Classic Post: “Confuse Me, I’m Irish”: Evaluating Unusual Irish-Centric Sheet Music From The Early 1900s

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re re-posting this classic post on the strange kinds of Irish-themed sheet music to be found in our Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. Taitneamh a bhaint as tú féin! (That’s Irish for “Enjoy yourself!”)

“Confuse Me, I’m Irish”: Evaluating Unusual Irish-Centric Sheet Music From The Early 1900s

Pictured: cognitive dissonance. From "The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago." 1920.

Pictured: cognitive dissonance. From “The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago.” 1920.


As anyone with a pulse will recall, this past week saw the annual celebration of all things Irish: St. Patrick’s Day. And like any culturally specific holiday, it was a rousing blend of traditional folklore, modern contrivance (everyone should drink green beer, just like the Real Irish People Do!) and a smattering of stereotyping. And while modern society has, for the most part, toned down its outright offensive tendencies on days like St. Paddy’s (or Patty’s – there’s actually an ongoing argument online about that one), it wasn’t that far back in our history that the very real plight of Irish Americans was portrayed in popular culture in a starkly different way.

While browsing our Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music earlier this week in pursuit of some new material for our Tumblr, Digitized and Randomized, I went straight to a set of results based on Mrs. Spencer’s category, “Ethnic-Irish.” I got more than 300 results, and they ran the gamut from patently offensive to heartbreaking and everything in between. And so I thought it would be fun to examine some of the more unusual pieces of music from the Irish category, especially those that feature Irish protagonists in strange situations.

How Did We Get Here?

Before we jump into our results, it’s worth a quick peek into the history of Irish Americans prior to the mid-1900s (the time when the pieces we’ll examine were all created). In the late 1800s, Irish immigration to America had seen hundreds of thousands of men, women and children arriving in the U.S. and swelling the ranks of established Irish neighborhoods in East Coast cities as well as strongholds in the South. As the poorest of all immigrant groups to arrive in the U.S. in the 19th century, they often took dangerous, low-paying jobs. Add to this fact a tendency for urban neighborhoods to be crowded, unsafe and unsanitary, and you began to see a rise in alcohol abuse and crime – two stereotypical traits assigned to Irish Americans in the popular culture of the day (as we’ll see below).

Other sources of “inspiration” for the pieces we’ll explore today include the long-standing (and often violent) split between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants; the alleged belligerence and/or violent tendencies of Irish men; the supposed moral and intellectual inferiority of the Irish; and the pervasive myth that the Irish are perpetually inebriated. As composers of the early 20th century set pen to paper in the pursuit of filling the American public’s insatiable appetite for musical entertainment, they kept these “facts” and half-truths about Irish Americans in mind, spawning pieces that drew on Irish Americans’ fond remembrances of their native culture (example) to anti-Irish sentiment (example).

An Irish Pharoah?

But understanding pro- and anti-Irish sentiment is a relatively easy task compared to puzzling out the meanings behind our featured pieces for this week’s post. They are loosely gathered around a pair of themes: the Irish protagonist in an unfamiliar setting and/or the presence of Irish where audiences wouldn’t expect to find it, like our first piece: The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago.

"The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago" by Chris Smith. 1920.

“The Irish Were Egyptians Long Ago” by Chris Smith. 1920.


The visuals on this piece are particularly striking, with a typical desert scene set before the pyramids mixed with the cognitive dissonance of a repeated shamrock motif on the throne of an Egyptian queen. The central conceit for this piece is that the narrator has deciphered a startling fact from the “weird and cryptic” writings found “upon the tombs that dot Sahara’s sands”: the Irish were Egyptians long ago – “Just read between the lines and you will know.”

The “proof” of their ancient Egyptian heritage is given as the fact that the pyramids were built by manual labor (“It must have been the Irish who build the Pyramids / For no one else could carry up the bricks”); the Nile was dug by a tough, brave man (“For no one but an Irishman would fight a crocodile”); and the drovers of desert caravans had to have been named Houlihan, Mac or O.

This piece achieves a strange blend of whimsy (adding shamrocks to a typical Egyptian scene) and humor with negative stereotyping of not one but two cultures. This two-front offensive is also evident in our next piece, Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney.

"Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney," by Theodore Morse and Jack Drislane. 1907.

“Since Arrah Wanna Married Barney Carney,” by Theodore Morse and Jack Drislane. 1907.


