a moral distinction between billiards and
pool. He does a similar comparison between harness racing and thoroughbred
- pool, or pocket billiards (in the U. S.) or pool billiards (in
Europe and Australia): a family of games played on a table with six
pockets. The most common form in the United States is eight-ball,
played with 15 numbered balls and one cue ball.
- snooker, or English billiards: a game played on a table with six pockets and 22 snooker balls
- balkline: a straight line drawn across the table behind which the cue balls are placed in beginning a
game; also, any of four lines, each near to and parallel with one side of the cushion, that divide the table into a large central panel or section and eight smaller sections or balks lying between these.
A balkline game refers to (carom) billiards, as opposed to pool.
|Billiard table, with balklines.
- Sloth, meaning laziness or disinclination to action or work, is
one of the seven capital (or deadly) sins (Latin acedia; from Greek
ἀκηδία, meaning “negligence”). In
Catholic teaching, its opposite is diligence or industry. In
Dante’s Purgatorio, sloth is the fourth terrace, so at the middle
level of the mountain: from lowest to highest, Dante put pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, lechery.
- pinch-back: variation of pinchbeck, meaning sham, spurious, or cheap;
from the noun pinchbeck, an alloy of copper and zinc, as an ersatz
gold; from Christopher Pinchbeck (?1670–1732), the English watchmaker who invented
- Jasper: English form of Caspar or Gaspar, the traditional name of one of the Magi
2:1-12; the name does not occur in Scripture). Said to be of Persian origin and meaning
“treasure-holder.” Used from 1896 for “a rustic simpleton”; hence, a fellow; man; guy.
- A trottin’ race, or, properly a harness race, is a horse race
where the horses race at a specific gait (a trot or a pace),
usually pulling a two-wheeled cart called a sulky where the driver sits. In
North America, harness racing is restricted to Standardbred horses. Races
are conducted in two differing gaits: trotting and pacing. The
difference is that a trotter moves its legs forward in diagonal pairs (right
front and left hind, then left front and right hind striking the ground
simultaneously), whereas a pacer moves its legs laterally (right front and
right hind together, then left front and left hind). Once again, Hill is
making a huge moral distinction between harness racing and thoroughbred
racing, as he did with billiards and pool.
- Dan Patch
was the most famous horse of his time, or perhaps any time. He was foaled in
1896 in a barn in Oxford, Indiana. Born crippled and unable to stand, he was nearly euthanized. For a while, he pulled
a grocer’s wagon in his hometown. But a local trainer saw potential in the animal.
Harness racing was the top sport in America at the time, and Dan Patch, a pacer, set the world record for the mile. He eventually lowered the mark by four seconds, an unheard-of achievement that would not be surpassed for
decades. He became the first celebrity sports endorser; his name appeared on breakfast cereals, washing machines, cigars, razors, and sleds. At a time when the highest-paid baseball player, Ty Cobb, was making $12,000 a year, Dan Patch was earning over
$1,000,000. He paced the mile in 1:55, a record unbroken for 32 years.
- There was a railroad, called The Dan Patch Line, which ran from
Minneapolis to Northfield, Minnesota. It started in 1908, as an electric
interurban line, called the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Dubuque
Electric Traction Company, and nicknamed “The Dan Patch Line”;
it reached Northfield (which is south of Minneapolis) in 1910, a
distance of 45.2 miles. It was built in the time of the great boom in
electric interurban railways, about 1890 to 1910, the same time the Pacific
Electric began in the Los Angeles area. But the bubble burst around
1910, and the line fell into receivership in 1916. In 1918 its assets
were acquired by a new corporation, the Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern
Railway, which operated the line for freight; it became a bridge
line bypassing downtown Minneapolis, connecting the major Class I
railroads: including the Great
Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road); Minneapolis,
St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway (Soo Line); Chicago
& North Western; Chicago,
Rock Island & Pacific (Rock Island); and the Chicago
Great Western. Today, most of the line is part of the Canadian
Pacific Railway. There is some talk about turning the line back into
a commuter line, taking its history full circle, but this has not
happened for the usual reason, lack of funding.
- frittern: frittering means “wasting or
squandering”, usually “frittering away”
- A dandelion is a flowering plant of the genus Taraxacum,
specifically the species T. officinale and T. erythrospermum,
that reproduce asexually, producing seeds without pollination, so that each
plant is genetically identical to its parents. It scatters its seeds by
wind. For these reasons, it has become a pernicious weed, especially in
residential lawns. However, all of the plant is edible. (The name dandelion
comes from the French dent de lion, which means “tooth of
lion,” referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves.) Dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A, C, and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.
- cistern: a reservoir, tank, or container for storing or holding water or other liquid.
- knickerbockers: baggy breeches fastened with a band at the knee or above the ankle;
also called in the U.S. “knickers”. From “Knickerbocker”,
a name for the original Dutch settlers of New York (formerly New Netherland),
from Washington Irving’s History of New York (1809), written
under the pen name Diedrich Knickerbocker. (Note: in Britain, “knickers” refers to women’s undergarments.)
- shirt-tail: young and immature in behavior
- Bevo: A non-alcoholic beer (“near beer” or “cereal
beverage”) brewed by Anheuser-Busch from 1916 to 1929. (Since the show
takes place in 1912, and Bevo was introduced in 1916, this is an
- Cubebs are cigarettes made with cubeb, the spicy fruit of an East Indian climbing shrub,
Piper cubeba, of the pepper family, dried and used as a stimulant and diuretic,
as a treatment for asthma, chronic pharyngitis, and hay fever. Edgar Rice Burroughs, being fond of smoking cubeb cigarettes, humorously stated that if he had not smoked so many cubebs, there might never have been Tarzan.
“Marshall’s Prepared Cubeb Cigarettes” was a popular brand, with enough sales to still be made during World War II.
- Tailor Mades: cigarettes made in a factory rather than by hand. In
1881, James Bonsack invented a machine for rolling cigarettes, which was 13
times faster than hand-rolling. Cigarettes were almost unknown in the United
States before the Civil War (1861-65). The British learned of cigarettes
from the Turks and the Russians in the Crimean War (1853-56). Bonsack’s
invention led to a great expansion of the tobacco industry in the United
States in the first half of the 20th century, when scientific evidence
revealed negative health consequences of smoking.
