Captain Jinks

DESCRIPTION: "I'm Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, I feed my horse on corn and beans And court young ladies in their teens Though a Captain in the army." Jinks describes his money troubles, his fancy clothes, army training, and perhaps his life with the girls
AUTHOR: Words: William Horace Lingard (?)
EARLIEST DATE: 1868 (sheet music published by J. L. Peters; a publication by Lee & Walker might be slightly earlier but is undated)
KEYWORDS: clothes courting money pride soldier army playparty marines
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Randolph 547, "Captain Jinks" (2 short texts, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore3 84, "Captain Jinks" (1 fragment)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5 84, "Captain Jinks" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Cambiaire-EastTennesseeWestVirginiaMountainBallads, p. 139, "Captain Jinks" (1 short text)
Stout-FolkloreFromIowa 16, pp. 23-24, "Captain Jinks" (1 text plus 2 fragments)
List-SingingAboutIt-FolkSongsInSouthernIndiana, pp. 133-137, "Captain Jinks" (2 short texts, 2 tunes, of "Captain Jinks (playparts)," plus sheet music of the origina lCaptain Jinks)
Spurgeon-WaltzTheHall-AmericanPlayParty, p. 80, "Captain Jenks"; pp. 81-82, "Captain Jinks" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Spaeth-WeepSomeMoreMyLady, pp. 47-48, "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gilbert-LostChords, p. 61, "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" (1 fragmentary text); pp. 86-87 contains a parody about Mrs. Jinks
Heart-Songs, pp. 54-55, "Captain Jinks" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 38, "Captain Jinks" (1 text)
New-Comic-Songster, p. 4, "Captain Jinks" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #4858
Pete Seeger, "Captain Jinks" (on PeteSeeger21)
cf. "Captain Jinks (playparty)" (characters, lyrics)
"I am Captain Grant of the Black Marines" (1868 Democratic campaign song) (Paul F. Boller, Jr., _Presidential Campaigns_, second revised edition, Oxford University Press, p. 124)
NOTES [353 words]: Randolph states that this song dates back to the Civil War era, and there are reports of public performances as early as 1901. Few substantial details seem to exist, though. E. J. Kahn, Jr., The Merry Partners: The Age and Stage of Harrigan and Hart, Random House, 1955, p. 152, says that William Horace Lingard wrote the words to the song, and that his conductor was the later-famous David Braham (for whom see "Babies on Our Block"). Kahn does not give a date for this song, but describes Lingard, who in 1864 was managing Wood's Theatre in New York, as "a protean man who was an accomplished female impersonator, the lyricist for Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, and, in 1867, the much acclaimed renderer of Lingard's Great Statue Song, a quick-change routine in which, with only a few seconds' pause between metamorphoses, he transformed himself from Mayor John T. Hoffman to Governor Horatio Seymour to Horace Greeley to Benjamin F. Butler to Ulysses S. Grant to President Andrew Johnson."
The earliest dated account of the song in tradition seems to be that of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who reports her father singing in in 1872 (Little House in the Big Woods, chapter 7) and, more significantly, in 1879 (By the Shores of Silver Lake, chapter 15). Laura also sang a parody at the latter time -- the same one mentioned by Gilbert-LostChords:
I am Mrs. Jinks of Madison Square,
I wear fine clothes and curl my hair,
The Captain went on a regular tear,
And they kicked him out of the army.
This would seem to imply a song well-established in tradition -- but we should note that Wilder was writing sixty years later, and that her account is in any case not actual autobiography but fiction based loosely on her life.
According to Harry Dichter and Elliott Shapiro, Early American Sheet Music: Its Lure and Its Lore, 1768-1889, R. R. Bowker, 1941, p. 103, the Lee & Walker sheet music credit this to "T. Maclagan." But the roughly contemporary sheet music by J. L. Peters does not credit an author.
Note that this song gave rise to a separate playparty, which we have filed as "Captain Jinks (playparty)." - RBW
Last updated in version 6.0
File: R547

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.