NYFS logo    tagline
 Pinto Guira making guiramaking a mandalaplaying mandolin

Voices Fall-Winter 2007:
Click on the cover for the Table of Contents. Read “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” by Stanley A. Ransom here.
JOIN the New York Folklore Society today to receive Voices.



Volume 33

Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake by Stanley A. Ransom

On a trip to Vermont with folklorist I. Sheldon “Shelley” Posen, I first heard the song “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake,” sung by performer Mick Moloney. I subsequently purchased his CD, called Uncommon Bonds (1993), and learned the song from it. Later on, when I sang the song at a local nursing home, an elderly gentleman, John Nolan, said he remembered his grandfather singing it in Ausable Forks, New York, in about the year 1900.

“Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” has become part of the folklore of Christmas. It has also entered the realm of folklore in a number of other ways. Edith Fowke listed it in Canadian Journal for Traditional Music in 1979 as “an old favorite.” It appears in the Columbia Granger’s Index to Poetry, with the author listed as “anonymous.” It is often reprinted. The Family Herald and Weekly Star, a Montreal publication, printed it numerous times between 1913 and 1959. The title shows some variation, with Rick Benjamin’s Paragon Ragtime Orchestra recording it as a music hall song called “Miss Hooligan’s Christmas Cake.” Digital Tradition, the database of folk songs at Mudcat Café (www.mudcat. org), includes the song and a thread in which contributors discuss the song. One contributor notes that in 1939, the song was performed by Leon Ponce in the album California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties, a field recording collected in 1938-40 by Sidney Robertson Cowell as a WPA project.

Sheet music from "Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake," reissued by Douglas D. Anderson in 2006.
Sheet music for “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake,” reissued by Douglas D. Anderson in 2006.

The most notable straying from the original text—adding “spice” to the cake—occurs in the third verse. Where the original song notes that Miss Fogarty “tripped over Flanagan’s brogans, and spilt a whole brewin’ of tay,” we now see that Miss Fogarty “spilt the homebrew in her tay.” This last representation has been preferred by such Irish musicians as Ted McGraw of Rochester and Mick Moloney of New York City.

Fruitcakes have long been an important tradition of the Christmas season. Some like them—some don’t—but favorite fruitcake recipes abound. Stories, too: remember “A Christmas Memory,” the 1966 short story with Truman Capote and his aunt going for moonshine to make Christmas fruitcakes? I like “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” because it treats a cherished tradition in a lighthearted way. As a folk music performer, I’ve found that “Miss Fogarty” livens up any Christmas program. As a librarian, I found myself wondering, “Who wrote this song?”

Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” was composed by Charles Frank Horn in Middleport, Pennsylvania, and published in 1883 by W. F. Shaw, a Philadelphia music publisher. The Library of Congress web site, Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885, lists fifty-seven compositions by C. Frank Horn, but I wish to thank Linda Wood, sheet music librarian at the Philadelphia Free Library, for my first information about C. Frank Horn himself. C. Frank Horn was born on April 19, 1851, in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. His full name was Charles Frank Horn, but he usually went by C. Frank Horn to distinguish his name from his father’s. His father, named Charles Horn, was a teamster born in Pennsylvania in 1800. C. Frank Horn’s mother, Matilda Horn, was born about 1820, also in Pennsylvania.

Since joining the online genealogy service Ancestry.com, I have been able to access records from the U.S. Census from 1810 to 1920. There were hundreds of Horns, especially in Pennsylvania, and also large numbers of Horns who came from Germany. According to Ancestry.com, most Horn families living in the U.S. in 1840 and in 1920 lived in Pennsylvania. This fact has made it more difficult to distinguish among the many Charles Horns and Frank Horns. There is a Charles Horn in the 1810 census, in the 1830 census for Easton, Northampton, Pennsylvania, and in the 1840 census for Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

Sheet music from C. Frank Horn’s well-loved ballad

Sheet music for C. Frank Horn's well-loved ballad
Sheet music for “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake,” reissued by Douglas D. Anderson in 2006.

The first mention of C. Frank Horn is in the 1860 census. His father is given as Charles Horns (sic), age sixty, a teamster, with his family living in the North Ward Borough of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, as of June 14, 1860. His mother is listed as Matilda Horn, age thirty-nine, with children Mary, nineteen, Susan, sixteen, and Charles, nine. All were born in Pennsylvania. Interestingly, another household member, possibly a boarder, is listed: Will Davis, age thirty-two, a professor of music. Perhaps having Davis in the house influenced young Charles to become a teacher and composer of music.

