"Captain Pearl R. Nye: Life on the Ohio and Erie Canal" offers a fascinating look—through recordings, letters and photographs—at a way of life that was eventually supplanted by the railroad. The presentation, one of more than 135 thematic collections in the American Memory Web site, is available at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/nye/.
Through Captain Nye's letters and songs, the presentation captures the culture and music of the men, women and children who worked and lived along the Ohio and Erie Canal. Nye, who was born and raised on a canal boat, never lost his love of the "Big Ditch." After the canal closed permanently in 1913, he devoted considerable time and energy to preserving its songs and stories.
This presentation contains recordings of 75 songs, sung by Nye. The recordings were made by John, Alan and Elizabeth Lomax and Ivan Walton between June 1937 and September 1938. Lyrics for the recorded songs have been transcribed by Library staff and are available on the Web site, as are song transcriptions, photographs and personal letters Nye sent to the Library from July 1937 to October 1944.
Also included in this presentation are a 1973 essay by Rebecca Schroeder, called "An Informant in Search of a Collector: Captain Pearl R. Nye of Ohio," and a timeline that identifies significant events in the life of Nye and the history of the canal with which his life was so closely associated. A radio program excerpt from "The Two Captains," part of the Library's "Ballad Hunter" series, which ran in the 1940s, provides additional insight into Nye's life.
The Nye Collection is housed in the Library's American Folklife Center. The center was created by Congress in 1976 and established at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training.