Another “humorous” piece that trades on the unexpected mashup of two traditionally oppressed and/or caricatured cultures, this piece details the chaos that naturally followed when an Indian princess (Arrah Wanna) marries an Irishman named Barney Carney. It seems all it took to completely disrupt Native American culture (at least as the stereotypes would have it) was for one woman to marry a man from Erin, as evidenced by such strange occurrences as:

– “[n]o more do the Indians put paint upon their face”

– “The tom-toms play the ‘Wearing of the Green'”

– “The wigwams are full of Irish Blarney”

– “The Pipe of Peace is made of Irish clay”

There are more, but you get the picture. The introduction of an outsider of Irish origin upsetting the local culture (or attempting to assimilate into it in unexpected, humorous ways) will be repeated in our remaining pieces, each with the theme of romantic interest as a primary motivator. Up next is our final example of an Irishman falling under the guile of a “foreign” culture: O’Brien is Tryin’ To Learn To Talk Hawaiian.

"O'Brien Is Tryin' To Learn To Talk Hawaiian" by J. Rennie Cormack. 1916.

“O’Brien Is Tryin’ To Learn To Talk Hawaiian” by J. Rennie Cormack. 1916.


Here, a hapless tourist from Ireland arrives in the Sandwich Isles (the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by Capt. Cook in the 1700s) and discovers the native women to be of such beauty that he instantly forgets his wife at home in the presence of a “lovely Hula dancer down beside Hawaii Bay.” Pat O’Brien, our protagonist, is revealed to be a skilled performer in his own right (“He won Bridget, Kate and Mary by singing ‘Tipperary’ / And he’ll win his Lulu too”) who is so moved by the girls’ beauty that he attempts to learn her native tongue, to hilarious results. In addition to being a standard “man falls in love with beguiling, exotic beauty” tale, there’s also the opportunity for lyricist Al Dubin to mock the languages of both Ireland and Hawaii, as in this tongue-twisting passage:

He’s sighin’ and cryin’ and all the time he’s tryin’
Just to say “I love you true”
With his “Arrah Yaka Hula Begorra Hick Dula”
And his Irish “Jiji Boo”

We never learn if this would-be suitor succeeds in his philandering pursuits, but we’ll leave him at his studies (“Hawaiian’s hard to get with an Irish alphabet”) and shift our attention to two pieces where the object of the narrator’s affection is a woman of Irish heritage. The first is set in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and bears the title Santiago Flynn.

"Santiago Flynn: A Spanish-Irish Episode" by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden. 1908.

“Santiago Flynn: A Spanish-Irish Episode” by Theodore F. Morse and Edward Madden. 1908.


This piece relates a tale of two would-be lovers: Santiago Flynn (“He dressed like a Spanish grandee / He rode on a pony thin”) and an Irish Rose who lived on a nearby plantation. Though Rose liked the cut of Santiago’s jib (“She cried, ‘You’re a hot tamale'”), she regrets that she can only marry a man from Ireland. And then, to our surprise (SPOILER ALERT!), Santiago reveals his secret:

“He jumped in a wild fandango
He cried with an Irish grin
‘Tho born underneath the Mano
My father was Paddy Flynn’

And so was Santiago able to gain access to his lover’s abode (“She cried ‘Come in, Mister Flynn / I’ll never say again'”) and all ends well for our protagonist. It should be noted that this piece uses a particularly unpleasant slur used in reference to Santiago’s outward appearance, so be ready if you click over to read the lyrics in full.

Our last piece combines the exotic (an Egyptian setting) with the romantic, the stereotypical and the allure of an Irish woman’s beauty, all under a ridiculous title: Cleopatricola.

"Cleopatricola (Cleo-patrick-ola" by Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan. 1920.

“Cleopatricola (Cleo-patrick-ola” by Jean Schwartz and Alfred Bryan. 1920.


This piece comes closest to embodying all of the elements we’ve discussed so far into one semi-coherent package. Rather than post excerpts of the lyrics, I’m choosing to reproduce them in full:

Once I took a camel ride
Far across the desert wide
Met a maiden way down by the Nile
As I sat down by her side
Her entrancing form I spied

Then she gave me a sweet Irish smile
She told me that she was born in Erin
Cleopatricola was her name
Mighty soon my love I was declarin’
I spoke these words and set her heart aflame

Cleopatricola Cleopatricola
tell me what to do
By my heart and soul O Cleopatricola
I’m in love with you

There I found my Shamrock in Sahara
By the River Nile so fresh and green
Cleopatricola Patricola,
My Egyptian Colleen

As the sun was going down
We went down to Cairo town
Met King Pharaoh and all of his crew
First we read the Rubaiyat
Then we had a little chat
Played Casino with Pharoah till two

She told me that she was “jipt” in Egypt
And that King Rameses was the blame
He told her she’d be a queen of Sheba
And spoke those very words before I came
(Repeat CHORUS)

This one’s got it all: a fish-out-of-water, a besotted suitor, a jilted lover, Irish motifs (the shamrock), local flair (Casino and the Rubaiyat) and Irish slang (referring to Irish women as Colleens). Add that to what I consider the best example of cover art of the pieces we’ve examined today – she looks like an Egyptian princess by way of Zelda Fitzgerald – and you have a winner in the category of Wait, Did I Seriously Just Read A Song About An Irish Person Doing WHAT?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted look at some of the stranger pieces from our Irish subcategory in the Spencer Collection. There are no end of interesting pieces in the Spencer Collection, and we’ll be taking a look at them again from time to time. ‘Til then, if you find any fun examples of cross-cultural curiosity, send us a tip at See you next week!