- Sen-Sen was “breath perfume” in the late nineteenth
century, discontinued in July 2013. Similar to a matchbox of the time, an
inner box slid out from a cardboard sleeve revealing a small hole from which
the tiny Sen-sen squares would fall when the box was shaken. The ingredients
were licorice, gum arabic, maltodextrin, sugar, and natural and artificial
- Libertine originally meant “freed from slavery”, but came
to mean “dissolute, licentious, profligate, of loose morals.”
- Ragtime is a musical form that was popular between about 1895 and
1918. Its characteristic is syncopated or ragged rhythm, from the practice
of “ragging”, or distorting, standard rhythms, popular among black
musicians. It began as dance music in the African-American bordellos of New
Orleans and St Louis. Ernest Hogan was a pioneer and popularizer and coined
the term ragtime. Scott Joplin (?1868-1917) took up the form, and had
a hit with the publication of “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899), and then
had a series of hits including “The Entertainer” (1902). After
1917 ragtime was eclipsed by jazz and almost forgotten. In the 1970s ragtime
enjoyed a resurgence, especially after the release of the film The Sting
(1973), with its soundtrack of Joplin tunes. The disdain for ragtime may
have to do with its being regarded as “colored” music by Iowans of
- mass-steria is short for “mass hysteria”.
- dime novel: a cheap melodramatic or sensational novel, usually in
paperback, selling for ten cents, common from around 1850 to 1920; the
British equivalent is penny-dreadful.
- corn crib: A ventilated building for storing unhusked ears of corn.
- Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang
was a monthly magazine published by Wilford Hamilton “Captain Billy”
Fawcett from 1919 to 1936. It was a men’s humor magazine for, as Fawcett
himself said, the returned doughboys of the United States and Canada.
Fawcett had served in the Spanish-American War, and then worked as a
reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. He served in World War I, as a
reporter for Stars and Stripes. After the war he ran a bar in
Minneapolis, but had to close it in 1919 when Prohibition went into effect.
The magazine was considered risqué, but was a success. This led Fawcett to
publish other magazines including True Confessions and Mechanix Illustrated.
But during the depression, people had less to spend on humor, and Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang
ended in 1936. By 1942, Fawcett had 49 magazines in circulation, but paper
shortages in World War II forced him to cut back to 12. NOTE: The
story is set in 1912, and Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang began in 1919:
- swell: a now dated slang term meaning “excellent, wonderful, delightful”.
In episode #53 (in season 2) of I Love Lucy, first aired December 29,
1952, “Lucy Hires an English Tutor”, Hans Conried played Percy
Livermore, who tells the four main characters that there are two words they
should never use: “swell” and “lousy”. “What’s
the swell word?” “OK, what’s the lousy word?” They keep
that up with a straight face for quite some time!
- so’s your old man basically means “the same to
you!”; used as a retort to an insult, originating in playground slang.
(Today we hear this in politics: “Carter’s policies have led to
X!” “Well, Ford’s policies led to Y!!”)
- The USS Maine (ACR-1), launched in 1889 as an armored cruiser, was a second-class pre-dreadnought battleship whose sinking by an explosion, either internal or by a mine, on
the evening of February15, 1898, killing 266, precipitated the Spanish–American War.
The cause of her sinking was unclear after a board of inquiry investigated.
But the “Yellow Press”, led by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph
Pulitzer, inflamed public opinion, and the slogan “Remember the Maine,
to hell with Spain” became a popular rallying cry.
- Plymouth Rock is a rock with “1620” carved into it, said
to be the first place where the Mayflower Pilgrims set foot in North
America. It was first identified as such in 1741, when there was a plan to
expand the harbor at Plymouth.
- The Golden Rule
is a maxim, found in many ethical systems, that declares one should do to
others has one would be treated, or, negatively, one should not do to others
what he would not have done to himself. It is found in the New Testament in Matthew
7:12 “Therefore all
things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:
for this is the law and the prophets.” But the rule is older: in
the book of Tobit
(4:16), “See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by
Act I, Scene 4
- Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His
magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled
La Comédie humaine (The Human Comedy), which present a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon.
Owing to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature.
(See some quotes
- masher: A man who habitually makes sexual approaches to women.
- Paul Bunyan: A giant
lumberjack of American folklore who performs superhuman acts.
- Saint Pat is Saint
Patrick (c.385-461), Christian missionary bishop, called the Apostle of Ireland.
He was born in Roman Britain and captured and sold into
slavery in Ireland until he escaped to Gaul. He later
returned as a missionary bishop to Ireland, where he made many converts. In 444 or 445
he established his archiepiscopal see at Armagh with the approval of Pope Leo
I. (Armagh is in Northern Ireland; today Armagh is the primatial see both of the
Roman Catholic church in Ireland and of the [Anglican] Church of
Ireland.) By his death, Ireland was largely Christianized. The prime source of his life is the
Confessions, written during his last years. His feast day is March
17, which is a holiday in Ireland (both the Republic and Northern Ireland),
and widely celebrated wherever Irish live.
- Noah Webster, Jr (1758-1843) was an American lexicographer,
textbook pioneer, spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author.
His Spelling Book (1783) helped standardize American spelling,
different from British standards. His major work, An American Dictionary of the English
Language, was first published in 1828. His dictionary had a great impact
on the entire English-speaking world, so that the word “Webster’s”
became synonymous with “dictionary.”
Act I, Scene 5
- At the opening of this scene, Mrs Shinn is dressed as Columbia, a
symbol of the United States. In 1912, the United States did not have an
official national anthem. For most of the 19th century, the songs “Hail,
Columbia” , “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” and
“My Country, ’Tis of Thee” served as unofficial national
anthems. John Philip Sousa was part of a committee that prepared the
“official” version of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, which Congress made the national
anthem in 1931.
- The Springfield rifle is a rifle made by the Springfield Armory in
Springfield, Massachusetts, particularly the M1903 Springfield, which is a clip-loaded, 5-round magazine fed, bolt-action service rifle.
This was the standard infantry rifle from 1903 to 1937.
