Folklore of the United States

Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales, stories, tall tales, and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called folkloristics. In usage, there is a continuum between folklore and mythology.

American folklore encompasses the folk traditions that have evolved on the North American continent since Europeans arrived in the 16th century. While it contains much in the way of Native American tradition, it should not be confused with the tribal beliefs of any community of native people.

Native American folklore

Native American cultures are rich in myths and legends that explain natural phenomena and the relationship between humans and the spirit world. According to Barre Toelken, feathers, beadwork, dance steps and music, the events in a story, the shape of a dwelling, or items of traditional food can be viewed as icons of cultural meaning.[1]

Native American cultures are numerous and diverse. Though some neighboring cultures hold similar beliefs, others can be quite different from one another. The most common myths are the creation myths, that tell a story to explain how the earth was formed, and where humans and other beings came from. Others may include explanations about the sun, moon, constellations, specific animals, seasons, and weather. This is one of the ways that many tribes have kept, and continue to keep, their cultures alive; these stories are not told simply for entertainment, but as a way of preserving and transmitting the nation, tribe or band's particular beliefs, history, customs, spirituality and traditional way of life. "[S]tories not only entertain but also embody Native behavioral and ethical values."[1]

There are many different kinds of stories. Some are called "hero stories"; these are stories of people who lived at one time, and who were immortalized and remembered through these tales. There are "trickster stories", about the different trickster figures of the tribes, spirits who may be either helpful or dangerous, depending on the situation. There are also tales that are simply warnings; they warn against doing something that may harm in some way. Many of these tales have morals or some form of belief that is being taught. This is how the things were remembered.

Founding myths

The founding of the United States is often surrounded by legends and tall tales. Many stories have developed since the founding long ago to become a part of America's folklore and cultural awareness, and non-Native American folklore especially includes any narrative which has contributed to the shaping of American culture and belief systems. These narratives may be true and may be false or may be a little true and a little false; the veracity of the stories is not a determining factor.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, as a hero and symbol to the then immigrants, is an important figure in the pantheon of American myth. His status, not unlike most American icons, is representative not of his own accomplishments, but the self-perception of the society which chose him as a hero. Having effected a separation from England and its cultural icons, America was left without history—or heroes on which to base a shared sense of their social selves. Washington Irving was instrumental in popularizing Columbus. His version of Columbus' life, published in 1829, was more a romance than a biography. The book was very popular, and contributed to an image of the discoverer as a solitary individual who challenged the unknown sea, as triumphant Americans contemplated the dangers and promise of their own wilderness frontier. As a consequence of his vision and audacity, there was now a land free from kings, a vast continent for new beginnings. In the years following the Revolution the poetic device "Columbia" was used as a symbol of both Columbus and America. King's College of New York changed its name in 1792 to Columbia, and the new capitol in Washington was subtitled District of Columbia.[2]

Jamestown

In May 1607, the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed sailed through Chesapeake Bay and thirty miles up the James River settlers built Jamestown, Virginia, England's first permanent colony. Too late in the season to plant crops, many were not accustomed to manual labor. Within a few months, some settlers died of famine and disease. Only thirty-eight made it through their first year in the New World. Captain John Smith, a pirate turned gentleman turned the settlers into foragers and successful traders with the Native Americans, who taught the English how to plant corn and other crops. Smith led expeditions to explore the regions surrounding Jamestown, and it was during one of these that the chief of the Powhatan Native Americans captured Smith. According to an account Smith published in 1624, he was going to be put to death until the chief's daughter, Pocahontas, saved him. From this the legend of Pocahontas sprang forth, becoming part of American folklore, children's books, and movies.[3]

Pilgrims

Plymouth Rock Monument cropped
Plymouth Rock Monument designed for the Tercentenary (1920)

Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620, and an important symbol in American history. There are no contemporary references to the Pilgrims' landing on a rock at Plymouth. The first written reference to the Pilgrims landing on a rock is found 121 years after they landed. The Rock, or one traditionally identified as it, has long been memorialized on the shore of Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The holiday of Thanksgiving is said to have begun with the Pilgrims in 1621.[4] They had come to America to escape religious persecution, but then nearly starved to death. Some friendly Native Americans (including Squanto) helped the Pilgrims survive through the first winter. The perseverance of the Pilgrims is celebrated during the annual Thanksgiving festival.

