On the Banks of the Wabash

(1897)

"On the Banks of the Wabash," a song with music and text by Paul Dresser, is the state song of Indiana. The song was published in 1897 and soon achieved national and even international popularity. Because of the song's success, Paul Dresser was compared to Stephen Foster, as the only song that was fiscally more successful was Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home" (alternate title: "Down on the Swanee River").

Some interesting stories surround the popularity of "On the Banks of the Wabash." For instance, in 1900, "On the Banks of the Wabash" was whistled during a blackout in a Coney Island arena to keep a crowd of about 5,000 people calm.

The song was important in the international community as well. A traveling priest wrote to Dresser from the Pacific Ocean, claiming that he heard the song in Japan and had seen the music for sale in several international locations. Also, the lyrics of the song were changed to anti-war, anti-draft lyrics at the beginning of the Spanish American War. The new title was "On the Banks of Havana, Far Away."

--Christie Finn

On the Banks of the Wabash

On the Banks of the Wabash
by Paul Dresser


Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool.
Oftentimes my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood,
Where I first received my lessons Nature's school.
But one thing there is missing in the picture;
Without her face it seems so incomplete.
I long to see my mother in the doorway,
As she stood there years ago her boy to greet.


Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash;
From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay,
Through the sycamores the candlelights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash, far away.


Many years have passed since I strolled by the river,
Arm in arm, with sweetest Mary by my side.
It was there I tried to tell her that I loved her;
It was there I begged of her to be my bride.
Long years have passed since I strolled thro' the churchyard.
She's sleeping there, my angel, Mary dear.
I loved her but she thought I didn't mean it,
Still I'd give my future were she only here.


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