- pest house: A hospital for treating persons with infectious or
pestilential diseases (now considered obsolete)
- The last name of Tommy Djilas is taken from Milovan Đilas (Милован
Ђилас in Cyrillic): (the symbol Dj is
an older form for the Đ = Ђ in modern Serbo-Croatian). Đilas
was a Yugoslavian dissident. He was born in 1911 in Montenegro, then an
independent kingdom. After WWI, it became part of the new Kingdom of
Yugoslavia. As a student in Belgrade, Đilas joined the communist party in
1932. He was a political prisoner from 1933 to 1936. In 1941 following the
Italian and German invasion and dismemberment of Yugoslavia, Đilas joined
Tito in the Partisan resistance. Tito sent him to Montenegro to organize the
resistance there. But Tito dismissed him from command for his “leftist
errors”. He was made editor of the newspaper Borba, the movement’s
main propaganda organ. After the war, he was elected President of
Yugoslavia, now reconstituted as a federal communist republic. But he wrote
a series of articles for Borba, arguing that a new ruling class of
bureaucrats had arisen, who allocated to themselves the best houses in the
best parts of Belgrade. For those articles he was forced out as President by
Tito. He continued to live in Belgrade, in and out of prison until his death
- The Walls of Jericho fell down after the Israelites had marched
around the city for six days in a row in silence, and then seven times on
the seventh day. “And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of
rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the
ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.”
- Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore (1829-92) was an
Irish-born American cornet player, bandmaster, and composer. He also wrote
the lyric to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and other songs. John
Philip Sousa called him the Father of the American Band. He founded
Gilmore’s Band in 1858, and at the start of the Civil War, enlisted in
the army. After the war, he was asked to organize a huge peace celebration
in New Orleans.
|Patrick S. Gilmore
||The Great Creatore
||W. C. Handy (age 19)
||John Philip Sousa
- Liberatti: Alessandro Liberati (1847-1927) was a noted
cornet virtuoso, bandmaster, and composer. He played and conducted bands
throughout Italy from 1866 to 1872. In 1872 he came to North America and
played in bands all over English-speaking Canada. Gilmore
heard of him, and asked him to play in the huge peace jubilee in New
Orleans. In 1876 he became a U.S. citizen. In 1889, Liberati formed his own
band and billed it “The World Renowned Liberati Band”. In 1895, he became known for establishing among the first circus bands when be began traveling with the noted Ringling Brothers, for whom he opened performances.
- Pat Conway: Patrick Conway (1865–1929) was one of America’s foremost bandleaders. He became director of the Ithaca, NY, Municipal Band, which later became the Conway Band. His band of professionals was as famous as John Philip
Sousa’s band, playing throughout the country for state fairs, expositions, and concert series, and was featured on the General Motors Family Hour radio show. In the 1920s bands were declining in popularity, in part from competition from the phonograph and radio. With the establishment of school bands there was a demand for trained band teachers and musicians, yet little formal education for band musicians existed. Realizing this, Conway opened one of the first schools for the training of the band musician: the Conway Military Band
- The Great Creatore: Giuseppe C. Creatore
(1871-1952) was a trombonist, bandmaster, and showman; he became conductor of the Naples Municipal Band in 1887 when he was seventeen.
He came to the United States in 1899 and formed his own band in 1901. Not
satisfied with the quality of the musicians, he returned to Italy and
recruited sixty musicians whom he brought back to the United States in 1902.
His band was booked solidly, and their fee came to $5000 per performance.
They made several tours on the Chautauqua circuit between 1910 and 1916, but
with the decline of band popularity around the time of World War I, he
formed an opera company, 1917-22. He conducted bands for the WPA, but
resigned in a dispute with the government. He made his final public
performance in 1947.
- W. C. Handy: William Christopher Handy (1873-1958) was a black
American musician, composer and bandmaster, known widely as “The Father
of the Blues.” Handy’s father believed that musical instruments
were tools of the devil, and when young Handy bought a guitar, his father
made him take it back. His father enrolled him in organ lessons, but young Handy
soon quit and began to take up the cornet. He played in a local band, but
kept that fact secret from his parents. He worked at several odd jobs and at
age 23 became bandmaster of Mahara’s Colored Minstrels. In 1900 he
joined the faculty at Alabama A&M (then an all-black college), where he
taught until 1902. Like Aaron Copland, he wanted to promote American music,
but the faculty at the college considered American music to be inferior to
European classical music. He also knew he could make more money playing in a
band than teaching at the college. Traveling about the South he heard a lot
of the local black folk music, which he began to systematize as “the
blues”. In 1909 he wrote what became “Memphis Blues”,
originally a campaign song for a victorious mayoral candidate, which was
published in 1912. In the “Memphis Blues” he introduced the
now-standard 12-bar blues style, which is also credited with the creation of
the foxtrot, introduced by Vernon and Irene Castle. He
went on to publish “St Louis Blues” and “Beale Street Blues”. He
was unenthusiastic about the new style of jazz which was becoming popular,
but many jazz bands began playing his music. He moved to New York City in
1917. He became a successful music publisher, unusual for a black person at
- John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was
an American bandmaster and composer, known as “The March King”. He
was born in Washington DC and began playing violin at age six. He was found
to have perfect pitch. He studied voice, violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone horn, trombone, and alto
horn. When young Sousa was 13, his father, a trombonist in the Marine Band, enlisted him in the United States Marine Corps as an apprentice to keep him from joining a circus band.
After serving his apprenticeship he joined a pit orchestra, where he learned
to conduct. In 1880 he returned to the Marine band, “The President’s
Own”, as its head, and remained as its conductor until 1892, serving
under five presidents. In 1892, he organized the Sousa Band, which toured
from 1892 to 1931, both in America and abroad. He wrote 136 marches,
including “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (national march of the
United States), “Semper Fidelis” (official march of the U. S.
Marine Corps), “King Cotton”,
Bell”, “El Capitan”,
“The Thunderer”, and
Washington Post”, as well as several operettas, and other works. He
also wrote three novels. His autobiography is titled Marching Along.
He was part of a committee that prepared the “official” version of “The Star-Spangled Banner“, which Congress made the national
anthem in 1931. Meredith Willson toured with the Sousa Band from 1921 to
- It is not possible that all six famous band leaders could come to town
on the very same historic day: Gilmore died in 1892, and Creatore first
came to the United States in 1899! (In 1892, Handy was 19 years old!)
- Reeds refers to woodwind instruments, both those with cane reeds
(clarinets, saxophones, oboes, bassoons, &c) and flutes.
- battery: in the military sense, is two or more pieces of artillery
used for combined action
- A euphonium is a conical bore brass instrument with a range from B0
to as high as B♭5,
at least when played by a professional. A uniquely American innovation is
the double bell euphonium, which has a second, smaller bell, which
the player could switch to with an extra valve operated by the left hand.
The second bell was intended to emulate the sound of a trombone. Harry Whittier of the Patrick S.
Gilmore band introduced the instrument in 1888, and it was used widely in both school and service bands for several decades.
