Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/385

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How "Dixie" Came to be Written.


Dixie, the most popular song of the South during the Civil War, was written by a Northern man, Daniel Decatur Emmett, who was born at Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1815.

Young Emmett began life as a printer, but soon afterward gave up type-setting to join a band of musicians connected with a circus company. He discovered that he had a talent for composing songs used by clowns and he reeled them off in numbers, and with much success. "Old Dan Tucker" made a great hit. Emmett became so popular that he concluded to try New York City, at the Old Gotham Theatre. His performances, with the help of two companions, were of a mixed negro song and dance kind, and the little company was billed as "The Virginia Minstrels." They took the New York crowd by storm, and the result was the negro minstrel shows which have ever since had so great a run.

The company went abroad and had great success in England. Even royalty became enthusiastic, and the present King, who was then in his teens, thought "Dan" Emmett one of the most interesting Americans.

It was several years before Emmett returned, and then he joined the Dan Bryant Minstrel Company. It was during this engagement that he wrote Dixie. Years afterwards, when he was an old man living in retirement at Mount Vernon, he told his story to a newspaper reporter.

The story follows:

"Are you Dan Emmett, who wrote Dixie?" asked the reporter.

"Well, I have heard of the fellow; sit down," and Emmett motioned to the steps.

"Won't you tell me how the song was written?"

"Like most everything else I ever did," said Emmett. "It was written because it had to be done. One Saturday night, in 1859, as I was leaving Bryant's Theatre, where I was playing, Bryant called after me, "I want a walk-around for Monday, Dan." The