Edward Dawson "Sandy" Ives

Folksongs of New Brunswick, Edward D. Ives.
Folksongs of New Brunswick, Edward D. Ives.

Edward Dawson (“Sandy”) Ives (folklorist, English professor, folk singer) was born in White Plains, New York on 4 September 1925. Ives was born to Warren Livingston Ives, a real estate broker, and Millicent Clarissa (Dawson) Ives, a homemaker. Ives grew up in a conservative, upper-class New York suburb with his parents and older sister Ruth. He attended local schools until he received a scholarship to a private school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ives passed away on 1 August 2009 at his home in Orono, Maine.

After graduation, Ives attended Colgate University through the Marine Corps officer training program. The training program (called the V-12 program) was used to train officers during World War II. After Ives flunked out of the program in 1945, he began reading poetry. Inspired by his father’s love of literature, he began reading such long poems as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Ives decided that he wanted to be an English teacher, which was a dream that his father once had. Ives attended Hamilton College where he was inspired to excel by one of his teachers, Bob Rudd, who Ives described as having “awfully good taste” (MacDougall 5).

After Ives graduated from Hamilton he attended graduate school at Columbia. There, he studied medieval literature. In his time at Columbia he was influenced by several scholars: Mark Van Doren, Roger Sherman Loomis, and William York Tindall. After his time at Columbia, he acquired a teaching job at Illinois College. He taught there for three years, and in 1953 he returned to Columbia to study for his PhD. Shortly thereafter, he realized that he was running out of money so he wrote to many colleges and universities in search of employment. He ended up accepting a position as an English Instructor at the University of Maine at Orono. He held a position as a professor there for forty-four years.

While Ives was working at the University of Maine he made an important decision, one based on the fact that he was not making enough money at his job to live comfortably. He decided that he could earn extra money by playing the guitar and singing at local summer camps. He had studied ballads during his time at Columbia, but he had a greater interest in singing ballads than studying them. He thus began learning and singing folksongs about Maine.

Ives developed a special interest in folk song composer Larry Gorman. Gorman was a Maine native who was known for composing humorous songs about his fellow woodsmen. Ives began travelling through Maine and the Maritime provinces to interview anyone who knew Gorman, and began learning the songs he had written. Ives’ interest in Gorman led to the publication of two papers on the woodsman, as well as one book entitled Larry Gorman: The Man Who Made the Songs (1964, biographical sketch).

In 1959 Ives started an organization called the Northeast Folklore Society with fellow English professor Bacil Kirtley. The purpose of the society was to provide a subscription base for their journal Northeast Folklore, which often contained material collected by their students. Ives published several collections of songs and folk tales, including Eight Folktales From Miramichi as Told by Wilmot MacDonald (1962, folktale collection) and Malecite and Passamaquoddy Tales (1964, folktale collection).

In 1959 Ives also released his first recorded album of folk songs. After the release of the album he decided to switch his focus entirely from singing folk songs to studying them. Around that time he met an eminent folklorist named Richard Dorson who encouraged him to attend Indiana University to pursue a degree in folklore. He did so from 1960 to 1961, returning to the University of Maine to teach courses in Folklore and English Composition. He eventually received his PhD from Indiana University.

In 1992 Ives became the director of the newly established Maine Folklife Center. The objective of the center was to combine aspects of the Northeast Folklore Society with the Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History. It was at this time that Ives began reducing his teaching load.

Ives initially came to New Brunswick seeking information on Larry Gorman, known as “The Man Who Made the Songs” (Larry Gorman 9). Ives published a letter in “every daily and weekly paper in Maine and the Maritime provinces” (9) requesting information on Gorman, and later, on ballad maker Joe Scott. Ives made it clear in his letters that he was not only interested in these particular songwriters but in other kinds of old folk songs as well. While he did not originally intend to do so, he found himself with a collection of New Brunswick folk songs on varying topics. Ives’ book Folksongs of New Brunswick (1989, folk song collection) contains folksongs from most counties of New Brunswick (with the exceptions of Restigouche and Westmorland) that Ives collected primarily from woodsmen.

Many of these songs share common themes. Most were songs about specific places, people, or the lives of woodsmen in New Brunswick. A song shared by James Cameron in 1961 called “Duffy’s Hotel” is about a hotel in Boiestown that was burned down. The song starts:

I’m a stranger out here in this country,
My adventures to you I’ll relate;
On the eighth day of June I arrived here
From Fredericton, came on the freight.
I’m employed by a man, Edmund Kelley,
A gentleman, you know him well;
J.P. for the parish of Bloomfield,
And he puts up at Duffy’s Hotel.