But today, the double bell euphonium has become rare; in high school and
college bands, baritone horns (which have a cylindrical bore) are more
common than euphoniums.
- A bassoon is a double-reed woodwind instrument. It is rarely used
in marching bands.
- There are quite a few sizes of clarinets: the most common is the B♭
Smaller clarinets include the E♭ clarinet, the C clarinet, the D clarinet,
and the A♭ piccolo clarinet; of these only the E♭ clarinet is
common. Larger clarinets include the A clarinet (used in orchestras and
chamber ensembles, rarely in marching or concert bands), the alto clarinet
in E♭, the bass clarinet in B♭, the contra-alto clarinet (one
octave lower than the alto clarinet), the contrabass clarinet (one octave
lower than the bass clarinet).
- Frank Gotch
(1878-1917) was born in Humboldt, IA. He was the first American professional
wrestler to win the world heavyweight free-style championship, and credited
for popularizing professional wrestling in the United States. He was one of
the most popular athletes in the United States from 1900-1910, called the
Hulk Hogan of his day. His signature move was the “double leg
- Strangular Lewis: Ed
“Strangler” Lewis (1891-1966) was born Robert Herman Julius Friedrich in
Nekoosa, WI, in 1889. Around 1910, he took the name Lewis from a wrestler of the
19th century known as Evan “Strangler” Lewis because of their various
similarities, and because his parents looked with disdain on professional
wrestling. He was a 6-time world heavyweight champion wrestler, and improved
the sleeper hold, which renders an opponent unconscious. He retired from
active competition in 1948. There is no evidence that Gotch and Lewis ever fought.
- Jeely Kly: a regional minced oath for “Jesus Christ”. (Jimmy’s trademark saying; in the film version, this was
considered too regional, and was replaced with “Great Honk!”)
- day laborer: an unskilled worker paid by the day, usually hired a
day at a time
- Ye gods: a minced oath for “Oh my God” (Zaneeta’s
Act I, Scene 6
- A conservatory is a school giving instruction in one or more of the fine or dramatic arts; specifically, a school of music.
There is no conservatory in Gary, Indiana, but Gary is home to two regional state college campuses: Indiana University
Northwest, and Ivy Tech Community College Northwest (“Old Ivy”?).
- Aught-five (or ought-five, or as written in the script, ’05)
is the year 1905. Aught is another word for zero. Originally,
it was naught (or nought), but in the phrase “a
naught”, people heard “an aught”. Today, people are more
likely to say “oh-five”, but in the year 2005, I think people were
more likely to say “two thousand [and] five”.
- Joplin is a city in Missouri, about the size of Mason City, Iowa.
The population of Joplin in 1910 was 32,073. It was founded in 1873, and was
a center of zinc and lead mining. These ended after WWII, but the city was
located along U. S. Route 66, and is mentioned in the song by Bobby Troup,
which increased tourism.
- Canoodling means indulging
- For no Diana do I play faun: Diana was the Roman goddess of the
hunt, the moon, woodlands, women, and childbirth, and was one of three
virgin goddesses; she is identified with the Greek Artemis. Faunus is
sometimes identified with the Greek Pan. In one story in Spenser’s The
Faerie Queene, Faunus spies on Diana bathing and sees her naked. She
then transforms him into a stag, and he pursued and killed by his own
hounds. This is partly based on a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses,
but Spenser replaced Actaeon with Faunus.
- The Lass with the Delicate Air
is the title of a song by Michael Arne, which premiered in 1762. (Hear
it sung by Julie Andrews.)
- for Hester to win just one more
“A”: This is a reference to The Scarlet Letter, the
1850 novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, considered his magnum opus. The
story is about Hester Prynne who gives birth to a child, named Pearl, by a
man not her husband, who has been away at sea. She is forced to confess her
sin publicly, and to wear a scarlet “A” on her dress. Throughout the book, Hawthorne explores themes of legalism, sin, and guilt.
- agog means highly excited by eagerness, curiosity, anticipation,
- on the que veev:
misspelling of the phrase “on the qui vive”, meaning on the alert, attentive. A French sentry
would ask a stranger, “Qui vive?”; equivalent to “Who
goes there?”; from Qui
in other words, “whose
- Pianola: a trademark for a kind of player piano; it became
generic for player piano. They contain a mechanism that plays the piano
according to a pre-programmed paper, or sometimes metallic, roll. (Today they
can use MIDI recordings on a floppy disk or CD.) Player pianos were popular
in the late 19th century and early 20th century. But sales declined with the
advent of radio and improved phonograph recordings. The market essentially
collapsed in 1929 with the coming of the great depression.
- reticent means disposed to be silent or not to speak freely; reserved; reluctant or restrained.
- Del Sarte: François Delsarte (1811–71) was a French
musician and teacher of acting and singing. He studied
singing (1825–29) at the Paris Conservatoire and appeared as a tenor at the
Opéra-Comique, but faulty training had damaged his voice. Delsarte formulated
certain principles of aesthetics that he applied to the teaching of dramatic
expression. He set up rules coordinating the voice with the gestures of all
parts of the body. In 1839 he opened his first cours d’esthétique
his advice was sought by many famous artists, e.g., Rachel, Henriette Sontag,
and W. C. Macready. Steele MacKaye
studied with him in Delsarte’s last years and brought to the United States the
Delsarte system, to which he had added many of his own ideas, including
elements of gymnastics. Some of Delsarte’s writings are included in the
compilation Delsarte System of Oratory (1893).
- Chaucer: Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340-1400) is known as the Father of
English Literature, and the greatest English poet of the middle ages. His works include The Book of the Duchess (1369),
The House of Fame (c. 1379-80), and Troilus and
Criseyde (c. 1385), but he is best known for The Canterbury Tales (1387-1400). This
unfinished work, about 17,000 lines, tells of a group of pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St Thomas à
Becket decide to pass the time by telling stories. The tales include a variety
of medieval genres, vividly
depict medieval attitudes toward love, marriage, and religion. Some of the tales
are bawdy, in particular, “The Miller’s Tale.” (See some quotes
- Raballaise: François Rabelais (c.1483-4 to 1553) was a major French Renaissance writer,
physician, Renaissance humanist, monk, and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs. His best known work is
Gargantua and Pantagruel. Because of his literary power and historical importance, Western literary critics considered him one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing.
(See some quotes
- Balzac: see above, under Act I, Scene 4
Act I, Scene 7
- Steelies, aggies, peewees, and glassies are
all types of marbles.
