The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #112352   Message #4086100
Posted By: GUEST,Greg Leatherwood
01-Jan-21 - 11:26 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Times Are Getting Hard Boys
Subject: RE: Origins: Times Are Getting Hard Boys
In 1850, Camden County, North Carolina merchant Seth Squires wrote down the earliest known version of "Times Are Getting Hard Boys" in the margins of his store account book.

A transcription from Squires' account book follows. (A few words of Squires' handwriting are indecipherable). I added line breaks and corrected spelling to enhance legibility.

Times is getting hard
And money is getting scarce
If times does not alter
I am going to leave this place
Tol lol diddle I do. Yes Sah!
How you sell dat [illegible] de nine pence [illegible] Sah

The last couple of lines suggest that the song may have minstrel show origins.

Seth Squires' account book is held at the University of North Carolina's Southern Historical Collection at the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library ( The lyrics are from image 47 of the microfilm.

"Times Are Getting Hard Boys" qualifies as a folk song in my book considering its anonymous origin, its survival in unpublished form for at least 77 years, and the numerous emendations made by later musicians.