Revolutionary War figures

George Washington

George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799), the country's first president, is the most preeminent of American historical and folkloric figures, as he he holds the place of "Father of his Country". Apocryphal stories about Washington's childhood include a claim that he skipped a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River at Ferry Farm. Another tale claims that as a young child, Washington chopped down his father's cherry tree. His angry father confronted the young Washington, who proclaimed "I can not tell a lie" and admitted to the transgression, thus illuminating his honesty. Parson Mason Locke Weems mentions the first citation of this legend in his 1806 book, The Life of George Washington: With Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honorable to Himself and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen. This anecdote cannot be independently verified. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) is also known to have spread the story while lecturing, personalizing it by adding "I have a higher and greater standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie but I won't."

Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was an attorney, planter and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. Patrick Henry is best known for the speech he made in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in Saint John's Church in Richmond, Virginia. With the House undecided on whether to mobilize for military action against the encroaching British military force, Henry argued in favor of mobilization. Forty-two years later, Henry's first biographer, William Wirt, working from oral histories, tried to reconstruct what Henry said. According to Wirt, Henry ended his speech with words that have since become immortalized: "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" The crowd, by Wirt's account, jumped up and shouted "To Arms! To Arms!". For 160 years Wirt's account was taken at face value. In the 1970s, historians began to question the authenticity of Wirt's reconstruction.

Betsy Ross sewing
Betsy Ross sewing

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross (January 1, 1752 – January 30, 1836) is widely credited with making the first American flag. There is, however, no credible historical evidence that the story is true. Research conducted by the National Museum of American History notes that the story of Betsy Ross making the first American flag for General George Washington entered into American consciousness about the time of the 1876 centennial celebrations. In the 2008 book The Star-Spangled Banner: The Making of an American Icon, Smithsonian experts point out that accounts of the event appealed to Americans eager for stories about the revolution and its heroes and heroines. Betsy Ross was promoted as a patriotic role model for young girls and a symbol of women's contributions to American history.

Other Revolutionary War heroes who became figures of American folklore include: Benedict Arnold, Benjamin Franklin, Nathan Hale, John Hancock, John Paul Jones and Francis Marion.[5]

Tall Tales

The tall tale is a fundamental element of American folk literature. The tall tale's origins are seen in the bragging contests that often occurred when men of the American frontier gathered. A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events; others are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the American Old West, or the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. They are usually humorous or good-natured. The line between myth and tall tale is distinguished primarily by age; many myths exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of becoming the whole of the story.

Based on historical figures

  • John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), widely known as Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He became an American legend while still alive, largely because of his kind and generous ways, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. Johnny Appleseed is remembered in American popular culture by his traveling song or Swedenborgian hymn ("The Lord is good to me...").
  • Daniel Boone (November 2, 1734 [O.S. October 22] – September 26, 1820) was an American pioneer, explorer, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States.
  • "Davy" Crockett (August 17, 1786 – March 6, 1836) was a 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. He is commonly referred to in popular culture by the epithet, "King of the Wild Frontier". He represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives, served in the Texas Revolution, and died at the Battle of the Alamo.
  • Mike Fink (c. 1770/1780 – c. 1823) called "king of the keelboaters", was a semi-legendary brawler and river boatman who exemplified the tough and hard-drinking men who ran keelboats up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
  • Martha Jane Canary (May 1, 1852 – August 1, 1903), better known as Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman, and professional scout best known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok. She is said to have also exhibited kindness and compassion, especially to the sick and needy. It was from her that Bret Harte took his famous character of Cherokee Sal in The Luck of Roaring Camp.
  • Jigger Johnson (1871-1935), was a lumberjack and log driver from northern New England who is known for his numerous off-the-job exploits, such as catching bobcats alive with his bare hands, and drunken brawls.[6][7]
  • John Henry was an African-American railroad worker who is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man"—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock away in constructing a railroad tunnel. According to legend, John Henry's prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam powered hammer, which he won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand and his heart giving out from stress. The "Ballad of John Henry" is a musical rendition of his story.

Other historical figures include Titanic survivor Molly Brown, Wild West showman Buffalo Bill Cody, and sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Fictional characters

