This article was originally printed in the Folklife facility News in the summer of 1981 (Volume IV, #2), gathering together details compiled ~ above the subject of Yellow Ribbons complying with the hostage crisis in Iran. A later on article: "How the Yellow Ribbon came to be a National folk Symbol," published in 1991, is also available on this site.

The late Gerald E. Parsons to be a folklorist and also a librarian in the Folklife reading Room for twenty-one years.

If folklore were an accurate science, we might have guess the blizzard of inquiries around the tradition of yellow ribbons — the ribbons the blossomed in January <1981> come welcome the American hostages home from Iran. Instead, the media storm recorded us through surprise.

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David Kelly of the Library"s general Reference analysis Room to be the very first to an alert the collection force and frequency of push inquiries on the subject. On January 22 the made the rounds of the miscellaneous public referral units to watch if everyone knew anything around the yellow ribbon symbol. He attracted a blank everywhere other than in the archive of people Song. There he discovered a file folder containing a two-year-old referral letter worrying the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon ring the Ole Oak Tree," and also a certain skeptical willingness to study the matter further. No the stuff of which doctoral dissertations room made, to it is in sure, but enough come certify the Archive as the Library"s solitary voice top top the matter. For the following two weeks the call poured in and also the reference staff that the Manuscript Division, basic Reference analysis Room, Music Division, and Information Office command them come the save on computer of individual Song.

The straightforward question i m sorry the news reporters had actually in mental was how the prize came right into being. Plenty of callers had concepts of their very own on the subject. Some had actually interviewed the authors of relevant popular songs. Others had spoken to historians of the polite War. Still others had actually talked v the wives of hostages. Reporters often referred to as the Archive and also then called back later through a brand-new hypothesis, a brand-new historical fact, or a brand-new lead come a publication reference. Very quickly a type of collegial feeling prospered up in between the Archive and some of the more persistent researchers. We found ourselves functioning no so much as authorities top top the topic as members of an informal team that harried investigators.


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The online presentation California Gold: northern California people Music native the Thirties contains a recording and transcript that the song "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" performed by Mrs. Byron Coffin, Sr.

In a few frenzied days, what our journalistic colleagues called "the story" was acquired out. As it has come earlier to us courtesy that the Library"s clipping service (informally helped by a number of specialized friends and also relatives), we view that we have actually been liberally quoted in it. In fact, we were quoted even on the nationally televised CBS evening News, which had the Archive"s reference Librarian shortcut the shade yellow through "prostitution, disease, and cowardice." Mercifully, CBS allowed him come return later in the regime with a much more positive comment.

How did the yellow ribbon price become associated with the hostages? on the CBS transfer of January 28, Penelope Laingen, wife of the U.S. Chargé d"Affaires in Tehran, Bruce Laingen, was shown outside her residence in Bethesda, Maryland. "It just came to me," she said, "to give world something to do, fairly than throw dog food in ~ Iranians. Ns said, "Why don"t aramuseum.orgk tie a yellow ribbon about an old oak tree." That"s how it started."

The authors of "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" have been inquiry frequently about the beginning of their song. ""Larry had heard the story in the Army,"" claimed Levine in one interview reprinted in the Washington article on January 27, 1981 (page B2). ""I liked it, so we tried it. We created it and put that on a cassette. Yet then us didn"t choose it — it simply didn"t job-related —so we threw it away. Ns wish ns would have actually kept it so I can compare it come the other one, yet I videotaped over it." however three weeks later, Levine said their song idea font had run dry, for this reason they determined to take a second stab in ~ "Yellow Ribbon." aramuseum.orgk rewrote it, rewrote the music, and also were pleased."

In the army story, follow to Brown, the symbol was a "white kerchief," but "white" will not scan in the melody to which Levine and also Brown collection their lyric. Article staff writer Saundra Saperstein additionally talked with Levine, and also her story ~ above the front page of the January 27th problem quotes him together saying the they made the ribbons yellow due to the fact that the shade seemed "musical and also romantic."