By 1870, the family had changed, perhaps after the death of the father. For the 1870 census of Tamaqua Borough in Schuylkill County, only Matilda, age forty—it should have been fifty—is listed, along with Frank, now twenty, who is listed as a laborer. His sisters, Mary and Susan, are not mentioned; they may have married and left home. The 1880 census of Middleport Borough in Schuylkill County lists Matilda, sixty, as wife to James Major, sixty-six, a laborer—possibly a miner—born in England. There was a daughter (perhaps Major’s daughter from a previous relationship), Anne, age eight, born in Pennsylvania, as well. Frank Horn is listed as a “Step Son, age 29” and “music teacher.” There are no Pennsylvania listings in 1890, 1900, or 1910 for this family or for any members of the Horn or Major families.

As Linda Wood pointed out to me, Munsell’s History of Schuylkill County (1881) notes that C. Frank Horn “was born April 19, 1851, at Tamaqua, and resides at Middleport. He is a composer of band and orchestra music.” In 1881 he is listed as a “present Burgess of the Borough Council of Middleport.” The Burgess office in Middleport does not have photographs or any further information about him.

After searching several music databases for Horn’s music and sheet music, I found four entries in a Library of Congress database, The Library of Congress Presents: Music, Theater, and Dance, and fifty-seven items of sheet music in the Library of Congress’s Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885’s sheet music was published by W. F. Shaw, 710 Arch Street, Philadelphia, with a few pieces from New York City and Boston. I have tried to borrow the Shaw catalog from the two universities that are listed as holding it, but both catalogs are missing.

Title page of "Miss Fogarty's Christ Cake," by C. Frank Horn, 1883.

Title page of “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake,”
by C. Frank Horn, 1883.

Some of Horn’s music was arranged by J. F. Zimmerman. Horn composed some comic songs for George Thatcher of George Thatcher’s Minstrels in Philadelphia. These songs in African American dialect, such as “De Culled Dancin’ School,” were definitely arranged for the comic minstrel stage. I have checked several books on nineteenth-century minstrel shows; they mention George Thatcher, but not Horn’s songs. Horn wrote many other songs, like “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake,” “Miss Mulligan’s Homemade Pie,” “Grogan’s Grocery,” “The Band on Murphy’s Block,” and “McCarthy’s Fancy Ball” in an Irish dialect. Some others are “Duffy, the Rising Man,” “Mr. Finnegan,” “The Trials of Leap Year,” “The McGettigans’ Social Soiree,” and ”When McGinnes Drives Up to the Door.” Among the first of his songs is “Pat Fay’s Sleighing Party Song,” published in 1882. Among the last of his compositions is “Blow Gabriel Blow, Plantation Song, and Chorus,” engraved by artist G. F. Swain and published by W. F. Shaw in 1889. Another issued in the same year is “Mr. Riley, Come In to Your Tea,” a song published by A. H. Rosewig of Philadelphia.

Horn was not just a song writer. He also composed waltzes, such as “Waltzes; or, Life on the Susquehanna,” and schottisches, as well as grand marches and quicksteps. His compositions were sometimes issued as orchestra pieces for violin, cornet, and other instruments. C. Frank Horn is listed among composers in William H. Rehrig’s Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music (1991), which provides entries for these marches and quicksteps: “Cleveland, grand march (1884); Colonel Reynold’s Quickstep (1882); Defiance, quick march (1884); Fairmount Quickstep (1882); General Beaver’s Quickstep (1882); Robert E. Pattison’s Quickstep (1882); Aurora, grand baritone fantasy (n.d.); and Sweet Roses, medley overture (n.d.).”

“Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” was first published as a song by W. F. Shaw in Boston in 1883, as noted in a copy in the Lester S. Levy collection of sheet music at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. Copyright Office confirms the 1883 registration of Horn’s song, “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake. Words and music by C. Frank Horn. Song and Chorus. Musical Composition. Entered in the name of W. F. Shaw, under no. 1980. January 29, 1883. Two copies received February 10, 1883.” In 1884 there appeared a ten-page instrumental version of “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake,” arranged by J. F. Zimmerman, with separate pages for violin, cornet, viola, flute, second violin, solo cornet in A, clarinet in A, bass, and trombone. Since voice was also noted, this arrangement was intended to be an orchestral accompaniment for a singer. These arrangements and songs are all available at the Library of Congress Music for the Nation website.