  • Paul Bunyan is a lumberjack figure in North American folklore and tradition. One of the most famous and popular North American folklore heroes, he is usually described as a giant as well as a lumberjack of unusual skill, and is often accompanied in stories by his animal companion, Babe the Blue Ox. The character originated in folktales circulated among lumberjacks in the Northeastern United States and eastern Canada, first appearing in print in a story published by Northern Michigan journalist James MacGillivray in 1906.
  • The Lone Ranger is a fictional hero of the west who fought raiders and robbers in the Texas area. The sole survivor of a group of six rangers, he set out to bring the criminals who killed his brother to justice.
  • Johnny Kaw is a mythical Kansas settler whose exploits created elements of the Kansas landscape and helped establish wheat and sunflowers as major crops. The character dates to the 1955 centennial of Kansas and has been explored in numerous books.
  • John the Conqueror also known as High John the Conqueror, and many other folk variants, is a folk hero from African-American folklore. John the Conqueror was an African prince who was sold as a slave in the Americas. Despite his enslavement, his spirit was never broken and he survived in folklore as a sort of a trickster figure, because of the tricks he played to evade his masters. Joel Chandler Harris's 'Br'er Rabbit' of the Uncle Remus stories is said to be patterned after High John the Conqueror.
  • Pecos Bill is an American cowboy, apocryphally immortalized in numerous tall tales of the Old West during American westward expansion into the Southwest of Texas, New Mexico, Southern California, and Arizona
MOLLY PITCHER. (Ten American Girls from History 1917)
MOLLY PITCHER. (Ten American Girls from History 1917)
  • Molly Pitcher was a nickname given to a woman said to have fought in the American Battle of Monmouth, who is generally believed to have been Mary Ludwig Hays McCauly. Since various Molly Pitcher tales grew in the telling, many historians regard Molly Pitcher as folklore rather than history, or suggest that Molly Pitcher may be a composite image inspired by the actions of a number of real women. The name itself may have originated as a nickname given to women who carried water to men on the battlefield during the war.
  • Captain Stormalong was an American folk hero and the subject of numerous nautical-themed tall tales originating in Massachusetts. Stormalong was said to be a sailor and a giant, some 30 feet tall; he was the master of a huge clipper ship known in various sources as either the Courser or the Tuscarora, a ship so tall that it had hinged masts to avoid catching on the moon.

Legendary and folkloric creatures

  • Bigfoot, also known as "Sasquatch", is the name given to an ape-like creature that some believe inhabit mostly forests in the Pacific Northwest region of, and throughout the entirety of, North America. Bigfoot is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid. Generally, scientists discount the existence of Bigfoot due to the impact that it would have on the currently assumed evolutionary lineage of humans, that Homo Sapien is the last remaining species of Hominid. There are more than 100 sightings that are reported yearly.
  • Champ is the name given to a reputed lake monster living in Lake Champlain, a natural freshwater lake in North America. The lake crosses the U.S./Canada border; located partially in the Canadian province of Quebec and partially in the U.S. states of Vermont and New York. There is no scientific evidence for Champ's existence, though there have been over 300 reported sightings.
  • The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey in the United States. The creature is often described as a flying biped with hooves, but there are many different variations. The most common description is that of a kangaroo-like creature with the face of a horse, the head of a dog, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail. It has been reported to move quickly as to avoid human contact, and often is described as emitting a "blood-curdling scream".
  • The White Lady is a type of female ghost reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with some local legend of tragedy. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line or said to be a harbinger of death, similar to a banshee.
  • Mothman is a mythical creature from Point Pleasant, West Virginia described as a large humanoid with glowing red-eyes on its face and large bird-like wings with fur covering its body. Mothman has been blamed for the collapse of the Silver Bridge.
  • Hodag The Hodag is mythical beast that is said to inhabit the forests of Northern Wisconsin, particularly around the city of Rhinelander. The Hodag has a reptilian body with the horns of a bull, and is said to have a penchant for mischief.

Other folkloric creatures include the fearsome Jackalope, the Nain Rouge of Detroit, Michigan, Wendigo of Minnesota and Chessie, a legendary sea monster said to live in Chesapeake Bay.

Literature

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or simply "Santa", is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical and folkloric origins. The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch figure, Sinterklaas, which may, in turn, have its origins in the hagiographical tales concerning the Christian Saint Nicholas. "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas" is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and generally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. The poem, which has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American",[8] is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, as well as the tradition that he brings toys to children. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus from the United States to the rest of the English-speaking world and beyond. Is There a Santa Claus? was the title of an editorial appearing in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun. The editorial, which included the famous reply "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", has become a part of popular Christmas folklore in the United States and Canada.

The Headless Horseman is a fictional character from the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by American author Washington Irving. The story, from Irving's collection of short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, has worked itself into known American folklore/legend through literature and film.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children's novel written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Originally published by the George M. Hill Company in Chicago on May 17, 1900, it has since been reprinted numerous times, most often under the name The Wizard of Oz, which is the name of both the 1902 stage play and the well-known adaptation 1939 film version, starring Judy Garland. The story chronicles the adventures of a young girl named Dorothy Gale in the Land of Oz, after being swept away from her Kansas farm home in a tornado. Thanks in part to the 1939 MGM movie, it is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture.

