Aunt Jemima's Plaster
DESCRIPTION: Aunt Jemimah survives by selling sticking plaster. With it she might catch a thief, keep a wayward husband from straying, etc. Chorus: "Sheepskin and beeswax Makes an awful plaster, The harder you try to get it off, The more it sticks the faster."
EARLIEST DATE: 1891
KEYWORDS: humorous commerce trick
FOUND IN: US(Ap,NE,SE,So)
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Randolph 414, "Sheepskin and Beeswax" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Randolph/Cohen, pp. 354-355, "Sheepskin and Beeswax" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 414)
HudsonTunes 39, "Angie Mimey" (1 text, 1 tune)
BrownII 271, "Aunt Jemima's Plaster" (2 texts)
JHCoxIIB, #23, pp. 23-25, "Aunt Jemima's Plaster" (1 text, 1 tune)
MHenry-Appalachians, p. 233, (first of four "Fragments from Maryland") (1 fragment, which I link to this on the basis of the mention of Aunt Jemima)
Boswell/Wolfe 80, pp.129-130, "Aunt Jemima's Plaster" (1 text, 1 tune)
WolfAmericanSongSheets, #71, p. 6, "Aunt Jemimah's Plaster, or Sheepskin Bees Wax #2" (2 references)
ST R414 (Partial)
Margaret MacArthur, "Aunt Jemima" (on MMacArthur01)
Skyland Scotty, "Aunt Jemimah's Plaster" (Conqueror 8308, 1934)
Ceylon Ballad (concerning "When Britons fought like heroes in the Kandian country," and said to be to the tune of "Sheepskin and Beeswax"; Winstock, pp. 201-205)
NOTES: Said to be a version of "Bees wax," a song sung by (but perhaps not written by) Dan Emmett. Cohen says it was written by Septimus Winner, but lists other claims of authorship.
WolfAmericanSongSheets, p. 6, reports two broadside prints of a song "Aunt Jemima's Plaster, or Sheepskin Bees Wax No. 2.," beginning "Aunt Jemima she was old, but very kind and clever." This appears to be the source of the text used by Cox, and of one of Brown's versions. The title of course implies that there was an earlier Aunt Jemima's Plaster #1. This would explain the diversity of texts -- and perhaps of authorship claims. It would also date the song before 1870.
Wolf on p. 140 lists "Sheepskin, Beeswax" ("Now I'm gwine to sing a song") as being "sung nightly with thunders of Applause, by Dan Emmit, at White's Melodeon."
Beeswax, incidentally, is not a bad material for bandages. Or, rather, the stuff they use in candles is probably not good for much except an adhesive -- but propolis, a resinous substance used by bees to patch their hives, has some medical properties. Joe Schwarcz, Dr. Joe & What You Didn't Know: 177 Fascinating Questions & Answers about the Chemistry of Everyday Life, ECW press, 2003, p. 100, says the following: "The stuff that bees collect mainly from poplars and conifers is a mix of dozens of compounds, including fatty acids and flavonoids. Scientists have tested many of these for biological activity, and their tests have shown antifungal and antibacterial effects."
Schwarcz goes on to add that these effects are minor and have been overblown in the popular press, and I'm sure he's right. Doctors today have far more effective compounds at their disposal. But back before medicine knew what it was doing, propolis was better than nothing. Even the sheepskin might help a little -- it could contain lanolin which would keep the skin from drying out (Schwarcz, p. 78). - RBW
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