Those who built and used the Erie Canal were a bizarre society, proud pioneers on the waterway known in song and story as “the Horse Ocean,” “the Roaring Giddap,” or “the Raging Erie.” Their considerable influence on American life and literature is the basis of this book.
Canallers were colorful characters, from the “hoggee” on the towpath to the “shipshape macaroni” with stovepipe hat and badge of service taking command of a packet with the pride of an admiral, even though he was restricted by law to a speed of four miles per hour!
Games and diversions were rough-and-tumble, fighting being as natural as breathing to the canallers. Stories about heroes like Sam Patch and Paddy Ryan, or the big fish that could haul a canal boat, or the big pumpkin that drained the canal—these were logical products of this “frontier” atmosphere. So were the songs—carefree, bawdy, or sad, inspired by the canal and sung throughout the land.
Photographs and drawings, music and words to folk songs, maps, notes, and index are included in this first paperback edition.
Lionel D. Wyld has written and lectured widely on the Erie Canal and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Canal Society of New York State. He has served as President of the New York Folklore Society and the American Studies Association of New York State. Mr. Wyld has been on the faculties of the University of Notre Dame, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Syracuse University, the University of Buffalo, and Cazenovia College. He obtained an A.B. degree from Hamilton College and the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
5.5 x 8.25, 224 pages, 17 black and white illustrations, 3 maps