Folk music

Native Americans were the earliest inhabitants of the land that is today known as the United States and played its first music. Beginning in the 17th century, immigrants from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Germany and France began arriving in large numbers, bringing with them new styles and instruments. African slaves brought musical traditions, and each subsequent wave of immigrants contributes to a melting pot. Folk music includes both traditional music and the genre that evolved from it during the 20th century folk revival. The term originated in the 19th century but is often applied to music that is older than that.

Earliest American scholars were with The American Folklore Society (AFS), which emerged in the late 1800s. Their studies expanded to include Native American music, but still treated folk music as a historical item preserved in isolated societies. In North America, during the 1930s and 1940s, the Library of Congress worked through the offices of traditional music collectors Robert Winslow Gordon, Alan Lomax and others to capture as much North American field material as possible. Lomax was the first prominent scholar to study distinctly American folk music such as that of cowboys and southern blacks. His first major published work was in 1911, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, and was arguably the most prominent US folk music scholar of his time, notably during the beginnings of the folk music revival in the 1930s and early 1940s.

The American folk music revival was a phenomenon in the United States that began during the 1940s and peaked in popularity in the mid-1960s. Its roots went earlier, and performers like Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and Oscar Brand had enjoyed a limited general popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. The revival brought forward musical styles that had, in earlier times, contributed to the development of country & western, jazz, and rock and roll music.

African-American music

Slavery was introduced to the British colonies in the early 17th century. The ancestors of today's African-American population were brought from hundreds of tribes across West Africa, and brought with them certain traits of West African music including call and response vocals and complex rhythmic music, as well as syncopated beats and shifting accents. The African musical focus on rhythmic singing and dancing was brought to the New World, where it became part of a distinct folk culture that helped Africans "retain continuity with their past through music". The first slaves in the United States sang work songs, and field hollers.

African American Spirituals

Protestant hymns written mostly by New England preachers became a feature of camp meetings held among devout Christians across the South. When blacks began singing adapted versions of these hymns, they were called Negro spirituals. It was from these roots, of spiritual songs, work songs and field hollers, that blues, jazz and gospel developed. Negro spirituals were primarily expressions of religious faith.

Folk songs

The Thirteen Colonies of the original United States were all former British possessions, and Anglo culture became a major foundation for American folk and popular music. Many American folk songs are identical to British songs in arrangements, but with new lyrics, often as parodies of the original material. Anglo-American traditional music also includes a variety of broadside ballads, humorous stories and tall tales, and disaster songs regarding mining, shipwrecks and murder.

Folk songs may be classified by subject matter, such as: drinking songs, sporting songs, train songs, work songs, war songs, and ballads.

  • The Star-Spangled Banner's tune was adapted from an old English drinking song by John Stafford Smith called "To Anacreon in Heaven"
  • "The Ballad of Casey Jones" is a traditional song about railroad engineer Casey Jones and his death at the controls of the train he was driving. It tells of how Jones and his fireman Sim Webb raced their locomotive to make up for lost time, but discovered another train ahead of them on the line, and how Jones remained on board to try to stop the train as Webb jumped to safety.
  • "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (sometimes "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again") is a popular song of the American Civil War that expressed people's longing for the return of their friends and relatives who were fighting in the war. The Irish anti-war song "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" and "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" share the same melodic material. Based on internal textual references, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" apparently dates from the early 1820s, while When Johnny Comes Marching Home was first published in 1863. "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" is a popular traditional Irish anti-war and anti-recruiting song. It is generally dated to the early 19th century, when soldiers from Athy, County Kildare served the British East India Company.
  • "Oh My Darling, Clementine" (1884) is an American western folk ballad believed to have been based on another song called Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden (1863). The words are those of a bereaved lover singing about his darling, the daughter of a miner in the 1849 California Gold Rush. He loses her in a drowning accident. The song plays during the opening credits for the highly acclaimed John Ford movie "My Darling Clementine". It also runs as a background score all through the movie.
  • The Yellow Rose of Texas is a traditional folk song. The original love song has become associated with the legend that Emily D. West, a biracial indentured servant, "helped win the Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle in the Texas Revolution".
  • "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is a 1908 Tin Pan Alley song by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer which has become the unofficial anthem of baseball, although neither of its authors had attended a game prior to writing the song. The song is traditionally sung during the seventh-inning stretch of a baseball game. Fans are generally encouraged to sing along.

