• This song, "The Meeting of the Waters of Hudson & Erie," (1825) was sung at the grand opening celebration of the Erie Canal. It praised American ingenuity and coming together for a common purpose. Courtesy of New York State Library via Empire State Digital Network.

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    The meeting of the waters of Hudson & Erie
    • Date
    • 1825
    • Creator
    • Moore, Thomas, 1779-1852. Woodworth, Samuel, 1784-1842. Stevenson, John, Sir, 1760?-1833.
    • Description
    • Written by S. Woodworth ; sung by Mr. Keene at the Grand Canal Celebration ; respectfully dedicated to his excellency Dewitt Clinton. Stevenson's setting of Thomas Moore's The meeting of the waters (cf. Wolfe, 8844 - 8855) ; with additional lyrics by... more
      Written by S. Woodworth ; sung by Mr. Keene at the Grand Canal Celebration ; respectfully dedicated to his excellency Dewitt Clinton. Stevenson's setting of Thomas Moore's The meeting of the waters (cf. Wolfe, 8844 - 8855) ; with additional lyrics by Woodworth, comemorating the canal celebration. First verse of Woodworth text printed between staves ; first stanza of Moore text printed in slightly smaller type face above staves. First line of Woodworth text : Let the day be forever remembered with pride. First line of Moore text : There is not in the wide world a Valley so sweet. less
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    • This document or image is provided for education and research purposes. Rights may be reserved. Responsibility for securing permissions to distribute, publish, reproduce or use it in any way rests with the user. For additional information, see the Ne... more
      This document or image is provided for education and research purposes. Rights may be reserved. Responsibility for securing permissions to distribute, publish, reproduce or use it in any way rests with the user. For additional information, see the New York State Library's Copyright and Use Statement, available at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/scandocs/rights.htm. less
    • Partner
    • Empire State Digital Network
    • Contributing Institution
    • New York State Library

  • This song, "Low Bridge Everybody Down (or Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal)" made the Erie Canal famous in popular culture. Ironically, the song was first published in 1905, a time when horse and mule power to move boats along the Erie Canal was being replaced by engine power. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

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    Low bridge!-everybody down, or, fifteen years on the Erie Canal
    • Date
    • 1913
    • Description
    • Treasures of the American Performing Arts, 1875-1923. Caption title. Cover includes illustration of a horseback rider pulling a canal barge, ducking under a bridge. Also includes a reproduction of a newpaper article discussing a proposal for the aban... more
      Treasures of the American Performing Arts, 1875-1923. Caption title. Cover includes illustration of a horseback rider pulling a canal barge, ducking under a bridge. Also includes a reproduction of a newpaper article discussing a proposal for the abandoned portion of the Erie Canal. Extra verses printed on p. 5. First line of chorus: Low bridge, ev'rybody down. First line of text: I've got an old mule and her name is Sal. For voice and piano. National Endowment for the Arts Millennium Project. less
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    • http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/
    • Partner
    • The New York Public Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Music Division. The New York Public Library

Canal in Song

The Erie Canal was the information superhighway of its day. A song written in New York City could be performed in Buffalo a week later. The first official song about the Canal was “Meeting of the Waters,” composed by Samuel Woodworth. It commemorates the completion and opening celebration of the Erie Canal and is dedicated to DeWitt Clinton. However, the more common entertainment on the Canal was music that could be performed on small portable instruments. Folk songs from the lumber woods and sailing ships were sometimes reworked to reflect life on the Canal. Humor was at the center of these tunes, often exaggerating the dangers of canal travel.

There are many Erie Canal songs, but one popular song can be credited with making the Erie Canal world famous. “Low Bridge Everybody Down (or Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal),” was composed sometime between 1905 and 1912 by Thomas S. Allen, a songwriter for hire. F. B. Haviland Publishing Company copyrighted the song in manuscript form in 1912 and as sheet music in 1913. The release of the song near the end of the “towpath era” on the enlarged Erie Canal may help to explain both its popularity and its content.