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The Play-Party in Indiana. 115
.The presence of certain play-party games among the negro young people of Louisiana indicates that the white people knew these dances until rather recently.18
Mr. Newell, speaking of the amusements in New England towns a generation ago, says: "In these, dancing was confined to one or two balls in the course of the year. At other times the amusements of young people at their gatherings was 'playing games' . . . Such were the pleasures of young men and women from sixteen to twenty-five years of age."19
When I find traces of the play-party in districts so widely scattered, and in only remote places, and then consider how rapidly it has disappeared in many of these places, I am led to believe that the play-party was once an important feature of practically all the rural and especially the frontier life in the United States.20
The very nature of the play-party explains why it has been overlooked by writers of the past21 and by folklorists of more recent time. The interest in folk poetry as literature is modern. Even at present, the collectors find that the persons who know and enjoy the folk-songs are reticent about broaching the subject to strangers. Furthermore, the play-party itself does not attract attention in the local newspapers.
In view of these facts, I think we need not consider the lack of records as absolute proof that the play-party was not existing long ago. However, these facts do indicate, it seems to me, that the environment in certain localities has been rather favorable to the development of American folk-games away from their English originals. By virtue of changes that have been made, I am inclined to believe that there has developed an American folk-dance which is distinctive and which is not, as Mr. Sharp would have us believe, merely a copy of that of England or of any other country.22
18 Henry C. Davis. Jour. Am. Folk-lore, vol. XXVII, pp. 249-254.
19 Games and Songs, p. 5.
20 Mr. Miller, (Univ. Stud, of Univ. of Cincinnati. Vol. I, p. 31) and Mr. Newell (Games and Songs, pp. 5-6-12) think the play-party was formerly very widely known.
21 In the Music Master of Playford, 1668, only three or four of the folk melodies were left in their original form and until recently the folk-music of England was virtually unknown to musicians.
22 In his lectures in Chicago, April 13 and 14, 1915, Mr. Sharp said that the United States had no folk-lore of its own. for all of that which at first seemed to have originated here could be traced back to some other country. Although he deplored our barren fate, he did suggest that Americans turn for inspiration to the folk-music of England, "for," to use his own words, "the songs are at least in your own tongue."