Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Arkansas Traveler

Many people today probably think of the student newspaper at the University of Arkansas or the minor league baseball team based in North Little Rock when they hear the term "Arkansas Traveler." However, the term actually has a long history that goes back over 150 years.
“Arkansas Traveler” originally referred to a tune, a dialogue, or a painting, all of which date from the mid-nineteenth century. The tune and the dialogue or skit had their origins around 1840 when Colonel Sanford Faulkner got lost in rural Arkansas, stopped to ask directions at a local squatter's home, and subsequently started performing a dialogue and fiddle tune called “The Arkansas Traveler” based on the experience.
In 1856, Arkansas artist Edward Payson Washbourne painted a picture based on the meeting between the Traveler and the Squatter (see accompanying illustration). Washbbourne later painted a second picture called "The Turn of the Tune," depicting the Traveler entertaining the Squatter by playing his fiddle.
The image of the Arkansas Traveler also spawned a humorous newspaper by that name, founded in 1882. The Traveler, in print and in humorous performance, came to perpetuate a negative, “hillbilly” image of Arkansas and, by extension, the Ozarks.
From 1949 to 1963, "The Arkansas Traveler" was the official state song of Arkansas. The negative stereotype might have had something to do with the decision to drop the song as the state's official song, although I don't know that for sure. The song is now designated as the state's official historical song.
At any rate, the negative connotation of the Arkansas Traveler has obviously lessened in recent years. Otherwise, the University of Arkansas probably wouldn't be using it as the name of its student newspaper, nor would a minor league baseball team based in Arkansas be calling themselves the Travelers.

"Currier-ives-arkansas-traveller". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Currier-ives-arkansas-traveller.jpg#/media/File:Currier-ives-arkansas-traveller.jpg


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