Samuel N. Mitchell

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Sheet music cover for The Sweet Sunny Smile of My Darling (1877)

Samuel N. Mitchell (1846–1905) was an American song lyricist and newspaperman who wrote lyrics for a number of popular songs in the 1870s.[1][2][3]


Mitchell wrote lyrics for many hundreds of songs, and collaborated with a number of composers. One of his most popular songs during his life was Just Touch the Harp Gently, My Pretty Louise, first published in 1870. An 1890 profile of Mitchell in the Boston Globe reported that an astounding (and surely exaggerated) four million copies of the song had been sold.[4] Mitchell claimed to never have received any payment for the song, however, as the lyrics were "stolen bodily" from him and brought to London, where Charles Blamphin set them to music. It became popular in England, and eventually theatrical producer Lydia Thompson brought it back to America in the play Bluebeard, and it became popular in the United States as well. Not making a living on his creations, Mitchell was toiling in a newspaper mailroom despite his lyrical successes.[4][5][6]

Perhaps Mitchell's most enduring song is Put My Little Shoes Away, which he wrote with Charles E. Pratt in 1873.[7] A mournful ballad where a dying child tells her mother to put her shoes away to save for her infant brother, it reportedly sold over 100,000 sheet music copies.[8] But its popularity long survived in rural America and became a staple among bluegrass performers. It was first recorded by Riley Puckett in 1926,[7] and later by the "Father of Bluegrass" Bill Monroe (1956),[9] the Everly Brothers (1958),[10] Girls of the Golden West,[11] Woody Guthrie, Dolly Parton, and others.[12]


Mitchell was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1846, and served during the Civil War in a Rhode Island regiment.[4][13] He died in Providence on November 7, 1905.[14]

Notable songs[edit]

  • Just Touch the Harp Gently, My Pretty Louise (1870) (music by Charles Blamphin)
  • Sadie Ray (1870) (music by J. Tannenbaum) (became a popular minstrel show song)[15]
  • When the Whippoorwill is Calling (1871) (music by E.N. Caitlin)[16]
  • Put My Little Shoes Away (1873) (music by Charles E. Pratt)
  • My Love Sleeps Under the Daisies (1873) (music by George W. Persley)[17]
  • Speak to Me Kindly (1873) (music by Ernest Leslie)[18]
  • Dear Sunny Days of the Past
  • Dance Me, Papa, on Your Knee (1874?) (music by H.P. Danks)
  • Amber Tresses Tied In Blue (1874) (music by H.P. Danks)[19][20][21] (later recorded with modification by the Carter Family)
  • The Lane That Led To School
  • When My Love Comes Home To Me (1876) (music by Charles E. Prior)[22]
  • Little Bright Eyes at the Window (1876) (music by H.P. Danks)[23]
  • Maggie with the Soft Brown Hair(1876) (music by H.P. Danks)[24]
  • Our Comrades 'Neath the Sod (music by H.P. Danks)
  • The Sunny Smile of My Darling (1877) (music by H.P. Danks)[25]
  • Sleeping in Death's Camping Ground (1877?) (music by H.P. Danks)
  • We Deck Their Graves Alike Today (1877?) (music by H.P. Danks) (which was performed at Memorial Day (then Decoration Day) celebrations)[26]
  • My Dear Savannah Home (1881) (music by H.P. Danks)[27]


  1. ^ Americana, Volume 7, Part 1, p. 536 (1912) ("One of the best known men in the profession forty years ago was Samuel N. Mitchell, a bard of no small note, the writer of hundreds of songs, and associated with the newspapers for many years and the only one who could be found to ...")
  2. ^ Story on Mitchell, Skaneateles Democrat (November 1905?) (reprinted story from New Bedford Standard, lists many of Mitchell's popular songs, but noting that many are rarely song today, such being the nature of popular music)
  3. ^ (28 November 1905). Songs and Their Writers, Boston Evening Transcript (New Bedford Standard article, more readable copy)
  4. ^ a b c (11 December 1890). A Composer of Songs: He Wrote Sweet Ballads, But Others Got The Ducats, The Day (reprinted from the Boston Globe)
  5. ^ (21 February 1891). Songs of the People, The Illustrated American
  6. ^ Books at Brown, Volume 21, p. 192 (1966)
  7. ^ a b Erbsen, Wayne. Rural roots of bluegrass: songs, stories & history, p. 138 (2003)
  8. ^ Something About Popular Songs, Folio (July 1882)
  9. ^ Erbsen, Wayne. Backpocket Bluegrass Song Book, p. 12 (2007)
  10. ^ Strong, Martin C. The essential rock discography, p.375 (2006)
  11. ^ Britton, Alan John. Uncle Art, p. 83 (2010)
  12. ^ Rosenberg, Neil V. * Charles K. Wolfe. The music of Bill Monroe, p. 96 (2007)
  13. ^ Leavitt, Michael Bennett. Fifty years in theatrical management, p. 178 (1912) ("Samuel N. Mitchell, the writer of hundreds of songs sung on both continents, now dead, was one of my life-long friends. He and William A. Huntley could put a song together — Mitchell the words, Huntley the music — in thirty minutes.")
  14. ^ (8 November 1905). Old Time Song Writer Dead, Boston Globe
  15. ^ Sadie Ray / by J. Tannebaum (sheet music), Library of Congress
  16. ^ When the whipporrwill is calling / by E. N. Catlin (sheet music), Library of Congress
  17. ^ My love sleeps under the daisies / by Geo. W. Persley (sheet music), Library of Congress
  18. ^ Speak to me kindly / by Ernest Leslie (sheet music), Library of Congress
  19. ^ A history of popular music in America, p. 197 (1948)
  20. ^ JEMF quarterly, Volume 18 (1982)
  21. ^ Amber Tresses Tied In Blue - Sheet Music, Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music
  22. ^ When my love comes home to me / by Chas. E. Prior. (sheet music), Library of Congress
  23. ^ Little bright eyes at the window / by H. P. Danks (sheet music), Library of Congress
  24. ^ Maggie with the soft brown hair / by H. P. Danks. (sheet music), Library of Congress
  25. ^ The Sweet, sunny smile of my darling / by H. P. Danks (sheet music), Library of Congress
  26. ^ Memorial Day Celebrations (1890-1899), Historic Congressional Cemetery , Retrieved September 12, 2011
  27. ^ My dear Savannah home / by H. P. Danks (sheet music), Library of Congress