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Note from Joe: Although Pete Seeger sang these lyrics in concert, he did not write them. Many variations can be found on the Web, most of which say “anonymous,” but it is sometimes attributed to Ebby Rose, Art Davis, G.A. Davis, Marian Johnson, Len Ingebrigtsen, and Mary Ellen Garrett Ince. Can anybody tell me for sure who wrote the original, and prove it?

Note added later: Mike Halloran emailed me the following: “According to Pete Seeger’s autobiography, he learned that the writer was a newspaper man. He contacted the author to offer him credit and royalties for the song. The man refused both wishing to remain anonymous. Pete Seeger claims to be the only one who knows the true identity of the author.” I guess that settles it. It’s anonymous!

Note added even later: I just received another email: “I know for a fact that this was published in a St Louis newspaper, most likely the Globe-Democrat which is now defunct, between 1940 and 1960 (probably between 1950-1955), and those dates fit in with your story of being from 'a newspaper writer'. My aunt, who would have been married about 1940, had clipped it from a newspaper and posted it on her bulletin board when I was a kid & old enough to read it, (around 1957-1960) and it did not look old or yellowed.”


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