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.
[Liverpool Ship Letter]
[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 &c
Yankee doodle &c.
Yankee doodle &c.
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
[under music]Hail Columbia, happy land! Hail, ye heroes, heav'n-born band, Who fought and bled in freedom's cause,
[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?
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 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 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: