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Casey Jones, the Brave Engineer

Sheet music cover for Casey Jones, the Brave Engineer
John Luther “Casey” or “Cacey” Jones has entered American folk legend and folk music as an engineer who either sacrificed his life on the Illinois Central’s New Orleans Special passenger train on April 30, 1900, or as an engineer who fool-heartedly sped the train along to make up time. Near Vaughan, Mississippi, he spied freight cars ahead, ordered the fireman, Sim Webb, to jump, and cut his speed in half before plowing into the cars that had not made it onto a passing track. Jones was the accident’s only fatality. Wallace Saunders, a folk musician and lyricist as well as an engine wiper at Canton, the next station south of Vaughan, turned the accident into a catchy song, first published in 1902. The lyrics went into many versions, and the most common was that whose cover appears here. T. Lawrence Seibert merely altered the words for several verses (there were even bawdy versions) and Eddie Newton arranged Saunders’ tune, but did not compose it. Seibert and Newton made money from the sheet music; Saunders and the Jones family made none. Subtitled “The Only Comedy Railroad Song,” the composition might be seen by some as mocking a tragedy. Even Casey’s name is spelled as a variation on his home town, Cacey, Kentucky. Folkways and folk music are like that.
Alternate Title Sheet Music Honors Fabled Railroad Engineer (editor's title)
Source Center for Railroad Photography & Art
Date Created 1909
Resource Type
Extent 13-3/4 in. by 10-1/2 in.
Depicted Railroad
Collection Center for Railroad Photography & Art Collection
Train Name New Orleans Special
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