For more examples of Irish-themed sheet music in the Spencer Collection, click here. Special thanks to our friends at the Crouch Fine Arts Library for the partnership that brings the Spencer Collection to you via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections!

From the First Issue to Last Semester: The Newly Expanded “Baylor Lariat” Digital Archive!

Lariat_complete_headerIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably wondering where we’ve been the past month or so. Well, it’s been a long time coming, but we’ve been laboring over a major project and have returned today to announce a major addition to the Baylor Lariat digital collection. For the first time ever, every issue from 1900 to the most recent completed academic semester (Fall 2015) is available in one place: The Lariat Digital Archive!

“But wait,” you may be saying to yourself. “I thought they were all already in one place? What gives?” To which I would answer: “Oh, ho, ho! But the ‘born digital’ era Lariats were NOT previously part of this collection. They lived in a separate online archive attached to the Baylor Lariat website. In fact, any issue from Fall 2006 to the present wasn’t in our Digital Collections at all … UNTIL NOW.”

Your reaction to this news, probably.

Your reaction to this news, probably.


That’s why it’s been a month since we posted, gentle readers: I’ve been up to my eyeballs in the process of prepping files for loading, scanning missing pages, generating metadata and loading almost a thousand issues of The Lariat from Fall 2006 to Fall 2015 into our digital collections, and that’s a process that takes a little focused attention. So please excuse our lateness, but we hope you’re as excited as we are to be able to find gems like these all in the comfort of a single digital platform!

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An ad for Nautica Jeans Co. from the first all-digital edition of The Lariat, August 29, 2006




Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 4.29.15 PMArticle about the opening of the Riley Digitization Center, featuring our Assistant Director and yours truly operating our original Kirtas APT-2400 digital book imager (RIP)




Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.37.19 AMCover of the April 4, 2012 issue documenting the Lady Bears’ NCAA national championship and 40-win perfect season. #sicem




Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.41.32 AMIssue commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.



Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.44.36 AMEditorial cartoon depicting the embattled tenure of former BU president John Lilley, shown as a dodgeball player attempting to avoid a number of controversial stories dogging his administration.



Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 10.53.50 AMFirst issue of Fall 2014 semester, the inaugural year of McLane Stadium’s term as home of Baylor Bear football.



Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.03.47 AMA nifty piece of “will the latest technology kill you with radiation?” illustrated for the October 19, 2007 issue.

There’s so many more great moments in this set of materials, and you can see them all at this link. We encourage you to take a look at these important resources, and take advantage of the increased accuracy of keyword searchability that comes from the source material being “born digital.” Happy reading!

Special thanks to our friends at Student Publications – Julie Freeman and Paul Carr – for their invaluable help in gaining access to these resources. Be sure to visit the Lariat’s website for this semester’s issues!



Color Our Collections 2016!

color_our_collections_headerWe’re excited to be taking part in Color Our Collections 2016! The event start at the New York Academy of Medicine and this year tons of new institutions are joining in the fun by taking items from their collections, reformatting them as coloring pages, and encouraging users to upload their creations to social media using the hashtag #colorourcollections to share them with the world!

This year’s selections run the gamut: from images created for an 1877 oversized edition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark to items from the War of the Rebellion Atlas, the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project and more. Click below to download our coloring pages in a single PDF!

Baylor Color Our Collections Pages 2016

Pick your favorite image, give it your best colorization, and then upload to your social media channel of choice using the hashtags #colorourcollections and #baylordigitalcollections. We’ll keep a look out for the best works and post them right here and on our Facebook page.

UPDATE: We were totally remiss in not mentioning in the original post that this idea came to us from our good friend Beth at the Central Library! Thanks for locating the images from the Gospels book and for giving us the inspiration to participate this year!

Images from this year’s Color Our Collections book are drawn from the Central Library’s Special Collections, the Texas Collection, the Crouch Fine Arts Library, the Keston Digital Archive and the Baylor University Archives.


An Open Letter to Chip & Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”

open_letter_series_chip-joanna-gainesDear Chip (@chippergaines) and Joanna (@TheMagnoliaMom),

First off, a big old Howdy! from your alma maters official Digital Collections blog!

