I’m Off for California (1850s?)

Here’s a song you’ll recognize, and yet… it’s a side of the Gold Rush story you might not have heard about in school: The melody is Stephen Foster‘s first big hit, “Oh Susannah” (1847), ubiquitous in its time and still common in the “folk song” tradition over a century and a half later.  Foster’s original composition features two world-changing technologies…

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852-1859?)

“Euclid… is no child for effecting social revolutions, but an impassioned song may set a world in conflagration.” ~ The London Times (3 September 1852)

Mary Blane (1840s)

The lost-love minstrel tune “Mary Blane” was one of the most popular songs of the early minstrel era (see Mahar’s list):