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A Letter From America

This letter, from Mary K Lenthall, Washington City, to Jane Simpson care of Samuel Simpson in York was sent on 13 April 1832. The letter contains the score and lyrics to 3 songs popular at the time: "Yankee Doodle", "Hail Columbia" and "The Star Spangled Banner". The letter was found with other documents in papers belonging to my wife's Aunt Margaret after her death. It is not known how she came to have this letter.

The Jane Simpson to whom this letter is addressed is most likely the daughter of Leonard Simpson (1788-1869, Corn Merchant of York, he later became a Magistrate as well). Jane born 1817 in New Malton, North Yorkshire never married and died in York in 1878. Jane is my wife's 1st cousin 5 times removed, their nearest common relative being Richard Simpson, Leonard's father, my wife's 5th great-grandfather.

Mary King Lenthall, born 1802 in Washington DC daughter of John Lenthall and Jane King also never married, she died in 1892 in Washington. I cannot find a link between the Lenthall and Simpson family other than the fact that in the late 1700's they both lived in Pickering, North Yorkshire, perhaps this is indeed the only connection?.

I have scanned the letter below and transcribed the text below each image, additionally at the end of this page I have included a brief history of the songs and links to hear the tunes themselves.

Page 1

[Liverpool Ship Letter]
[Post mark "City of Washington APR 13"] [PAID 18 2/4]
Miss Jane Simpson
Care of Mr Wm Leonard Simpson
Corn Factor
(Post paid to N York, single sheet)


"Yankee Doodle"


[under music]'A yankee boy is trim and tall, and ne-ver ov-er fat, Sir. At dance or frolic, hop and Ball, As nimble as a rat, Sir.
Yankee doodle guard your coast, Yankee doodle dan-dy, fear not then, nor threat nor boast Yankee doodle dan-dy.

he's always out on training day
Commencement or election
At truck or trade he knows the way
Of thriving to perfection.

Yankee doodle &c

His door is always open found
His cider of the best, sir,
His board with pumpkin pye is crown'd
And welcome every guest sir.

Yankee doodle &c.

Though rough and little is his farm,
That little is his own, sir.
His hand is strong his heart is warm,
Tis truth and honour's throne, sir.

Yankee doodle &c.

His country is his pride and boast,
He'll ever prove true blue, sir.
When call'd upon to give his toast,
Tis Yankee doodle do, sir.

Yankee doodle &c.

Washington City, April 13th 1832

My dear Miss Simpson,

My brother in a letter which we have a few days since received, requested us to copy for you the preceding songs. We would embrace this opportunity of expressing our grateful feelings towards your esteemed parents for their kindness and hospitality to my brother while in York, kindness which we sincerely appreciate.

Mother desires to be affectionately remembered to your parents and grandmother, Mrs Simpson, of whom she has a perfect recollection. Indeed we almost feel to know you all from description.

Believe me to be, My dear Jane
your affectionate & grateful friend
Mary K Lenthall


[under music]Hail Columbia, happy land! Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band, Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
Who fought and bled in freedom's cause, And when the storm of war was gone Enjoy'd the peace your valor won. Let inde-
pendence be our boast, Ever mindful what it cost; Ever grateful for the prize, Let its altar reach the skies.
Firm, united let us be, Rallying round our liberty, As a band of brothers joined, Peace and safety we shall find.

Immortal patriots, rise once more,
Defend your rights, defend your shore,
| Let no rude foe, with impious hand, |
Invade the shrine where sacred lies
Of toil and blood, the well earn'd prize,
While off'ring peace, sincere and just,
In Heaven's we place a manly trust,
That truth and justice will prevail,
And every scheme of bondage fail.
Chorus: Firm united let...

Sound, sound the trump of fame,
Let Washington's great name
| Ring through the world with loud applause, |
Let every clime to freedom dear,
Listen with a joyful ear:
With equal skill, with God-like pow'r
He governs in the fearful hour
Of horrid war, or guides with ease
The happier time of honest peace
Firm united let...

Behold the chief who now commands,
Once more to serve his country stands.
| The rock on which the storm will break, |
But armed in virtue, firm, and true,
His hopes are fixed on Heav'n and you.
When hope was sinking in dismay,
When glooms obscur'd Columbia's day,
His steady mind, from changes free,
Resolv'd on death or liberty!
Chorus: Firm united let...

Page 4

"The Star Spanged Banner"

[under music]O! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming. Whose broad stripes & bright stars, thro' the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro' the night that our Flag was still there. O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses
So it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country shall leave us no more.
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home, and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto,- “In God is our trust!”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

About these songs

Yankee Doodle

The lyrics of this version of Yankee Doodle are not those of the popular American civil war song, although the tune appears to be very similar. There have been many versions of the lyrics to this song. One of the many versions is attributed to Dr. Richard Schackburg, a British Army surgeon during the French and Indian wars. The lyrics being said to ridicule to the colonial soldiers fighting with the British troops.

To hear the tune of Yankee Doodle click on play here:


Hail! Columbia!

Hail Columbia was the unofficial national anthem of the United States of America, until it was replaced by the "Star Spangled Banner" in 1931. It was performed with lyrics during President John Adams' administration and at the majority of occasions over which Lincoln presided, generally followed by Hail to the chief. Originally composed by Philip Pfeil in 1789 for the inauguration of George Washington, when it was titled "The Presidents March". In 1798 Joseph Hopkinson composed the lyrics. It is now the entrance march for the vice president and former presidents. Interestingly modern versions have verse 3 (as seen in the letter as the last verse and verse 4 as verse 3.

To hear the tune to Hail! Columbia! press play here:


The Star Spangled Banner

The star spangled banner has been the national anthem of the United States of America since 3rd March 1931. Written as a poem by Francis Scott Key in September 1814 under the title "The Defense of Fort McHenry". The poem became popular as sung to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven". The story of the poem is that Key went to secure the release, from the British, of Dr William Beanes who had been imprisoned after the burning of Washington DC. Key was detained overnight owing to the shelling of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, come morning he was so delighted to see the American flag still flying over the fort he wrote a poem to commemorate it.

To hear the tune to spar spangled banner press play here: