Oddity of the Week: Who in the World Was Ossian Dodge?

1 Conversation

An author of oldies but baddies…

Who in the World Was Ossian E Dodge?

Ossian E Dodge

A couple of weeks ago, our Awix asked the plaintive question, 'Who's Selma?' It turns out he was talking about the film, which concerns historic doings in Selma, Alabama, USA. Now, I knew where Selma was, and why it was important, but that set me thinking: where did the name come from? Was there a tale behind that?

It turns out that Selma was named for Songs of Selma, the part of the Ossian corpus that contains, among other things, the 'Apostrophe to Fingal'. If Fingal is missing an apostrophe, I hope he's got it by now. As you may know, the Ossian poems were a hoax perpetrated by a Scotsman named Macpherson back in 1760. That sort of pseudo-epic flim-flammery was extremely popular with the hyena capitalists who created the monster called King Cotton back in the day. Which is a very weird connection to the Selma movie, which is about a civil rights march in the 1960s. So that's that problem solved.

The extreme popularity of Ossian in the early 19th Century might explain the name of our subject, one Ossian Euclid Dodge, born 1820 in Cayuga, New York1.

Dodge was a comic entertainer, and he was in the music publishing business, too. His group, Ossian's Bards, toured all the high-toned New York State resorts back then, spreading their 'chaste entertainments'2 and singing knee-slapping favourites like 'Level and the Square' and 'Temperance Shout of Liberty'.

The 'Temperance Shout' has lines like this:

Hail, hail, the glorious day,

When first the temperance banner waving,

Hail, when the glorious lay

First struck the drunkard's ear.

Rousing stuff.

Ossian's Bards were popular, for reasons not really clear to us. However, if you think they haven't affected us down in the 21st Century, think again. Ossian Dodge and his jolly (but chaste) comic songsters made a song popular that is still recorded today!

And no, it has nothing to do with temperance. It has coyotes instead.

We speak, of course, of that perennial cowboy favourite, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie. Were it not for the imaginatively-named Ossian Euclid Dodge, we would not have this deathless musical treat. Although he died in relative obscurity in London in 1876 – possibly sharing the sad sentiments of Mr Cash here – Dodge left his footprints on the strand of Cayuga Lake.

Now, aren't you glad you know all that? Go out and share it with some unsuspecting victi-….er, eager knowledge-seeker.

Post Quiz and Oddities Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

06.04.15 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1Don't get me started on Cayuga. Rod Serling was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Binghamton. He called his production company 'Cayuga' for the nearby lake, no doubt. And Dodge owned a copy of a famous photo of Edgar Allan Poe, called the 'Ultima Thule Daguerreotype'. Names like 'Thule' were really resonant and awesome back then.2Explanation for the Prof: It means the jokes were all clean, Prof. Just like the ones you post on h2g2.3Okay, Prof, this one won't make sense to you. They're trying to stop blokes from drinking. I'm sure they weren't big in Yorkshire.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry

Latest Post



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more