- A steely is a marble made of steel; a true steely (not just a ball-bearing) was made from a flat piece of steel folded into a sphere and shows a cross where the corners all come together.
- An aggie is a marble made of agate (aggie is short for agate),
or glass resembling agate, with various patterns like in the alley.
- A peewee (or peawee or mini) is a marble smaller
than the majority.
- A glassie is a marble made of glass; today the most common
- carrion: dead and putrefying flesh
Act I, Scene 8
- Dinner is usually the main, or largest, meal of the day. If it is
eaten around noon, then the evening meal is called supper. This is
the normal practice in the rural Midwest, and for many families, on major
holidays, like Thanksgiving Day or Christmas. If dinner is eaten the
evening, then the noonday meal is called lunch. (Originally dinner was
the first meal of the day!)
Act I, Scene 9
- Soliciting, in this context, means soliciting
trade, in at least in
this case, with a vaguely negative sense.
- malfeasance is the doing of a wrong or illegal act, used especially
of public officials.
- A spit valve is a lever to drain saliva (“spit”) from a
brass musical instrument (e.g., trumpet, cornet,
trombone, horn, tuba); properly called a water key.
- A flügelhorn is a brass instrument usually with three piston
valves and a conical bore, used in military bands. (There are variants with
rotary valves or with four valves.) It comes from the German Flügel,
meaning “wing” or “flank”, and Horn, with the
same meaning as the English word. The name came from placing the
flügelhorns on the flanks of the band marching in formation. The tone of
the flügelhorn is mellower than that of a trumpet or cornet, usually
regarded as about halfway between a trumpet and French horn; the cornet
is considered halfway between the trumpet and flügelhorn.
- The Minute Waltz is the popular name of a piano waltz by Frédéric
Chopin, which was originally titled “Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1,
Valse du petit chien, the last title means “waltz of the
little dog.” It is dedicated to the Countess Delfina Potocka. The name “minute waltz” was given because it is very short and very fast,
but it actually takes almost two minutes to play!
- plainer than a Quaker on his day off: The Quakers are a religious
group, collectively known as the “Religious Society of Friends”,
founded in 17th century England. They were known, among other things for
unprogrammed worship, and plain dress.
Act I, Scene 10
- A cornet is a brass instrument with three
piston valves and a conical bore similar to the trumpet, which has a
cylindrical bore. The cornet developed from the post horn by adding valves.
Since the 1960s, the cornet has largely been replaced by the trumpet in
American concert bands, and in American jazz bands since the swing era. In
British bands, the cornet retains its place as the highest brass instrument.
- A virtuoso is an individual with exceptional talent in some art or
skill, such as singing or playing a musical instrument. The plural is either
virtuosi (as in Italian) or virtuosos (as in English).
- St Bridget (Brigit, Brigid, or Bride; Irish: Naomh Bríd; c. 451–525,
abbess) is one of Ireland’s patron saints, along with Patrick and Columba.
Her feast day is February 1.
- O’Clark, O’Mendez, O’Klein: These are
three famous cornet or trumpet players with O’ added to their names to
make them sound Irish! (However, Gilmore was a great
- Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945): Herbert Lincoln Clarke was a
well-known American cornetist, composer, and bandmaster. He was born in
Woburn, MA, but lived for some time in Toronto, Canada. In 1893 he briefly
joined John Philip Sousa’s band as cornet
- Rafael Méndez (1906-1981), a famed trumpet soloist
and composer, was known as the “Heifetz of the trumpet”. He was born in Jiquilpan, Michoacan,
Mexico. (At the time of this story, he would have been six years old!)
- Manny Klein
(1908-1994): Emmanuel Klein was a jazz trumpeter most associated with swing.
He played with Paul Whiteman, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and
Artie Shaw. He was considered one of the most versatile trumpet players of
all time. (At the time of this story, he would have been four years old!)
- St Michael’s own way with
you: St Michael the
archangel, among other roles, is considered as patron and protector of the
Church. (In Irish, Michael is spelled Mícheál, and pronounced “mee-hawl”.)
- hod-carrying: A hod is a portable trough for carrying mortar, bricks,
&c, fixed crosswise on top of a pole and carried on the shoulder.
- clay-pipe smokin’: a clay pipe is symbolic of Ireland;
especially in pictures of leprechauns.
- shamrock-wearin’: A shamrock is any of several trifoliate plants, as the wood sorrel,
Oxalis acetosella, or a small, pink-flowered clover, Trifolium repens
minus, but especially Trifolium procumbens, a small, yellow-flowered clover: the national emblem of Ireland.
According to legend, St Patrick used the shamrock to explain the doctrine of
the trinity to the Irish. (from Irish seamróg)
- harp-playin’: The harp is a symbol of Ireland.
- mavorneen-pinchin’: mavourneen from Irish mo mhuirnín,
meaning “my darling”, and can be used as a pet name for woman or
- Tara’s hall minstrel-singin’: The hill of Tara is the
legendary coronation site of the High King of Ireland.
- Be-gob: possibly a variation of begorra(h), an emphatic
utterance meaning “by God” and regarded as a characteristic utterance of
- Be-jabbers is a mild oath expressing disbelief or astonishment,
thought to be from “by Jesus”.
- Hodado: probably a variation of “howdy-do”
- The song My White Knight was replaced in the film version with the
song “Being in Love”, which has the same bridge. At one time in
the development of the show, for the finale of Act I, Meredith Willson had Marian singing
White Knight” at one end of the footbridge, while Harold simultaneously
sings “The Sadder But Wiser Girl” at the other end.
- Lancelot was a knight of the Round Table, and King Arthur’s best knight and best friend. But Lancelot betrays Arthur in his love affair with
Guenevere. Lancelot is a deeply conflicted figure. Although he is considered to be the greatest knight in Arthur’s court, he struggles constantly with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. He is doggedly faithful to those who love him, even if they do not always have his best interests at heart.
- Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, identified
with the Greek Aphrodite.
Act I, Scene 11
- The Epworth League is a Methodist association for young adults aged 18–35. It was formed in the Methodist Episcopal church in 1889 at Cleveland, Ohio, by the combination of five
people’s organizations then existing. Epworth is the name of the town in
North Linconshire, England, where John and Charles Wesley, the founders of
Methodism, were born, where
their father, Samuel Wesley, was rector of the parish. At its conception, the purpose of the league the promotion of intelligent and vital piety among the young people of the Church. Members of the Epworth League are known as
Epworthians. (Thus we know that the Shinns are Methodist. This would also
mean that Zaneeta
is at least 18. But the script says she is 16!) Non-Methodists often
attended meetings of Christian
Endeavour, officially The Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor,
an interdenominational Christian youth society which provided a structure
for church youth to work together to know God in Jesus Christ. Although
Christian Endeavour still exists, membership has declined as denominational
youth ministries have filled its function.
