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Music: Mine Minstrels

2 minute read

In some of the mine patches of northeastern Pennsylvania June 21, 1877 is still remembered as Black Thursday. That was the day the Molly Maguires—ten of them—were hanged. Far from sissies, the Molly Maguires were a gang of Irish plug-uglies who for two decades had terrorized miners’ families, taken pot shots at bosses, and made things generally hot for law-abiding mine folks. “Mollies” had been as much of a nuisance to the coal fields’ feeble labor organizations as to the mine owners. When they were finally dispersed with the aid of Pinkerton detectives and hangman’s rope, all the soberer citizens of Pennsylvania’s mining towns sighed with relief. But Pennsylvania’s miners still sing about them.

Last week the ballads of the Molly Maguires, with 75-odd other hard-bitten songs of the anthracite regions, were published. Author of the collection,† George Korson, a former newspaper reporter of Pottsville, Pa., had been hunting and writing down mine songs for some 14 years. Bristling with disasters, explosions, strikes and brawls, Korson’s book makes one of the dourest proletarian records ever to come out of the drabbest of U. S. industrial areas.


May God above,

Send down a dove,

With wings as sharp as razors;

To cut the throats,

Of those old bloats,

Who cut the poor man’s wages.

My Sweetheart’s the Mule in the Mines (sung to My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon):

My Sweetheart’s the mule in the mines.

I drive her without reins or lines.

On the bumper I sit,

And I chew and I spit

All over my sweetheart’s behind.

†MINSTRELS OF THE MINE PATCH, University of Pennsylvania Press ($3).

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