Feb 262011
Joseph Voisin

Joseph Voisin, about 1907

If great-grandfather Joseph Voisin had an iPod, one of those tiny music players, what would he be listening to? His iPod has survived, and on it I found this song:


It’s “Take This Letter to My Mother,” a popular ballad in the nineteenth century composed by William Shakespeare Hays (1837-1907) and first published in 1873.1

Take This Letter to My Mother

In a journal entry,2 Joseph Voisin recorded two verses from this ballad.  It is uncertain when he wrote the entry, but it was probably before 1877 when the next journal entry on the page is dated.

Journal of Joseph Voisin

That would make him a teenager, between 15 and 19 years old.  Undoubtedly “Take This Letter to My Mother” was on his iPod. Click the link to listen in3

Take This Letter to My Mother

Joseph was musically inclined. He was the first organist at the St. Philomenia Catholic Church in Beal City, Michigan from 1882 to 1905. (That church is now St. Joseph the Worker.) He also performed at social dances, including dances in which native Americans participated. He wrote the words to a square-dance call in his journal. Therefore he was likely a square-dance caller too.

  1. Sheet music for “Take This Letter to My Mother” adapted from a project of the Digital Scriptorium Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/ (May 6, 2005).
  2. Edwards, A. Wayne, II, Images from the personal journal of Joseph Voisin, 2002.
  3. University of California Santa Barbara Library, “Preservation and Digitization Project,” recording, Donald C. Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Special Collections (http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/index.php: downloaded 3 April 2007), “Take This Letter to My Mother,” Edison Amberol #1078, by Will Oakland and chorus, 1912.

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