2019 October 28 Did Mary Have a Little Lamb? Thomas Edison Thought so
Did Mary Have a Little Lamb? Thomas Edison Thought So
Photo: The Redstone School House of 1798
This charming piece of American Folk Lore, is based on an actual incident that took place in Sterling, Massachusetts in 1815. The Lamb was owned by a young girl name Mary Sawyer who lived and attended school in The Redstone School House (see the image above) in the town of Sterling, Massachusetts. The story was most likely recorded by John Roulstone (a nephew of the Reverend Lemuel Capen) a young man who was visiting the school house on the day that Mary Sawyer brought the Lamb to school. He recorded the event in a poem in the first four lines. The next day he rode across the fields on horseback to the little old schoolhouse and handed Mary Sawyer a slip of paper on which he had written upon it the original stanzas of the poem. The full poem was composed by Sarah Josepha Hale May 24, 1830.
1902 Dr. Lowell Mason introduced singing into Boston schools in 1827, he asked noted writers to contribute songs and rhymes, and one of the contributors was Sarah Josepha Hale 1788-1879 supplied ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.’ *Sarah Josepha Hale (is the founder of The American Thanksgiving Holiday as we celebrate it today, she is well worth reading about.)
Sadly, Mary Sawyers home in Sterling Massachusetts was destroyed in an arson fire in August 2007. However; a statue representing Mary’s Little Lamb stands today in the town center.
Fortunately, American industrialist Henry Ford had moved the Redstone School House 21 miles East to its current location in Sudbury, Massachusetts on to the grounds of churchyard property of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn a very historic property on Old Boston Post Road in the early 1920’s. The history of Mary's Little Lamb being recounted in a poem and song falls into the traditional way that many historical events have been preserved, that the poem can be traced to a known family and a Reverend the entire event is much more likely to have happened than not.
A bit of Science:
This poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is the first incident of recorded human speech. In 1877 Thomas Edison spoke these famous words into his newly invented phonograph. A second or reenacted copy of Edison speaking the words into a phonograph in 1927 survives today and may be found on Youtube.
In Piano Lessons "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is usually the first folk song used to teach the harmonic concepts of Tonic and Dominant, (a fundamental musical structure).