Other American folksongs include: "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain", "Skewball", "Big Bad John", "Stagger Lee", "Camptown Races" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Sea shanties

Work songs sung by sailors between the 18th and 20th centuries are known as sea shanties. The shanty was a distinct type of work song, developed especially in American-style merchant vessels that had come to prominence in decades prior to the American Civil War. These songs were typically performed while adjusting the rigging, raising anchor, and other tasks where men would need to pull in rhythm. These songs usually have a very punctuated rhythm precisely for this reason, along with a call-and-answer format. Well before the 19th century, sea songs were common on rowing vessels. Such songs were also very rhythmic in order to keep the rowers together.

They were notably influenced by songs of African Americans, such as those sung whilst manually loading vessels with cotton in ports of the southern United States. The work contexts in which African-Americans sang songs comparable to shanties included: boat-rowing on rivers of the south-eastern U.S. and Caribbean; the work of stokers or "firemen", who cast wood into the furnaces of steamboats plying great American rivers;and stevedoring on the U.S. eastern seaboard, the Gulf Coast, and the Caribbean—including "cotton-screwing": the loading of ships with cotton in ports of the American South. During the first half of the 19th century, some of the songs African Americans sang also began to appear in use for shipboard tasks, i.e. as shanties.

Shanty repertoire borrowed from the contemporary popular music enjoyed by sailors, including minstrel music, popular marches, and land-based folk songs, which were adapted to suit musical forms matching the various labor tasks required to operate a sailing ship. Such tasks, which usually required a coordinated group effort in either a pulling or pushing action, included weighing anchor and setting sail.

  • "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" is a popular Irish and American folk song. Historically, it was often sung as a sea chanty. The song portrays an Irish worker working on a railroad. There are numerous titles of the song including, "Pat Works on the Railway" and "Paddy on the Railway". "Paddy Works on the Erie" is another version of the song. "Paddy on the Railway" is attested as a chanty in the earliest known published work to use the word "chanty", G. E. Clark's Seven Years of a Sailor's Life (1867). Clark recounted experiences fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, in a vessel out of Provincetown, Mass. ca. 1865-6. At one point, the crew is getting up the anchor in a storm, by means of a pump-style windlass. One of the chanties the men sing while performing this task is mentioned by title, "Paddy on the Railway".

Shaker music

The Shakers is a religious sect founded in 18th-century England upon the teachings of Ann Lee. Shakers today are most known for their cultural contributions (especially style of music and furniture). The Shakers composed thousands of songs, and also created many dances; both were an important part of the Shaker worship services. In Shaker society, a spiritual "gift" could also be a musical revelation, and they considered it important to record musical inspirations as they occurred. "Simple Gifts" was composed by Elder Joseph Brackett and originated in the Alfred Shaker community in Maine in 1848. Aaron Copland's iconic 1944 ballet score Appalachian Spring, uses the now famous Shaker tune "Simple Gifts" as the basis of its finale.[9]

Folk dancing

Folk dances of British origin include the square dance, descended from the quadrille, combined with the American innovation of a caller instructing the dancers. The religious communal society known as the Shakers emigrated from England during the 18th century and developed their own folk dance style.[10]

Locations and landmarks

  • the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke Island: In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh recruited over 100 men, women and children to journey from England to Roanoke Island on North Carolina's coast and establish the first English settlement in America under the direction of John White as governor. Virginia Dare (born August 18, 1587) was the first child born in the Americas to English parents, Ananias and Eleanor White Dare in the short-lived Roanoke Colony. The fact of her birth is known because the governor of the settlement, Virginia Dare's grandfather, John White, returned to England in 1587 to seek fresh supplies. When White eventually returned three years later, Virginia and the other colonists were gone. During the past four hundred years, Virginia Dare has become a prominent figure in American myth and folklore, symbolizing different things to different groups of people. She is the subject of a poem (Peregrine White and Virginia Dare) by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet, and the North Carolina Legend of the White Doe. While often cited as an Indian legend, the white doe seems to have its roots in English folklore. White deer are common in English legends and often used as symbols of Christian virtue. A similar story of a young girl transformed into a white deer can be found in Yorkshire, where it formed the basis for Wordsworth's poem The White Doe of Rylstone.[11] In the four centuries since their disappearance, the Roanoke colonists have been the subject of a mystery that still challenges historians and archaeologists as one of America's oldest.[12]
  • Times Square is a major commercial intersection in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. Times Square – iconified as "The Crossroads of the World" is the brightly illuminated hub of the Broadway Theater District. Formerly Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in April 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building site of the annual ball drop on New Year's Eve. The northern triangle of Times Square is technically Duffy Square, dedicated in 1937 to Chaplain Francis P. Duffy of New York City's "Fighting 69th" Infantry Regiment; a memorial to Duffy is located there, along with a statue of George M. Cohan. The Duffy Statue and the square were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Empirestatebuildingfrombrooklynnewyork
The Empire State Building
  • Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in New York City at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. Its name is derived from the nickname for New York, the Empire State. It stood as the world's tallest building for 40 years, from its completion in 1931. The Empire State Building is generally thought of as an American cultural icon. The project involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, along with hundreds of Mohawk iron workers, many from the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal. Perhaps the most famous popular culture representation of the building is in the 1933 film King Kong, in which the title character, a giant ape, climbs to the top to escape his captors but falls to his death after being attacked by airplanes. The 1957 romantic drama film An Affair to Remember involves a couple who plan to meet atop the Empire State Building, a rendezvous that is averted by an automobile accident. The 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle, a romantic comedy partially inspired by An Affair to Remember, climaxes with a scene at the Empire State observatory.

