When This Old Hat Was New
DESCRIPTION: A litany of complaints about the days "When this old hat was new." Subject can seemingly vary as long as it talks about long ago. At least one version talks about the evolution of American politics (used during the 1840 campaign)
EARLIEST DATE: 1912 (Belden), but seemingly in existence much earlier
Dec 2, 1840 - William Henry Harrison defeats Martin Van Buren
Mar 4, 1841 - Harrison (the first Whig to be elected President) is inaugurated. He gives a rambling inaugural address in a rainstorm and catches cold
April 4, 1841 - Harrison dies of pneumonia, making him the first president to fail to complete his term. After some hesitation, Vice President John Tyler is allowed to succeed as President
FOUND IN: US(So)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Belden, p. 336, "When This Old Hat Was New" (1 text)
Boswell/Wolfe 50, pp. 86-87, "When This Old Hat Was New" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Lawrence, pp. 272-273, "When This Old Hat Was New" (4 texts, most of them parodies; 1 tune, from early sheet music)
cf. "Mullnabeeny (Mill of Boyndie)" (the concept of "When this old hat was new")
(Political parodies of) When This Old Hat Was New (Lawrence, p. 272)
NOTES [322 words]: Although the only version of this I can pin down is Belden's the catch phrase is much more common, being used in a a campaign piece from the 1840 Harrison/Van Buren election (see Roud #1693). It seems as if the idea was too good to let alone.
The "locos" are the "loco-foco" faction of the Democratic party, a radical group which emerged 1835. (They were so-called for the matches, or "loco-focos," they used to light candles after the Tammany Hall group tried to suppress them by turning out the gas lights at a convention.) They didn't have a clear platform so much as a desire to clean up government, monopolies, and banking.
The statement that "Van Buren was a Fed" is a reference to the Federalist party -- hardly a fair criticism, since the Democratic party did not exist in his youth.
Wolfe, in his notes to the Boswell/Wolfe version, considers it to be from the 1840 election, it in fact appears to be a composite. There are no references to the candidates of 1840 (Harrison and Van Buren). The first verse refers to Sam Cushman (possibly referring to Representative Samuel Cushman of New Hampshire, 1783-1851, although this is by no means clear).
The second verse, referring to Bob Ingersoll, is much clearer. Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) was known mostly as a professional agnostic. Since the general attitude has always been that non-Christians, especially vocal non-Christians, were damnable, he is an obvious target for this particular piece of religious intolerance. The joke seems to be that even Ingersoll, too dense to understand the (alleged) truth of Christianity, would still have been able to see the truth of "Tory-ism." But Ingersoll wasn't known in 1840, so the verse must have been written later.
Bob Ingersoll's non-Christianity was so infamous that he apparently is mentioned in three different songs: "Bob Ingersoll and the Devil," "The Donkey Song," and some versions of "When This Old Hat Was New." - RBW
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