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Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots

DigiTrad:
CHAMBER LYE


Related thread:
Lyr Req: Chamber Lye / John Harloson's Saltpeter (78)


banjocircus 27 Apr 10 - 08:50 AM
Midchuck 27 Apr 10 - 09:06 AM
GUEST,j.a.mcclellan 27 Apr 10 - 09:09 AM
mikesamwild 27 Apr 10 - 09:16 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 27 Apr 10 - 03:34 PM
JohnInKansas 28 Apr 10 - 03:29 AM
IanC 28 Apr 10 - 04:08 AM
Tootler 28 Apr 10 - 05:42 AM
Mr Red 28 Apr 10 - 08:34 AM
mikesamwild 29 Apr 10 - 08:09 AM
Lighter 29 Apr 10 - 10:11 AM
Lighter 29 Apr 10 - 10:53 AM
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Subject: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: banjocircus
Date: 27 Apr 10 - 08:50 AM

In a book about the Civil War, I read that that Southern ordnance men would collect chamberpots, extracting saltpeter from the contents for gunpowder. Of course, this resulted in many bawdy songs, but none were written in the book.

Does anybody know these songs? Lyrics and tunes?

Thanks,

Jonathan


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: Midchuck
Date: 27 Apr 10 - 09:06 AM

What a great topic for a PhD thesis in folklore!

P.


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: GUEST,j.a.mcclellan
Date: 27 Apr 10 - 09:09 AM

Check out "Chamber Lye" (/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=9451)


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: mikesamwild
Date: 27 Apr 10 - 09:16 AM

does 'Lye' come from Arabic, alkali, I know it's used in the States for soda etc.


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 27 Apr 10 - 03:34 PM

It has been stated that more than a third of all the saltpeter used for Confederate ammunition in the last years of the Civil War was from the contents of chamberpots. Apparently, households were widely asked to contribute this as a duty to the cause.

I have never seen a song relating to or celebrating this aromatic rite of "passage." I don't see any reason why one couldn't put together a little verse today, though...


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 03:29 AM

The "tradition" has apparently been around in more wars than one.

A quick look, based on the "chamber lye" title that I happened to think I remembered finds two entries in my personal index:

Chamber Lye &see John Harrolson (Saltpeter Song)        SingOutV40N3
Chamber Lye &see Von Hindenberg        VulVer        

SingOut! Volume 40 No 3 included a reference, and possibly lyrics and tune(?), to "Chamber Lye" and to the essentially identical "John Harrolson," who was claimed to have been the "Confederate Officer" responsible for recruiting young(?) ladies to "pee in a pot" for the Confederacy. Reported also as a.k.a. "The Saltpeter Song."

A Book Of Vulgar Verse by "A Gentleman About Town," published by Checkerbooks, Inc., 1981, ISBN 0-89009-411-X would be possibly more difficult to find; but my recollection is that it gave lyrics in which "Von Hindenberg" replaced John Harrolson as the "collector of the pots" - presumedly during the WWI(?) era.

Both books apparently are among the 60 or 80 boxes packed for our most recent move, and inaccessible at present.

John


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: IanC
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 04:08 AM

Though saltpetre was available from Chile frim the mid 19th Century, most of the munitions made until around 1900 used nitrates from urine or bird droppings.

When Chile became unavailable to Germany during WW1 (due to British sea dominance) they invented a method of capturing Nitrogen from the air (it's 80% Nitrogen) called the Haber process. This effectively replaced most other sources of nitrates for weapons as they could be provided in situ in large quantities.

The village where I live (Ashwell, Herts UK) had 2 very rewarding industries from Elizabethan times till the 20th Century. One was plaiting (braiding) straw for the Luton hat industry and the other was collecting pigeon droppings for gunpowder (urine was also collected, as it was in many places). These paid so well that the local farmers continually complained labour was far too expensive.

:-)
Ian


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: Tootler
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 05:42 AM

The Haber process predates WWI though not by very much. Its first successful demonstration was in 1909, and the first commercial plant dates from 1913. Its initial application was to fertilisers but was shifted to explosives in Germany during WWI.

The Haber process is the main source of nitrogen compounds for fertiliser production today.


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: Mr Red
Date: 28 Apr 10 - 08:34 AM

Pills to Purge State Melancholy Thomas d'Urfey pub 1715
basically a small pamphlet with political & satyrical songs. I only know of one copy and I got a squint at it in the Bodleain Library. It took an hour to get a look at it and I really wanted the other book (see below).

Eg one song about the custom of selling chamber pots with pictures of politicians inside. The song "Piffing on his Face" - urinating on & and presenting a woman's fundament to the visage is a mite more scatalogical than anything the satyrists do today. Ah - the good old days


Not to be confused with Pills to Purge Melancholy ibid pub 1717 a much more rounded and comprehensive tome. I found a Dover reprint in the Bodleain on open shelves.

I may have a record of the words somewhere PM me if you are serious about this.


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: mikesamwild
Date: 29 Apr 10 - 08:09 AM

So if you 'Lye back and think of England' you piff (sic) the bed do you?


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: Lighter
Date: 29 Apr 10 - 10:11 AM

"Chamber Lye" was apparently sung (when sung and not simply recited) to the tune of "Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum!" which was appropriated for the Confederate smash hit "Maryland, My Maryland!"

The poem is so inoffensive by modern standards that it made it into "The Oxford Book of American Light Verse" as far back as 1979.

Jonathan Haralson [sic](1830-1912) was a quite distinguished Alabaman. He held a master's degree from the University of Alabama and a law degree from the U. Louisiana (later Tulane). During the war he served as agent at Selma of the Nitre and Mining Bureau of the Confederate States. His "chamber lye" request was issued in 1863. In 1892 Haralson was elected Associate Justice of the Alabama Supereme Court, a position he held until 1910.

"Wetmore," the supposed author of "Chamber Lye," is undoubtedly the Selma Provost Marshal Thomas B. Wetmore (1821-94), a local attorney. It seems hardly likely, though, that a public official like Wetmore would have published such a ribald poem under his own name, even if ihe'd written it, especially since the poem satirizes a fellow government official who was doing his job to support the war effort. A more likely scenario is that an anonymous satirist seized on the name "Wetmore" as both recognizable and especially appropriate, thus exploiting both men for a good laugh.


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Subject: RE: Dirty Civil War songs about chamberpots
From: Lighter
Date: 29 Apr 10 - 10:53 AM

Other stuff, including lyrics, on this thread:

Lyr Req: Chamber Lye / John Harloson's Saltpeter (78)


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