Washington's Reel

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WASHINGTON’S REEL AKA and see “Widow Dickens (The).” American, Reel. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. There are many tunes, nearly all American, that are named for George Washington. This particular tune was better known under variants of the title “Widow Dickens (The).” “Washington’s Reel” appears in several early 19th century music publications and musicians’ copybooks. In print, the melody appears in Joshua Cushing’s Fifer’s Companion No. 1 (Salem, Mass., 1805), Samuel Holyoke’s Instrumental Assistant (Exeter, N.H., 1800), William Williams’ New and Complete Preceptor for the Fife (Utica, N.Y., 1819), and John Trumbull’s Gentleman’s and Lady’s Companion (Norwich, Conn., 1798). Manuscript versions appear in the copybooks of Samuel Morse (Newburyport, Mass., 1811), Josiah Adams (Framingham, Mass., compiled 1808-1818), Gurden Trumbull (Stonington, Conn., 1801), and fifer Thomas Nixon (Danbury, Conn., compiled c. 1776-1778). Its inclusion in the Trumbull manuscript dates it to the time of the American Revolution. “Washington’s Reel” can even be heard being played by the mechanism of a musical clock by the famous Trenton, N.J., clockmakers Leslie and Williams, c. 1798-1799.

The march was also entered into the c. 1776-1778 music copybook of fifer Thomas Nixon Jr. [1] (1762-1842), of Framingham, Connecticut. Nixon was a thirteen-year-old who accompanied his father to the battles of Lexington and Concord, and who served in the Continental army in engagements in and around New York until 1780, after which he returned home to build a house in Framingham.

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