- The Black Hole of Calcutta was a small dungeon in the old Fort William in Calcutta, India, where troops of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, held British prisoners of war after the capture of the fort on June
20, 1756, in the course of the Seven Years’ War. One of the prisoners, John Zephaniah Holwell, claimed that following the fall of the fort, British and Anglo-Indian soldiers and civilians were held overnight in conditions so cramped that many died from suffocation, heat exhaustion, and crushing. He claimed that 123 prisoners died out of 146 held. However, the precise number of deaths, and the accuracy of
Holwell’s claims, have been the subject of controversy. But as a result of
Holwell’s account, the British sent Robert Clive to retaliate. He defeated
Siraj, who was overthrown and killed. The British proceeded to occupy and
control all of Bengal, which was the first European occupation of a whole
part of India, as opposed to mere trading posts. This put British
involvement in India on a level above the other European powers: Dutch,
French, and Portuguese.
- The Wells Fargo Wagon: Henry Wells and William Fargo were the
presidents of express companies at the time of the California gold rush of
1849, concentrating on express business in the eastern states and to Europe.
(Express is the expeditious handling and movement of small packages
at higher than normal freight rates. By rail, express usually travels with
the baggage and mail on passenger trains, rather than in boxcars on
freight trains.) In that same year (1849), John Butterfield entered the
express business. Realizing that this competition was wasteful, they agreed
to merge to form American Express. Wells and Fargo proposed expanding the business to California. But the rest of the
directors balked, and the two men founded their own express and banking
company, Wells, Fargo & Company. The company continued to grow. In 1905,
the company was split into separate banking and express companies. In 1918,
because of WWI, the express company was forced to merge into what became the
Railway Express Agency, which lasted until 1975. The banking operations
continued to prosper as the second largest bank headquartered in San
Francisco until 1998, when it was merged by Minneapolis-based Norwest
Corporation, which then changed its name to Wells Fargo and continued to use
the stagecoach as it symbol.
- mackinaw: a short double-breasted coat of a thick woolen material, commonly
plaid; also called a mackinaw coat, or mackinaw jacket, first made in the
Mackinac, or Mackinaw, region of present-day Michigan. The Mackinaw jacket traces its roots to coats that were made by white and Métis women in November
1811, when John Askin, an early trader on the upper Great Lakes, hired them to design and sew 40 woolen greatcoats for the British Army post at Fort
St Joseph (Ontario), near Mackinac. His wife, Madelaine Askin, took an important role in the design of the coat. Askin was fulfilling a contract he received from Capt. Charles Roberts, the post commander; Roberts was desperate to clothe his men, who had last been issued greatcoats in
1807. The jackets were made from three-point trade blankets that Askin, who at the time was keeper of the
King’s store at the fort, supplied on the captain’s
authority. Although the order called for blue greatcoats, the number of blankets proved insufficient, so the number was filled out by coats made from blankets in red as well as the black-on-red plaid pattern that is associated with the jackets of
today. It would be found that the long skirts of the greatcoat were unsuitable for deep snow, and once these were removed, the Mackinaw jacket was
born. —The Sword of Old St Joe, Chapter 7 (pp. 17–21)
- The grapefruit is a hybrid citrus fruit that arose accidentally in
the 17th century in Barbados as a cross between a sweet orange (Citrus
sinensis) and pomelo (C. grandis), both of which come from Asia.
Florida is the leading grapefruit-growing state in the United States, with
Texas second and California third.
- Tampa is now the third-largest city in Florida, behind
Jacksonville and Miami. It started as a small fishing village until 1883,
when phosphates were discovered nearby, and the South Florida Railroad
arrived in that same year, and then Tampa became a boom town. In 1885 Tampa
became a center for cigar-making, and has been known as “The Cigar
City” ever since, even though the cigar market declined in the 1930s.
(Although Florida is the top grapefruit-growing state, in 1912 Tampa was
best known for cigars. In addition to “The Cigar City”, Tampa also
calls itself “The Big Guava”.)
- Montgom’ry Ward: In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward founded a
mail-order dry goods business in Chicago. His previous work as a traveling
salesman had taught him that rural people often desired “city
goods”, which were unavailable at local “two-by-four”
retailers, or were of unreliable quality. After awhile, the local retailers
saw Montgomery Ward as a threat, and some even publicly burned his catalog!
In 1926, the company began opening stores. By the late 20th century, the
business was in trouble, and ceased all operations in 2001. In 2004, after
purchasing the trademarks and logos, a new Wards online firm began
operations. (Richard Warren Sears, with Alvah C. Roebuck, started a
mail-order business after Montgomery Ward. The first Sears catalogue came
out in 1888, cleverly made a little bit smaller than the Montgomery Ward
catalogue, so that midwesterners would put the Sears catalogue on top on
their coffee table!)
- C.O.D. is an abbreviation for “Cash on Delivery”: the
merchant sends goods by mail or express with payment collected by the
carrier rather than in advance, often with a small fee. If payment is not
made, the goods are returned to the retailer. It has advantages for
retailers in that customers without credit cards can order goods, more
impulse purchases may be made, and it projects an image of credibility for
retailers in that they have such confidence in their merchandise that they
send it out with confidence that it will be accepted. Because payment can
also be made by credit card or check, sometimes it is now given as “Collect on Delivery.”
- A double boiler (also called a bain-marie or water bath)
is a three- or four-piece set of cooking equipment consisting of an outer
pan with a handle, an inner pan, and a lid, and sometimes a base underneath.
The outer pan contains a liquid, usually water, but sometimes oil or brine;
the inner pan contains a substance to be cooked or melted, such as a sauce
or chocolate. The inner pan is usually partly immersed in the liquid. The
liquid keeps the substance in the smaller pan from getting too hot: if the
outer pan contains water, it can not exceed 212º F at sea level.
- Fresno is near the center of the raisin-growing region of
California, although the headquarters of Sun-Maid, the raisin growers
cooperative, is now located in nearby Kingsburg. The cooperative was
established in 1912, and the name Sun-Maid adopted in 1915. They opened a
new factory in downtown Fresno in 1918. In 1964, they opened a new modern
factory in Kingsburg, 20 miles southeast of Fresno.
