[Ads-l] Another Antedating of the Term "Ragtime"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Jun 5 11:42:19 UTC 2019

I have previously posted a citation for the term "ragtime" from January 1896 (see below).  Here is a second antedating of the term:

1896 _Kansas City Star_ 2 Feb. 7/3 (GenealogyBank)  [Charles Trevathan, an African-American songwriter from San Francisco speaking:] I took the music of "The Maid of Athens" and set it to "rag time" and that became the music of the chorus.

Fred Shapiro


YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Monday, November 5, 2018 11:02 AM
Subject: Antedating of the Term "Ragtime"

I believe that the earliest use of the term "ragtime" that has been discovered by musicologists is Ben Harney's composition "You've Been a Good Old Wagon but You've Done Broke Down," described on the cover of its sheet music (copyrighted August 5, 1896) as "Written, Composed, and Introduced by Ben Harney, Original Introducer to the Stage of the Now Popular 'Rag Time' in Ethiopian Song."

I have found a slight but important antedating of "ragtime":

1896 _San Francisco Examiner_ 5 Jan. 8/6 (Newspapers.com)  Did you ever hear of a German being able to write a coon song?  Why Hirschbach tried to orchestrate it, but never got it right.  It is written in a peculiar measure, called "rag" time, and he not only couldn't write the music to such a melody, but never heard of the tempo before.

The Oxford English Dictionary's first use of "ragtime" is the "You've Been a Good Old Wagon" sheet music, but the San Francisco newspaper article clearly antedates that.

Fred Shapiro


Yale Book of Quotations (Yale University Press)

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