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Erie Canal Sheet Music, "Low Bridge, Everybody Down," 1913

Sheet music for "Low Bridge Everybody Down"

Sheet music for "Low Bridge Everybody Down"

New York State Library, NYSL_low_bridge_everybody_down
Document Description
Sheet music for the song "Low Bridge, Everybody Down," by Thomas S. Allen, 1913. Originally composed in 1905.
Why were bridges built so low?
What kinds of goods were transported on the Erie Canal?
Why were mules replaced by engines?
Do you think barges could be used today to transport goods?
Historical Challenges
When did the first engine-driven barge travel on the Erie Canal? When did the last mule barge travel on the Erie Canal? How long did it take for the engine-driven barges to totally replace barges pulled by mules?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write an editorial expressing a point of view concerning the replacement of mules with engines.
American Canal Society. The Canals of New York State. American Canal and Transportation Center, 1995. ISBN: 0933788827
Harness, Cheryl. Amazing Impossible Erie Canal. New York: Bradbury Press, 1995. ISBN: 0689825846, 0027426416
Hurst, Carol Otis. Through the Lock. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001. ISBN: 0618030360.
Larkin, F. Daniel, Julie C. Daniels, and Jean West, eds. Erie Canal: New York's Gift to the Nation, A Document-Based Teacher Resource. Cobblestone Publishng Company, 2001. ISBN: 081267555X
Stein, R. Conrad. The Erie Canal. New York: Children's Press, 2004. ISBN: 0516242431.


Historical Context
Erie Canal songs were sung by mule drivers in order to stave off boredom and to avoid falling asleep on the job.  The cry "low bridge" was raised when the barge reached a town that had a walkway over the canal.  If workers and passengers did not remember to duck, they would bump their heads or fall off the barge!

The song "Low Bridge, Everybody Down," written in 1905 by Thomas S. Allen, recalls the days when mules walked along the canal banks pulling barges.  Many "canawlers'" who worked on the canal resented the engine-driven barges that eventually replaced mules; however, barges with engines could travel much faster than barges pulled by mules, and there was no going back.

Some versions of the song, which begins, "I’ve got a mule, her name is Sal,
fifteen years on the Erie Canal," substitute "fifteen miles" for "fifteen years."
Essential Question
How does technology influence culture?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of the song and evaluate the impact of the canal on the culture?