It seems like you guys are everywhere these days: doing publicity for Season 3 of your awesome show, going on the lecture circuit, showing up on the morning shows – and all while running the insanely popular Magnolia Market (an enterprise wonderfully adapted to its original structure, which we featured in this post). Yes, it seems one can’t turn a corner in this town without seeing something related to your very successful ventures, and we couldn’t be prouder of you!

But if you’ve got a spare moment of downtime (ha!) and want to do a little light reading about Baylor’s history with renovations, we’d love it if you’d come along with us in this post and see some of the changes made to our beloved campus in its 170 year history. Here you’ll see some photos of buildings long gone, unique looks at how things “used to be” for current buildings and even some images of things that were never meant to be. Off we go!

Old Main prior to renovations (and restoration of its steeples)
From the 1973 Round Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.57.46 AMThis photo captures one of Baylor’s most iconic buildings with two significant points of interest: the original windows (including 4-over-4 double-hung sash windows and “swamp cooler” window units) and without their iconic steeples. The steeples were removed in the wake of the 1953 Waco tornado that killed more than 100 people. They were thought to be a potential source of injury should they be sheared off if a similar storm hit campus, so they were removed for safety reasons.

Here’s a view of an adjacent building, Georgia Burleson Hall, under renovation during the 1970s from The Texas Collection Photographic Archive.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.12.49 PM
Baylor Theater building
From the 1981 Round Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 11.23.03 AMThis photo of the Baylor Theater building (home to productions under Baylor’s most famous theater professor, Paul Baker) was taken shortly before it was razed to make room for a Baptist Student Union building.

Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza

From the 1978 Round Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 2.27.08 PMThe forerunner to the modern Williams Bear Habitat, the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza made its debut in the late 1970s and featured a pretty sweet multi-level fountain!

Construction on streets through campus

From the 1984 Round Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 2.35.15 PMWhen the City of Waco ceded jurisdiction over the streets running through campus to the university, construction became the name of the game. Portions of Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Streets were all being worked on during the early ’80’s, leading to the appearance of the phrase, “Excuse the Inconvenience, Baylor is Improving.”

Construction of Truett Seminary

From the 2001 Round Up

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 2.53.20 PMAfter years of holding classes at the Waco First Baptist Church, students in Baylor’s seminary program got their own home on campus in 2002.

Painting the SUB white-rose

From the October 4, 1972 Lariat

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.05.02 PMHere’s a scene that no doubt looks pretty familiar: guy on some scaffolding, can of paint and a brush. But I’d wager it’s probably been a while since “white-rose” was the color of choice for any of your projects!

Proposed renovations for Burleson Quadrangle and surrounding environs
From The Texas Collection Photographic Archive

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.17.19 PMSometimes we find the things that weren’t carried out to be more interesting than the things that come to be. This proposed plan for renovations to the historic core of campus included a pretty conspicuous fountain or other feature in a roundabout area where the Rosenbalm Fountain stands today.

Moody Library security station
From the Architecture Collection

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.30.43 PMArchitect’s study model – Moody Memorial Library
From the Architecture Collection

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 3.35.09 PMFinally, we close with two images related to the place where we do our thing: Moody Memorial Library. First is a proposed exit check / security gate for the main lobby that very neatly divided patrons into “Visitors” and “Baylor” people. Below, something you don’t see as much since CAD and 3D modeling became all the rage: a model of what the building would look like upon completion in 1968. (And no, it’s not a library for ants.)

We hope you both enjoyed this very quick look at some of the renovations we’ve seen on campus in the past half-century or so. If you ever want a tour, or to see some of these archival materials on our 84″ 4K display, drop us a line at And keep doing what you do to make Waco a more beautiful, creative and nationally-known place!

This post is part of a series of Open Letters to musicians, authors and others that we hope will connect our collections to prominent people in America. If you have someone to suggest, or if you’re the subject of this post and want to drop us a line, send us an email ( Materials in this post came from The Texas Collection, the University Archives and the Architecture Collection.

Making Our Mark(ers): The DPG’s 2015 in Review

headerWell, another year of saving the world one scan at a time is in the books, and 2015 was a doozy for all of us at the Digital Projects Group! But rather than give you a dry recitation of stats, we asked our friends Kara (Baylor’s oh-so-excellent metadata librarian and Friend of the Blog) and Allyson (our fabulous digitization coordinator) to give our year-end blog post a more “animated” examination at our Year in Review!

We want to take a moment to thank all of you for supporting our blog, now in its fifth(!) year. It has been an absolute pleasure writing weekly posts that detail the best of what Baylor University’s libraries, special collections and archives have to offer via our BU Libraries Digital Collections.

And for further reading, here’s links to some of the items featured in this video:

> A Collection of 25 Selected Famous Negro Spirituals

> An Open Letter to Whataburger from the DPG blog

> A Campus Divided? The Historic Precedent for the “Bearlin” Wall from the DPG blog