Henry W. Shoemaker was already an established writer of Pennsylvania’s popular folklore by the time North Pennsylvania Minstrelsy was published in 1919. While much of Shoemaker’s previous work was literary folklore, this volume comprises his first collection of ballads and what has been argued to be one of his most significant contributions to the scholarly folklore conversation.
Compiled by Shoemaker over two decades, with the assistance of John C. French and John H. Chatham, this volume includes over one hundred songs and ballads from Union, Snyder, Centre, Lycoming, Clinton, Tioga, Potter, McKean, Forest, Cameron, Elk, and Clearfield Counties in Pennsylvania. Shoemaker prefaced much of his work with words on preserving the wilderness, and with it the romantic simplicity of the preindustrial “golden age” of Pennsylvania. In this volume, he ties the ballads to this ideal by noting, “Work without music is too modern, too grinding; it was not the life for the Pennsylvania mountaineer whose soul overflowed with melody. . . . Simplicity was his foremost vital trait; he was close to the Eternal Source and the harmonies of Nature.”
This facsimile edition of Shoemaker’s 1919 original publication includes ballads and fragments of ballads from across the northern counties, accompanied by Shoemaker’s introduction and annotations to each ballad, which often include context as well as the name of the county where it was collected and from whom.