The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #122362 Message #2683015
Posted By: Q (Frank Staplin)
18-Jul-09 - 05:54 PM
Thread Name: Ship Margaret Evans, songs
Subject: Ship Margaret Evans, songs
The Margaret Evans, a packet capable of carrying 210 or more passengers, was a well-known ship operating between London and New York between 1846 and 1858, perhaps later. Passenger lists prove its service as a passenger and mail ship on the London-New York route for that period. Isaiah Pratt was master for much of the 1850s.
Registered at 899 tons by builders Westervelt & MacKay, New York, she was commonly cited at 1000 tons. The ship was never used in the cotton trade.
In 1865, she was severely damaged by the steamer Bridgeport while at anchor in New York's East River entrance; I haven't found any later records (only cursory search).
The chantey "Clear the Track" is associated in songs about her. Where and how this chantey originated is uncertain; there is no evidence that it is Caribbean or black in origin.
Bull-gine first appears in print in 1845, "Stray Subject 38," F. A. Durivage and Burnham, in the line "He made himself agreeable to his officers by imitating the 'bull-gine.'" Durivage was a poet and novelist. The word, from bull engine, applied to steam engines, appeared in 1848 applied to the steamboat engine- "American Speech," XXI, quotes "Going over to Hobuc in de steamboat, De bullgine busted and we all got afloat."
Also in 1848, 'bullgine' was applied to a locomotive named the "Orange" on the New York and Erie Railroad (Binghamton Democrat, Nov. 17, 1848, "When the Locomotive First Came Among Them." "The boys throng the track to see which way the bullgine is coming."
Also in the 1840s, the word appeared in blackface minstrel routines ("Negro Forget-me-not Songster," 1848, etc.).
In 1849, "bullgine" appeared in the Howe "Glee Book," "He swallowed two small rail roads wid a spoonful of ice cream, And a locomotive bullgine while dey blowing off steam" (minstrel song).
C. J. Lovell (American Speech, v. 21, 1946, pp. 116-119)calls the word a "Negroism," although its origin is clearly uncertain- minstrel, sailor, railroader, novelist, white or black.
It is also clear that the word was widely known. It still is a common railroaders term for locomotive.
Some songs in the next post.