- The D.A.R. is the Daughters of the American
Revolution, a service
organization founded 1890 in Washington DC, open to women directly
descended from a person involved in United States’ independence.
- Beethoven’s Minuet
in G was originally written for orchestra, but today only an
arrangement for piano solo survives. It is very popular with piano students.
- Tempus fugit is Latin for “time flies”.
Act II, Scene 1
- Shipoopi is a word Meredith Willson just made up.
- Virginia reel lines: The Virginia reel is considered to be an
English country dance, but it may have originated in Scotland. Dancers form
two lines with partners facing each other, the men with the musicians on
their left, the women with the musicians on their right. (They do not dance
the Virginia reel here, but only form longwise sets as in the Virginia
- do re mi fa sol la si do si do: The syllables do, re,
mi, fa, sol, la, si (or, later, ti)
are the seven tones of a major scale, first formulated by Guido of Arezzo, a
Benedictine monk who lived around the year ad
1000 (although Guido called the first syllable ut and did not use the
seventh, si or ti), based on the hymn Ut queant laxis,
written for the feast of St John the Baptist. The singers end the sequence
with do si do, which is a figure in country dancing, contra dancing,
and square dancing, from the French dos à dos, meaning “back to back”: the dancers, facing each other, pass right
shoulder, then continue around each other, always facing the same direction,
until they return to their starting point.
- wallflower: someone who, because of shyness, unpopularity, or lack of a partner, remains at the side at a party or dance.
- Vernon Castle one-step refers to the Castle
Walk, described by Troy Kinney:
This is a walking step of direct advance and retreat, not used to move to the side. The couple are in closed position, the woman, therefore, stepping backward as the man steps forward, and vice versa. The advancing foot is planted in fourth position, the knee straight, the toe down so that the ball of the foot strikes the floor first. The walk presents an appearance of strutting, although the shoulders are held level, and the body firm; a sharp twist that punctuates each step is effected by means of pivoting on the supporting foot. The shoulder and hip movements that originally characterised the
“trot” are no longer practiced.
Vernon and Irene Castle were a husband and wife dance team of
ballroom dancers that appeared on Broadway and in silent films. They are
credited with reviving the popularity of ballroom dancing in the United
- Reform Schools were created in the late 19th century, as an
alternative to placing juvenile offenders (almost always males) in separate
institutions from prison, where they would not be exploited by older
inmates, and not trained in the ways of hardened criminals; the intent was
rehabilitation, rather than punition. But by the 1950s it was found that the
older juveniles were exploiting the younger, and training them in the ways
of crime. Today, not many reform schools exist, being replaced with “alternative schools.”
- It’s Capulets like you make
blood in the marketplace is a reference to Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and
Juliet (1596). Romeo, the heir of house of Montague, attends a ball of the Capulets in disguise and falls in love with Juliet, the
sole daughter of
the house. During a street brawl in the marketplace, Romeo’s friend Mercutio is
killed by Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, and Romeo in turn kills Tybalt.
- The coward dies a thousand deaths – the brave
man only 500: This is a misquote from Shakespeare’s The
Tragedy of Julius Caesar
(Act I, Scene 2). The correct quote, spoken by Caesar, is:
- Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
- Galileo’s conception of the heavens was really the idea put
forth by Copernicus in 1543, that the earth moves around the sun, rather than the
other way around. In 1616, Copernicus’s work was placed on the Index of Prohibited
Books, pending revision. In 1632, with the approval of church censors and
Pope Urban VII, Galileo published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.
However, the work was seen as mocking the pope, and he was tried by the
Roman Inquisition for heresy in 1633. He was put under house arrest, his Dialogue
was placed on the Index, and he was ordered not to publish anything more. So his next manuscript,
Two New Sciences, was published in Holland, rather than in
Italy. However, in Galileo’s time, those that held to the
earth-centered system made better predictions concerning the motion of
heavenly bodies than those who held to the
- Columbus’ conception of the globe was that the ocean
separating Europe from East Asia was not that great, and that it would be
easy to sail to China and Japan by sailing west instead of east. He was
relying on the guesses of Marco Polo, who wildly overestimated the eastward
extent of China and Japan, on his own misreading of classical and Arabic
maps, and a map given to him by the Florentine geographer Toscanelli, and one verse from the Apocrypha: “Upon the third day thou didst command that the waters should be gathered in the seventh part of the earth: six parts hast thou dried up, and kept them, to the intent that of these some being planted of God and tilled might serve thee.”
(2 Esdras 6:42).
From this verse, he reasoned that the earth was 6/7 land and 1/7 water, so
the distance could not be that great. This convinced Queen Isabella of
Castile, who financed his voyage. (However, the book of 2 Esdras is
considered apocryphal by all Christians and Jews, even though it was printed
in most Bibles of the time. It was not until the Reformation that the canon
of scripture was made definitive: the Council of Trent in its fourth session
in 1546 defined which books were canonical. Many Protestant confessions also
defined the canon around the same time, although many books affirmed by
Trent were rejected by Protestants, such as Judith, Tobit, and 1 and 2
Maccabees.) Before the time of
Columbus, sailors did not like to venture far from the coast, for fear of
getting lost: measurement of longitude was inexact before the 19th century.
And it is interesting that Columbus’ reckoning of the distance to
Japan turned out to be close to the distance he sailed to reach the New
World! He also understood the wind patterns in the North Atlantic:
easterlies in the lower latitudes, and westerlies in the upper latitudes. So Columbus’ great achievement was to venture across the unknown
regions of the Atlantic Ocean, in expectation of reaching Japan and China.
His voyages led to permanent contact between Western Europe and the
Americas, and the exploration, settlement, and conquest of the New World by
Europeans. He also discovered the “compass variation,” the fact that
magnetic north varies from true north, as reckoned from the pole star. (The notion that Columbus had to overcome the prevailing view
that the earth was flat is sheer nonsense, promoted by Washington Irving in
his 1828 biography of Columbus: most educated Westerners knew the earth was
round, at least since the time of Aristotle.)
- Bach’s conception of the Well-Tempered Clavichord: Johann
Sebastian Bach composed Das Wohltemperierte Klavier
in 1722, consisting of 24 preludes and fugues in all 12 major and minor
keys, “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning,
and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study.”
It was the first collection of fully worked keyboard pieces in all 24 keys
(12 major and 12 minor).
