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Home on the Range #401: Benjamin F. Davis Papers

With its evocative lyrics, “Home on the Range” is one of the classic cowboy songs.

The song began as a poem jotted down by Brewster Higley, a homesteading Kansas doctor. A frontier newspaper published the poem in 1873.

Amateur musician Dan Kelly saw the poem and was inspired to devise a tune on his guitar. Soon the song became a staple of pioneer dances in western Kansas and along the cattle trails of Oklahoma and Texas.

The lyrics evolved over time to further incorporate the spirit of the range. Eventually a Black cook who had worked the cattle trails in the 1870s and 80s sang it for folklorist John Lomax. Lomax published the melody and lyrics in an anthology of cowboy songs in 1910.

Learn more by reading the Benjamin F. Davis papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.

For more information, visit the American Heritage Center site.