At the very least one person has come forward to difficulty the origins that Levine and Brown case for their song. Top top October 14, 1971, new York post writer Pete Hamill released in a syndicated shaft a story based upon the returning prisoner theme. The convict had been far for four years fairly than three, and he tells his story not to the bus driver, yet to friendly university students ~ above their yearly migration to the ft Lauderdale beaches. Otherwise, the story is lot like that given in the renowned song. Hamill sue Levine and also Brown whose attorneys rotate to college of Pennsylvania folklorist Kenneth S. Goldstein for assistance. Goldstein, along with his college student Steven Czick, looked for prior execution of the story which would certainly invalidate Hamill"s claim to authorship. They found several such examples, and also the fit was dropped. When Reader"s Digest printed a condensed version of the Hamill column, "Going Home," which appeared on pages 64 and 65 of the January 1972 issue, he introduced it with the complying with headnote:

I an initial heard this story a couple of years back from a girl I had met in new York"s Greenwich Village. The girl said me that she had been among the participants. Due to the fact that then, rather to whom I have actually related the tale have said the they had read a variation of that in part forgotten book, or had actually been told it by one acquaintance who claimed that that actually occurred to a friend. Probably the story is just one of these mysterious bits the folklore that emerge from the national subconscious to be told anew in one type or another. The cast of characters shifts, the blog post endures. I like to think that it walk happen, somewhere, sometime.

Around her knee, she wore a violet garter; She wore it in the Springtime, and also in the month that May, and also if girlfriend asked she why the Hell she wore it, She wore that for she Williams man who"s far, far away.

Other emblematic appurtenances the the young lady incorporate a infant carriage and a shotgun wielding father. The shade of her ribbon or garter could be varied in order to implicate a student of an suitable college: crimson because that Harvard, orange for Princeton, and so on. It was a slightly sleek version indigenous this university tradition, rather than the movie layout song, that came to be a good favorite top top the at an early stage 1960s television present "Sing together with Mitch." It shows up on pages 22 and also 24 the the Sing together with Mitch Songbook (New York: young name Geis Associates, 1961), whereby an accompanying headnote explains it together an "old army marching tune (based on a timeless theme)." although the 2nd verse is essentially the "purple garter" type, the first verse starts "Around she neck, she wore a yellow ribbon."

It seems most likely that Mitch Miller"s famous printing a te after the motion photo helped to foster the possibly mistaken idea that wearing a yellow ribbon as a token that remembrance to be a practice of the Civil war era. Letter expressing an individual recollections and family stories of ribbons being presented by wives and sweethearts of men in the U.S. Cavalry have got to the save on computer of individual Song. It is curious, however, the the fifty percent dozen anthologies that Civil war songs in our reading room carry out not offer "Round her Neck" as a famous song. Furthermore, civil War chronicler Shelby Foote to be quizzed top top the subject, yet could no recall any reference come the exercise of wearing yellow ribbons (Washington Post, January 27, 1981). Although the is perfectly plausible the the families of Union army troops did embrace such a token, way historiography would demand evidence indigenous a diary, photograph, or source contemporary to the war. For this reason far, no such proof has involved our attention, and we need to keep open up to the opportunity that the remote recollections the the civil War have been grafted onto the symbolism the a lot later well-known motion picture. Incidents of this sort are frequently noticed in the study of individual balladry in which the anachronistic combinations are among the an ext interesting features of the genre.

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This paper of song lyrics is a version of the lyrics to every Round mine Hat published by Aunder and Johnson (Philadelphia, n.d.), a song that shows up to it is in a precursor the the song Round she Neck She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. This photo is uncovered in the online presentation, America Singing: Nineteenth Century tune Sheets

Whether Levine and Brown to be consciously or unconsciously affected by "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" is not known. However if aramuseum.orgk were, it would be precious noting that the track that influenced them has a pedigree in tradition that follow me far beyond the college atmosphere of the 1920s. In A background of famous Music In America (New York: random House, 1948, p. 83-84), Sigmund Spaeth writes the a comparable song was heard in minstrel shows in this country roughly 1838:

About this time there showed up from the push of George Endicott ("Lithographer, Pianofortes, Music") a strange language song referred to as All round My Hat, which is unquestionably the ancestor of the later on Round she Neck She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, with all its variants and also imitations. The original, "written by J. Ansell, Esq." (John Hansell) and also "composed and also arranged by man Valentine," "as sung through Jack Reeve, with the most Unbounded Applause," images an English vegetable-peddler, through an overloaded small donkey, pictorially top top the covering and almost as vividly in the text. The chorus, with its curiously familiar close, runs as follows:

All round my hat, i vears a green villow, all round mine hat, for a twelvemonth and a day; If hanyone must hax, the reason vy i vears it, tell them the my true love is far, far away.

(The temptation to repeat "far away" in the modern style is practically irresistible.)