The well-tempered system has all 12 keys in tune; in Bach’s time, it
competed with meantone temperament, in which keys with many accidentals are
out of tune. The word Klavier is best translated “keyboard”, and in Bach’s time, meant any keyboard instrument,
usually a harpsichord, clavichord, or even organ. (The modern pianoforte, or
piano, was still in the future.) The translation of “clavichord”
is too narrow, so modern translations usually just use the word “Clavier”, which was the usual spelling of the German word in Bach’s
day. Modern performances are usually done on piano or harpsichord.
Act II, Scene 2
- The Redpath Circuit was part of the Lyceum movement, started by
James C. Redpath, a Scottish immigrant born in England, as the Boston Lyceum
in 1868. Later known as the Redpath Bureau, it supplied speakers and performers for lyceums all across the country. It represented figures such as Mark Twain, Julia Ward Howe, Charles Sumner, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wendell Phillips, Henry Ward Beecher, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass. The Redpath Bureau became the most prominent and successful agency of its kind. Leland Powers, a faculty at the Bureau, established his own school after Redpath
left in 1875. Lyceums, and a similar movement, the Chautauqua, continued to
exist into the 20th century, mainly in rural areas. They brought education
and often musical entertainment to small towns, which otherwise might be
- The song Lida Rose was a late addition to the show, after
rehearsals had already started. The Buffalo Bills, the original quartet,
wanted another song. Meredith Willson came up with the name from Lida,
the name of his mother’s sister, and Rose,
short for Rosalie, his mother.
Act II, Scene 3
- Gary, Indiana, was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel
Corporation for its new steel plant, and named for Elbert Henry Gary, the
founding chairman of U. S. Steel. (In the film version, but not the stage
version, Harold Hill said it was “named for Elbridge Gerry, of
judiciary fame”. This is not true. The word gerrymander,
however, is named
for Elbridge Gerry.) The city of Gary has been declining in population since
1960, mainly due to “white flight”.
- A tintype (a.k.a. melainotype or ferrotype) is a positive
photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated
with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic
emulsion. Tintypes were most widely used in the 1860s and 1870s, but
persisted into the early 20th century, and have been revived in the 21st
- There are indeed 102 counties in Illinois, and 99 in Iowa.
Act II, Scene 4
- The Footbridge
in Mason City, Iowa, spans Willow Creek. It is now named the Meredith
Willson Footbridge, and it is featured on the Prairie School Architectural
Tour/Historical Walking Tour.
- Hector Berlioz (1803-69) was a French romantic composer best known
for his Symphonie fantastique (1830) and Grand messe des morts
- cat-boat in a hurricane:
A catboat is a small sailing boat with a single mast carried well forward,
typically as near the bow as possible; not the kind of boat you want to be
in in a hurricane!
- Buster Brown was a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard
F. Outcault. Adopted as the mascot of the Brown Shoe Company in 1904, Buster
Brown, his sweetheart Mary Jane, and his dog Tige, an American Pit Bull
Terrier, were well-known to the American public in the early 20th century.
The character’s name was also used to describe a
popular style of suit for young boys, the Buster Brown suit.
Act II, Scene 5
- clink: slang for prison or jail; possibly derived from The Clink,
a notorious prison in Southwark, England, which operated from the 12th
century to 1780.
- lilligag = lollygag = lallygag: to loiter aimlessly
- doxy: archaic slang for an immoral woman or prostitute or mistress
- round-heel: a promiscuous woman or prostitute
Act II, Scene 6
- Rustle of Spring (German: Frühlingsrauschen) is a solo piano piece
(Op. 32, No. 3) written by the Norwegian composer Christian Sinding (1856–1941) in 1896. It is
Sinding’s most popular piece of music. It is written in Salon style as a piece meant for entertainment. It was very popular in the United States.
It is the music heard during the “Grecian urns and a fountain”
tableau at the Ice Cream Sociable.
- The parlor was in the 18th and 19th centuries the main
entertaining room in a middle-class home. Originally, the term was used
for two rooms in a cloister (monastery or nunnery). In the outer parlor,
the monks (nuns) met with outsiders, and in the inner parlor, talked
only among themselves, so as not to disturb the rest of the community.
The middle class could afford a large enough house to have one (or more)
rooms for entertaining. The parlor was a semi-public room, where a man
could meet his sweetheart, but there would be no suspicion of indiscretion.
In the 20th century, with the telephone and the automobile, there was
less need for such a meeting room. The entertainment functions of the
parlor were continued in the living room (in the United States) and the
drawing room (in Britain). (The drawing room was originally the withdrawing
room, which had more privacy than the parlor. In the 19th century,
after a formal dinner, the men would remain in the dining room for
cigars and brandy, while the women would withdraw to the drawing room.
After they finished their cigars, the men would rejoin the ladies in the
drawing room.) The term parlor survives in the United States mostly in such forms as “billiard parlor”,
“funeral parlor”, and “pizza
- A road agent and highwayman basically mean the same thing: a
bandit who robbed stage coaches.
- A pickpocket is someone who steals money, wallets, &c, by
picking pockets or purses, especially in crowded public places.
Act II, Scene 7
- cote a Shropshyre sheep: A cote is a small shed or shelter
to contain domestic animals, such as sheep, pigs, or pigeons. Shropshire
is a county in the West Midlands of England, bordering Wales on the west,
Cheshire on the north, and Herefordshire on the south. The Shropshire breed
of domestic sheep originated from the hills of Shropshire, and North Staffordshire,
England, during the 1840s, producing a medium-sized polled (hornless)
sheep that produced good wool and meat. In 1855 the first Shropshires were imported
into the United States (Virginia). This breed is raised primarily for meat.
End credits, in the film
- In the film version, the motley boys band is transformed into a large,
precision marching band for the end credits, which then parades around River
City (actually the back lot of Warner Bros. Studios). Jack Warner used the U.S.C. marching band for this
There are several other excellent glossaries of terms and curiosities from The Music
Man, some of them with pictures, and items not covered here. Visit:
Some sources for this web page:
Two books by Meredith Willson:
- And There I Stood with My Piccolo. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2009. (Originally published by Doubleday and Company, Inc.,
1948. Willson’s memoir of growing up in Mason City, Iowa, playing the
flute in Sousa’s band and with the New York Philharmonic to a
successful career in Hollywood.)
- “But He Doesn’t Know the Territory”.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009. (Originally published by
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959. Willson’s story of how the show The
Music Man came to be.)
Other web sites