Other locations and landmarks that have become part of American folklore include: Independence Hall, Monument Valley, Ellis Island, Hoover Dam, Pearl Harbor, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the Grand Canyon.

Cultural icons

  • The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of American independence, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bell was commissioned from the London firm of Lester and Pack in 1752, and was cast with the lettering (part of Leviticus 25:10) "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." In the 1830s, the bell was adopted as a symbol by abolitionist societies, who dubbed it the "Liberty Bell". It acquired its distinctive large crack sometime in the early 19th century—a widespread story claims it cracked while ringing after the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.
  • Statue of Liberty The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886. The statue, a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.
  • Uncle Sam (initials U.S.) is a common national personification of the American government and came into use during the War of 1812. According to legend, Samuel Wilson, a meat packer in New York, supplied rations for the soldiers and stamped the letters U.S. on the boxes, which stood for United States but was jokingly said to be the initials of Uncle Sam. An Uncle Sam is mentioned as early as 1775, in the original "Yankee Doodle" lyrics of the Revolutionary War. The earliest known personification of what would become the United States was "Columbia", who first appeared in 1738 and sometimes was associated with liberty. With the American Revolutionary War came "Brother Jonathan" as another personification and finally after the War of 1812 Uncle Sam appeared.

Other Cultural Icons include, Rosie the Riveter, the United States Constitution, the Colt Single Action Army, Smokey Bear, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Columbia, Bob Dylan, and Apple Pie.

History

Historical events that form a part of American folklore include: 9/11, Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's Ride, the Battle of the Alamo, the Salem witch trials, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, California Gold Rush, Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Attack on Pearl Harbor.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Toelken, Barre.The Anguish of Snails, Utah State University Press, 2003 ISBN 0-87421-555-2
  2. ^ "''Columbus in History''". Xroads.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
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Further reading

External links

Axehandle hound

The axehandle hound (sometimes spelled as axhandle hound, ax-handle hound, or similar), is an American fearsome critter of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Overall, it resembles a dog with a roughly axe-like shape. It has a head shaped like an axe blade hence the name, complemented by a handle-shaped body atop short stubby legs. It subsists on a diet consisting entirely on the handles of axes which have been left unattended. A nocturnal creature, the axehandle hound travels from camp to camp searching for its next meal. In Minnesota, there is a canoe-access campground named Ax-Handle Hound after the folklore creature. It can be found on the Little Fork River near Voyageurs National Park and very near the town of Linden Grove.

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid (born Henry McCarty September 17 or November 23, 1859 – July 14, 1881, also known as William H. Bonney) was an American Old West outlaw and gunfighter who killed eight men before he was shot and killed at age 21. He took part in New Mexico's Lincoln County War, during which he allegedly committed three murders.

McCarty was orphaned at age 14. The owner of a boarding house gave him a room in exchange for work. His first arrest was for stealing food at age 16 in late 1875. Ten days later, he robbed a Chinese laundry and was arrested, but he escaped only two days later. He tried to stay with his stepfather, and then fled from New Mexico Territory into neighboring Arizona Territory, making him both an outlaw and a federal fugitive. In 1877, McCarty began to refer to himself as "William H. Bonney".After murdering a blacksmith during an altercation in August 1877, Bonney became a wanted man in Arizona Territory and returned to New Mexico, where he joined a group of cattle rustlers. He became a well-known figure in the region when he joined the Regulators and took part in the Lincoln County War. In April 1878, the Regulators killed three men, including Lincoln County Sheriff William J. Brady and one of his deputies. Bonney and two other Regulators were later charged with killing all three men.

