Mathewson's Hornpipe

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X:1 T:Mathewson's Hornpipe M:C| L:1/8 S:William Sidney Mount manuscripts, page dated May 8th, 1845 Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Eb B, | EDEF EGBG | FEFG ABcd | eBGE cAFE | (3DEF (3EDC B,AGF | EDEF EGBG | FEFG ABcd | (3edc (3BAG (3cBA (3GFE | (3DEF (3B,CD E :| |: F | B4 Bdfa | B4 Begb | B4 Begb | (3fgf (3edc (3BcB (3AGF | EDEF EGBG | FEFG ABcd | (3edc (3BAG (3cBA (3GFE | (3DEF (3B,CD E :|]



MATHEWSON'S HORNPIPE. American, Hornpipe. E Flat Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Nelson Mathewson was an early 19th century dancing master from Long Island, New York, from whom directly or indirectly painter and fiddler William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) obtained this tune. Mount wrote it on a page dated May 8th, 1845, along with the tunes "Cameronian Rant (The)" and "Bonnet Makers of Dundee (The)," and it is possible he obtained all the tunes on the page from Mathewson, perhaps from printed publications in Mathewson's possession. There may have been a glut of dancing instructors in the New York region, as several Long Island dancing masters went to Georgia in the 1830's to set up schools, including the painter's brother Robert Nelson Mount (1806-1883). In a letter dated Jan. 30th, 1839, Mount wrote to his brother the following:

Mr. Smith is in Augusta he bought out the masters he found there. Mr. Mathewson has set up for himself & has a promising school-- fifty to 60 scho(lars) at 10 dollars a head. So he writes to Richard Udall. I have not heard the name of the place where Mathewson has set up--It is not in Agusta (sic). I believe Mr. Raymon says if you had gone to Agusta you won't have made money. You must write and let me know how all you Dancing Masters get on at the South...This letter I have written by candle light and in haste, a scrawl complete. Yours affectionately...

Nelson Mathewson also composed a set of cotillions, called "Cotillion in the Key of C" a copy of which is in the Mount manuscript collection. It consists of several tunes of melody for dancing a complete set of Cotillions, or five separate dances, numbered "Cotillion in the Key of C, No. 1", 2, 3, 4 and 6--number 5 is missing ("Cotillion in the Key of C", No. 2 and No. 4 can be heard on Folkways FW32379, "The Cradle of Harmony" (1976). Alfred Frankenstein, who wrote the liner notes for the album, records:

William Sidney also derived much from two other fiddlers, Harvey L. Hazen of Norwich, Connecticut, and Nelson Mathewson, a somewhat besotted character who drifted about Long Island engaged in the same occupation as Robert Nelson Mount and who sat for his portrait to William Sidney. Several manuscripts at Stony Brook [i.e. Long Island Museum] show that Hazen, Mathewson, and William Sidney competed with each other in providing variations on familiar tunes. They are all in William Sidney's handwriting; originally they may have been improvised in contests of creative fiddling.

Also in the Mount manuscripts is a sheet labelled "All Hands Round", the name of a dance (with the steps given below the tune), and the music notation for “Camptown Hornpipe (2)”, identified in Mount’s handwriting as from “N. Mathewson”. Underneath the tune is the note “You can make var. as you play it,” which may or may not be in Mount's handwriting. The hornpipe is not Mathewson's composition, but is a minstrel era piece cognate with the "Granny Will Your Dog Bite" family of tunes. Rather, Mount names Mathewson as his source.

There are some interesting possible connections with this tune however. The first strain of "Mathewson's Hornpipe" is shared with an older tune, "Portsmouth Hornpipe (2)" (although the second strains differ). "Portsmouth Hornpipe (2)" was first printed by New York musician and music publisher Edward Riley in the second decade of the 19th century, in his Riley's Flute Melodies, vol. 2 (1817)[1]. Mount's uncle was a flute player and composer of renown in New York City in the first half of the 19th century, Micah Hawkins, who composed the first wholly American opera. He was also a musical mentor for Mount and very influential. Hawkins undoubtedly knew of the Riley flute publications and may have had a hand in passing this tune along to the Long Island fiddlers, where it was modified, perhaps by Mathewson.


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  1. "Portsmouth Hornpipe [2]" also was printed by Boston music publisher Elias Howe in Second Part of the Musician's Companion (1843), likely obtained from Riley's publication. However, on the same page Howe also printed a cognate version of the tune as "Prince Regent's Hornpipe (2)."