Sometimes I go out on a racket,
Along with the rest of the boys;
When we get filled up on Peelie Island,
I tell you we make quite a noise!
For we scared all the pigs up in Tugtown,
Caused the Pleasant Ridge dogs for to yell;
When we get kicked out at Bloomfield,
We’ll go down to Duffy’s Hotel. (Folksongs of New Brunswick, 147)

The song is filled with casual language and local references. “Duffy’s Hotel” is a good example of the type of traditional New Brunswick song that fascinated Ives.

Tim Rogers’ review of Folksongs of New Brunswick also notes Ives' attention to humanity. Rogers provides insight from Ives on the subject of reading folksongs, as opposed to listening to them: “...the folksong lives in its performance, and what appears in print is nothing but a one-dimensional representation of a particular singing by a particular singer for a particular audience. It bears the same relationship to the living song that a photograph does to a living person” (174). Rogers notes Ives’ use of biographical context in his works in order to avoid this shallow representation of the folk songs.

Ives received several honours during his long career. Among these awards were the Guggenheim fellowship, the Harvey A. Kantor Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Oral History (1979), and an honorary LLD from the University of Prince Edward Island (1986).

Ives contributed extensively to the collection and promotion of folklore in Maine and the Maritime provinces. Through his writing, research, and performances the folk heritage of the area has been preserved. By uncovering and publishing this heritage, he contributed greatly to the folk history of New Brunswick.

Chelsea Prosser, Spring 2010
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Day, Wilbur. Wilbur Day (18641924): Hunter, Guide, and Poacher: An Autobiography. Ed. Edward D. Ives. Northeast Folklore 26. Orono, ME: Northeast Folklore Society, 1986.

Ives, Edward D. The Bonny Earl of Murray: The Man, The Murder, The Ballad. Urbana, IL: Illinois UP, 1997.

---. Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs From Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown, PE: Institute of Island Studies, 1999.

---. Folksongs of New Brunswick. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1989.

---. A General Interview Guide. Orono, ME: Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History, 1987.

---. George Magoon and the Down East Game War: History, Folklore, and the Law. Urbana, IL: Illinois UP, 1988.

---. Interview Aug. 27, 2000. Bates College Digital Library. 7 Mar. 2010. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College. 8 July 2020

---. Joe Scott: The Woodsman Songmaker. Music in American Life. Urbana, IL: Illinois UP, 1978.

---. Larry Gorman: The Man Who Made the Songs. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1964.

---. Larry Gorman: The Man Who Made the Songs. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1993.

---. Lawrence Doyle: The Farmer-Poet of Prince Edward Island. Orono, ME: Maine UP, 1971.

---. Malecite and Passamaquoddy Tales. Orono, ME: Northeast Folklore Society, 1964. Northeast Folklore 6.

---. A Manual for Field Workers. Orono, ME: Northeast Folklore Society, 1974.

---. The Satirical Song Tradition in Maine and the Maritime Provinces, With Particular Reference to Larry Gorman. Diss. Indiana U, 1962. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1962.

---. The Tape-Recorded Interview: A Manual for Field Workers in Folklore and Oral History. Knoxville, TN: Tennessee UP, 1980.

---, comp. Twenty-One Folksongs From Prince Edward Island. Northeast Folklore 5. Orono, ME: Northeast Folklore Society, 1963.

---. The World of Maritime Folklore. Evergreen Booklets 1. Halifax, NS: Helen Creighton Foundation, 1993.

Ives, Eward D, Mary Beth Argentiei, and David Brown. Argyle Boom... Northeast Folklore 17. Orono, ME: Northeast Folklore Society, 1977.

Ives, Edward D., Henry Glassie, and John F. Szwed. Folksongs and Their Makers. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green UP, 1970.

Ives, Edward D., and Bruce Jackson, eds. The World Observed: Reflections on the Fieldwork Process. Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 1996.

Ives, Edward D., Wilmot MacDonald, and Helen Creighton. Eight Folktales From Miramichi as Told by Wilmot MacDonald. Northeast Folklore 4. Orono, ME: Northeast Folkore Society, 1962.

Ives, Edward D., and Margaret Lynn Steiner. Wilmot MacDonald at the Miramichi Folksong Festival. Northeast Folklore 36. Orono, ME: Maine Folklife Center, 2002.

Pride, Fleetwood. Fleetwood Pride 18641960: The Autobiography of a Maine Woodsman. Ed. Edward D. Ives and David C. Smith. Northeast Folklore 9. Orono, ME: Northeast Folklore Society, 1968.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Bloch, Jessica. “Folklife Expert, UMaine Professor Ives Dies.” Bangor Daily News. 7 Mar. 2010

“Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs From Prince Edward Island.” Rev. of Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs From Prince Edward Island. Ethnologies 22.2 (2000): 312-15.

MacDougall, Pauleena, and David Taylor, eds. Northeast Folklore: Essays in Honor of Edward D. Ives. Orono, ME: Maine UP, 2000.

Rogers, Tim. “Book reviews.” Rev. of Folksongs of New Brunswick. Canadian Ethnic Studies 23.3 (1991): 174.