I have consulted several Irish musicians, including the aforementioned Ted McGraw and Mick Moloney, a professor of music at New York University. They have not been able to provide any further information on Horn. I checked Ancestry.com, the New York Times obituary index, and several other obituary indexes, but found no entries for C. Frank Horn—nor for Will Davis, the professor of music who may have taught him. Davis is not listed in any of the music or biographical sources for Horn. Becki White, reference librarian at the Pottsville, Pennsylvania, public library, searched local records, obituaries, and newspapers to find more information about Horn. She writes, “The Pottsville Republican newspaper had an article in 1892 about a C. F. Horn, living in Kaskawilliam (not far from the Middleport and Tamaqua area), who had to have part of his leg amputated.” Is it the same C. F. Horn? The notice, published on November 14, 1892, on page four, states:
C. F. Horn, of Kaskawilliam, went to the Miners’ Hospital to receive treatment. Mr. Horn will have his leg amputated six inches below the knee, as it is the only relief he can get, as his case has been in the hands of several of the best physicians without giving him any relief or cure. Drs. Bankus, of Middleport, and Biddle, of the Miners’ Hospital, after examination found that the only and safest method was amputation.
The same newspaper noted on December 22, 1892, page two, that “C. F. Horn returned home from the State Hospital where he had gone to have his leg amputated, from which he finds great relief.” If this is indeed Charles Frank Horn, we may speculate that he was unable to continue to compose songs and may have died as a result of infection or disease.

After a prolific decade from about 1880 to 1889, C. Frank Horn has only one composition listed thereafter. The Library of Congress did a search for me of the copyright records after 1889 and turned up this listing: “Since Mary Has a Beau; A Song,” registered by C. Frank Horn and John Bichler (E220544), published November 30, 1909. According to the 1890 U.S. Census, a John E. Bichler, age forty-eight, lived in a hotel in Schuylkill County. Was this a stray unpublished song that turned up later?

I have spoken with Peter Yasenchak of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, who has also been inquiring locally about C. Frank Horn, and we are sharing information. He has checked cemetery and other local records, and no further information has been found. At our public library in Plattsburgh, New York, and the State University of New York–Plattsburgh library, I have combed through reference and biography books looking for Horn and Davis, to no avail. Another source of information may be several short-lived Tamaqua newspapers: the Tamaqua Legion, 1849–55; the Tamaqua Gazette, 1855–7; the Tamaqua Anthricity Gazette, 1857–61; and the Anthricity Journal, 1861 and thereafter. The Pottsville Republican may have additional articles, as well. I have not yet checked these. The Library of Congress’s Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870–1885, database contains the words and music to “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake.” Other printed versions are available, especially on www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas. com. The printed music, now in the public domain, was reissued in 2006 by Douglas D. Anderson.

As I planned a Christmas album in the early 1990s, I researched music and songs that have some connection to the North Country of New York, especially Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties. I found quite a few with local antecedents, including “We Three Kings” and some from the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve. I was delighted to hear from John Nolan that “Miss Fogarty” had been sung in Ausable Forks about a century ago. I included the song in my 1994 Christmas recording, North Country Christmas, done in cooperation with local folksinger—now a physician— Marne O’Shae. “Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake” is an important song for the Christmas season. Coming from a background of nineteenth-century Irish humor, it is a lighthearted contribution to the more serious Christmas musical offerings. Audiences—perhaps remembering bouts of indigestion in their past—love the song. It is quoted in popular poetry collections, most often attributed to “anonymous,” but this article will help to provide the song with a parent: C. Frank Horn.

Addendum: Since this issue went to press, Peter Yasenchak’s research has yielded some new information. C. Frank Horn died on July 2, 1928, and is buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.


Stanley A. Ransom, a former board member of the New York Folklore Society, is retired as director of the Clinton-Essex- Franklin Library System in Plattsburgh, New York, and a folk singer since 1940. He performs as the Connecticut Peddler, since he was born in Winsted, Connecticut. He has issued nine recordings of New York State folk and traditional music and one of Connecticut folk songs. In September 2006, the American Association for State and Local History honored him with an Award of Merit for “preserving and sustaining the folk music of New York State.” He and his wife, Christina, a medical librarian, have four children and four grandchildren.

“Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake“ is an important song for the Christmas season. Coming from a background of nineteenth-century Irish humor, it is a lighthearted contribution to the more serious Christmas musical offerings.

This article appeared in Voices Vol. 33, Fall-Winter 2007. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.

TO PURCHASE A BACK ISSUE of Voices, visit our online book store.

TO PURCHASE A SINGLE ARTICLE from Voices, use the form below:

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore

To order a single article, please enter volume number, issue (“fall-winter” or “spring-summer”), and title of the article you wish and click on an order button below to purchase through Paypal or with your credit card. We will send you a PDF of the article via e-mail upon receipt of your order.

ITEM #603
Single Article $3.00
Volume No. & Issue

Member Price  $2.00
Volume No. & Issue

NEW YORK FOLKLORE SOCIETY ♦ 129 Jay Street ♦ Schenectady, NY 12305 ♦ 518.346.7008 ♦ Fax 518.346.6617 ♦ nyfs@nyfolklore.org