The Philadelphia print is evidently copied from a brother source. In his annotation the "All round My Cap" in the English journal of the Folk-Song society (vol. 8, no. 34, 1930, pp. 202-204), A. Martin Freeman

describes the above chorus as "the single relic the an earlier song, seized up, along with its engaging tune, to administer sport in the music-halls and also be whistled through every errand-boy, because that it came to be one that the most popular street song of a hundred years ago" (the 1830s). The "earlier song" to which Freeman alludes can be traced nearly three century further earlier into English tradition. It was published in cutting board Proctor"s Gorgeous gallery of Gallant Inventions, published in 1578 (pages 83 to 86 in the 1926 Harvard University press printing edited by Hyden E. Rollins), and Shakespeare has actually Desdemona describe it as an old track (Othello, act IV, step 3).

In its long descent indigenous Tudor lyric come Cockney ballad to American minstrel ditty to ribald college song to motion snapshot theme to well-known recording, it might be viewed that environment-friendly willows have faded into garters and also ribbons that every hue and that the prize of spherical in love has actually been noþeles but consistent itself. Peter Kennedy remarks in his Folksongs the Britain and also Ireland (London: Cassell, 1975, p. 343):

Wearing a flower or, as in every Round mine Hat, a eco-friendly willow, were demonstrative icons of faithfulness and chastity, and also many of our love songs make use of the icons of flowers and also trees. End the year the early significances have actually been forgotten and also the symbols have actually sometimes adjusted their meanings. Eco-friendly laurel has actually stood for young love, or fickleness, but likewise faithfulness, and also has even been associated with irish political loyalty.

In the flickering light, the revolution of a pasture garland into a yellow ribbon seems organic enough. At the same time, it would certainly be complicated to argue on the communication of proof in the background of the tune that the yellow ribbon has any claim to gift a classic symbol.

Folklorists that have had occasion to comment on the matter with the save on computer staff have actually been bothered by 2 decidedly untraditional facets of the yellow ribbon. First, the shade seems expressly contrary to tradition. We have already listed that yellow seems to have showed up in the two well-known songs the bear ~ above this for factors of scansion fairly than come evoke ancient associations. The discussion of color symbolism in Charles Platt"s well-known Superstitions (London: H. Jenkins, 1925) says that white could have been a an ext appropriate choice, and indeed, in at the very least two version of the returning sinner story taken native oral legacy the symbol is a white ribbon or kerchief.

The 2nd aspect that makes folklorists wake up to check out this together a classic expression is the issue of structure inversion. In the tune "Tie a Yellow Ribbon...," the template is the of a returning prodigal begging forgiveness — and receiving it. The previous hostages, however, returned home as heroes.

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For every the journalistic attention in it, the yellow ribbon story yields few facts the the sort we would prefer to find on page one of the morning edition. To be sure, the dates and also title of the assorted printings deserve to be reported with confidence, but the relationship of these publications to the spectacular expression of welcome that emerged this past January remains unclear. The account given above cannot be regarded as more than a preliminary statement focused on the genetic relationship in between the ribbon symbol and also two songs that moved back and forth, as we have seen, between folk and popular culture. The omits numerous suggestions and references come other, and perhaps even more interesting, present of inquiry the have involved us native far and wide. For every one of the initiative of the dozens of human being who have advanced the study on the subject, the viability that the yellow ribbon as a traditional symbol is still an open up question. The archive of folk Song eagerly solicits further comments and also will be many happy come share our files with anyone that wishes to research the issue in depth.

It would not be feasible to thank everyone that has contributed thoughts or referrals to the Archive"s burgeoning yellow ribbon file. Amongst those who have been many generous, however, are: cutting board Ahern (Associated Press), Elizabeth Betts (intern, save of folk Song), Jennifer Bolch (Dallas time Herald), Hal Cannon (State the Utah, department of well Art), Kathy Condon (George Washington University), Harold Closter (Smithsonian Institution), Susan Dwyer-Schick (Pennsylvania State University), Austin and Alta Fife (Utah State University, retired), Kenneth S. Goldstein (University the Pennsylvania), Archie green (University the Texas), Wayland Hand (University the California, Los Angeles), Paul Michele and also Julie fearbut (interns, save on computer of folk Song), Jack Santino (Smithsonian Institution), Saundra Saperstein (Washington Post), Jennifer Siebens (CBS night news), and Bert Wilson (Utah State University)

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