The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #164243   Message #4155323
Posted By: Gibb Sahib
16-Oct-22 - 10:18 PM
Thread Name: Cotton screwing songs
Subject: RE: Cotton screwing songs
"Does Mudcat have an existing "steeving song" thread?"

If they are chanties, they are discussed under the subject of chanties. If not, maybe elsewhere. Chanties *were* foremost stevedores' (or longshoremens', depending on the parlance of the time) songs, and *are* foremost sailors' songs—hence the shell game nature of discussions in 2022. A "chantyman" is a stevedore.

I think this thread was my attempt to introduce some finer grain to it, to parse out chanty-type material with some degree of specificity (but not exclusive to) the screwmen, but then something got short circuited. Having better luck doing a similar thing with windlass songs, because at least I can keep that isolated in the conventional frame of "ships" and not create cognitive dissonance about chanties. (Even that flopped when I tried to present it at a Society for American Music conference. The audience was all "Oh, have you heard this delightful folk song? Black people sang it, and you mentioned Black people, so I just felt like mentioning it." And the panel chair, some sociologist from Britain who didn't know how to chair a panel, made some banal comments about how chanties promote camaraderie [in a way as if I was missing that supposedly salient issue, which so profoundly occurred to his deep-thinking intellect]—not considering this wasn't my first chanty rodeo, that I'm not about to rehash the same novice points at a conference that is supposed to be about scholars' *new* research, and completely missing everything that was specific to the songs and windlasses.)

"Wool is another cargo that got screwed in but no songs yet."

Not sure what you mean by "yet". Do you mean there isn't a Mudcat thread *dedicated to* wool screwing (which was done largely in South Africa and Australia, by essentially an identical process as cotton screwing) or to songs of men screwing wool (which were chanties, brought from America)?

I've written an article about cotton screwers, including relevant comparison to wool screwers and sugar screwers (and songs), but it has sat on the shelf and isn't published yet. Having trouble finding a publication that can handle both the discussion of arcane labor technology and musicology. Alas, the first round of reviews made me cut a lot out (fine details about the song repertoire and the work methods) due to word count limits, and I think those things will end up as orphans. Trying to fill in the gaps for readers to either topic that is unfamiliar already takes up too much of the word count. I have more than enough research data for the essay, but peer review does not go well when you 1) introduce topics that no reviewer is familiar with and 2) can't (won't) cite canonical works that they know.

Headed to New Orleans next month for some light archival research. Already having contacted the archivists ahead, they've got the same mix up of thinking cotton presses have something to do with cotton jacks. Got the same blank stares in Mobile and Galveston when I went to archives there. Had to go to Maine to see comparable jacks, but still not the right ones. It's amazing to consider that nearly 100 cotton jackscrews were thrown into the Mississippi at NOLA when the White cotton screwmen went berserk against the Black screwmen in the 1890s... Are the screws still on the muddy bottom? Because they're certainly not in any archives or museums that I've visited.

Best I can realistically hope for is a nice souvenir snapshot of the Screwmen's Benevolent Association tomb!