Bonney's notoriety grew in December 1880 when the Las Vegas Gazette in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and The Sun in New York City carried stories about his crimes. Sheriff Pat Garrett captured Bonney later that month. In April 1881, Bonney was tried and convicted of the murder of Brady, and was sentenced to hang in May of that year. He escaped from jail on April 28, 1881, killing two sheriff's deputies in the process and evading capture for more than two months. Garrett shot and killed Bonney—aged 21—in Fort Sumner on July 14, 1881. During the following decades, legends that Bonney had survived that night grew, and a number of men claimed to be him.

Cochrane's Craft

Cochrane’s Craft, which is also known as Cochranianism, is a tradition of traditional witchcraft founded in 1951 by the English witch Robert Cochrane, who himself claimed to have been taught it by some of his elderly family members, a claim that is disputed by some historians such as Ronald Hutton and Leo Ruickbie.

Cochranianism revolved around the veneration of the Horned God and the Mother Goddess, alongside seven deities which are viewed as children of the God and Goddess. Cochranian Witchcraft has several features that separate it from other traditions such as Gardnerian Wicca, such as its emphasis on mysticism and philosophy, and Cochrane's attitude that it was not pagan, but only based upon paganism.

Culture of the United States

The culture of the United States of America is primarily of Western culture (European) origin and form, but is influenced by a multicultural ethos that includes African, Native American, Asian, Polynesian, and Latin American people and their cultures. It also has its own social and cultural characteristics, such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. The United States of America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as a result of large-scale migration from many countries throughout its history. Many American cultural elements, especially from popular culture, have spread across the globe through modern mass media.

Jack of Fables

Jack of Fables is a spin-off comic book series of Fables written by Bill Willingham and Lilah Sturges (credited as "Matthew Sturges") and published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint. The story focuses on the adventures of Jack Horner, a supporting character in the main series, that takes place after his exile from Fabletown in the story-arc Jack Be Nimble. The idea for the spin-off comic came after editor Shelly Bond suggested to put Jack in a separate comic when Willingham planned to write him out of the series.

While Jack of Fables focused on the eponymous Jack Horner, the spin-off also allowed Willingham and Sturges to expand upon the Fables Universe by adding new characters, settings, and anthropomorphic personifications of philosophical and literary ideas in the series. A preview of its first issue was shown in Fables #50, and the series itself debuted in July 2006. It ran for 50 issues from July 2006 to March 2011, and received positive reception from critics and fans alike during its release, though over time would be criticized because of the main character's abhorrent sociopathy. In 2007, it was nominated for numerous Eisner Awards and won Best Lettering for Todd Klein and Best Cover Artist for James Jean. The series has since been collected in both trade paperback and deluxe edition hardcovers.

List of culture heroes

A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group (cultural, ethnic, religious, etc.) who changes the world through invention or discovery. A typical culture hero might be credited as the discoverer of fire, or agriculture, songs, tradition, law or religion, and is usually the most important legendary figure of a people, sometimes as the founder of its ruling dynasty.

Lost Nigger Gold Mine

The Lost Nigger Gold Mine is a legendary mine in the folklore of the United States. According to the legend, in 1887 four brothers in Dryden, Texas—Frank, Jim, John, and Lee Reagan—hired an illiterate Seminole man named William Kelly to help with work on their ranch. Kelly was known as "Nigger Bill" (nigger being a term for a multiracial person in the slang of the Big Bend region) and has been identified as a cook and also as a horse wrangler; at the time of his employment by the Reagans, he was only 14. While working on the ranch, Kelly announced that he had discovered a gold mine, and was "greeted only with jeers". The next day he again tried to tell the Reagans about the mine, even going so far as to show them a lump of gold ore, but received a "cussing out" for his trouble.After this rejection, Kelly went to San Antonio, where he knew a white assayer, and asked him to analyze the ore. Stories then conflict: One account states that he returned to Dryden, where the Reagans received a letter addressed to him that confirmed the gold was immensely valuable, and then killed him and dumped his body in the Rio Grande. The other states that, shortly after returning, he "borrowed" a horse and fled. Whatever the case, the Reagans dedicated their lives to attempting to find the mine; one report from 1930 claims that the three Reagans alive at that point had still not given up on their search. As well as the Reagans, many other expeditions set out in search of the mine; the legend has it that, while some explorers did discover it, they always died before they could make a profit or pass on the information.One of the more serious searches was instigated by William Broderick Cloete, a British mine owner who believed in the story so completely that he offered Lock Campbell, a Texan man, expenses of $10,000 if he would undertake an expedition to find it. On July 19, 1899, Campbell and four other men signed an agreement to search for it, and one of the men later claimed to have discovered it in the Ladrones Mountains in New Mexico, but this was never verified. In 1909, an Oklahoman named Wattenberg traveled to Alpine, Texas, with a map that he claimed showed the mine to be in Mexico itself; a pioneer named John Young went so far as to enter into partnership with Wattenberg and secure a mining permit from Porfirio Díaz, only to spend years fruitlessly trying to find it. These failures have led to debates as to what happened to the mine. Young himself believed that it had been deliberately hidden by prospectors following Kelly; another theory is that the gold was not actually gold ore, but instead pieces of refined gold left by the Spanish. A third theory is that the gold was dropped by a group of Mexicans fleeing the rurales, who were forced to abandon it because it was slowing them down. Another is that, as the gold mine was allegedly in a canyon, gravel could have washed down and hidden it from view.

