At the Library of Congress’s wonderful National Jukebox site (new last May) I recently discovered this item, “Coming Home from Coney Isle,” by a duo, Ada Jones and Len Spencer, who recorded a whole stack of dialect novelty songs in 1905 and 1906.
When I heard the disdainful “Aw, gee” and the plaintive, “Will I open the window?” I thought, “This sounds just like the dialogue in Maggie, A Girl of the Streets.” Well, it turns out that that was no accident. Your proof:
— a song called “Chimmie and Maggie at the Hippodrome.”
Americanists may want to give this site a listen.
The new National Jukebox project at the Library of Congress
is a trove of acoustic recordings from 1901 to 1925 with a great streaming-audio engine. Among much else in the collection, the spoken-word discs show us how strong the regional differences were in American speech before radio started homogenizing them. Here’s Warren G. Harding in 1922, for instance, with an Ohio accent thicker than anything I’ve heard in Ohio in my own excessively long life.
And now that I’ve heard this song from 1906, I’m going to have an easier time reconstructing the voices of the tough guys in Stephen Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets — right down to the tone of disdain in the cry of “Aw, gee.”