The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid

The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid is a biography and first-hand account written by Pat Garrett, sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico, in collaboration with a ghostwriter, Marshall Ashmun "Ash" Upson. During the summer of 1881 in a small New Mexican village, Garrett shot and killed the notorious outlaw, William H. Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. Due to the first publisher's inability to widely distribute this book beginning in 1882, it sold relatively few copies during Garrett's lifetime. By the time the fifth publisher purchased the copyright in 1954, this book had become a major reference for historians who have studied the Kid's brief life. The promotion and distribution of the fifth version of this book to libraries in the United States and Europe sent it into a sixth printing in 1965, and by 1976 it had reached its tenth printing. For a generation after Sheriff Garrett shot the Kid, his account was considered to be factual; however, historians have since found in this book many embellishments and inconsistencies with other accounts of the life of Billy the Kid.

The Hook

The Hook, The Hookman or Man Door Hand Hook Car Door is an urban legend about a killer with a hook for a hand attacking a couple in a parked car. The story is thought to date from at least the mid-1950s, and gained significant attention when it was reprinted in the advice column Dear Abby in 1960. It has since become a morality archetype in popular culture, and has been referenced in various horror films.

Western United States

The Western United States (also called the American West, the Far West, and the West) is the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. As European settlement in the U.S. expanded westward through the centuries, the meaning of the term the West changed. Before about 1800, the crest of the Appalachian Mountains was seen as the western frontier. The frontier moved westward and eventually the lands west of the Mississippi River were considered the West.The U.S. Census Bureau's definition of the 13 westernmost states includes the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin to the West Coast, and the outlying states, Alaska and Hawaii.

The West contains several major biomes, including arid and semi-arid plateaus and plains, particularly in the American Southwest; forested mountains, including two major ranges, the American Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains; the massive coastal shoreline of the American Pacific Coast; and the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.

Westward Expansion Trails

In the American Old West, overland trails were popular means of travel used by pioneers and immigrants throughout the 19th century and especially between 1830 and 1870 as an alternative to sea and railroad transport. These immigrants began to settle various regions of North America west of the Great Plains as part of the mass overland migrations of the mid-19th century. Settlers emigrating from the eastern United States were spurred by various motives, among them religious persecution, economic incentives, some people say that the interior to destinations in the far west, including the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail. After the end of the Mexican–American War in 1849, vast new American conquests again enticed mass immigration. Legislation like the Donation Land Claim Act and significant events like the California Gold Rush further lured people to travel overland to the west.

Two major wagon-based transportation networks, one typically starting in Missouri and the other in the Mexican province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, served the majority of migrants during the era of Westward expansion. Three of the Missouri-based routes—the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails—were collectively known as the Emigrant Trails. Historians have estimated at least 500,000 emigrants used these three trails between 1843 and 1869, and despite growing competition from transcontinental railroads, some use even continued into the early 20th century. The major southern routes were the Santa Fe Trail, the Southern Emigrant Trail, and the Old Spanish Trail, as well as its wagon road successor the Mormon Road, a southern spur of the California Trail used in the winter that also made use of the western half of the Old Spanish Trail. Regardless of the trail used, the journey was often slow and arduous, fraught with risks from infectious diseases, dehydration, malnutrition, injury, and harsh weather, with as many as one in ten travelers dying along the way, usually as a result of disease.

The history of these trails and the pioneers who traveled them have since become deeply embedded in the culture and folklore of the United States as some of the most significant influences to shape the content and character of the nation. The remains of many trail ruts can still be observed in various locations throughout the American West. Travelers may loosely follow various routes of the emigrant trails on modern highways through the use of byway signs across the western states.

United States articles
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American folklore and tall tales
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