STATEHOUSE – The centennial celebration of Indiana’s state song was recognized today with a resolution in the Indiana House of Representatives. State Representative Bob Heaton (R-Terre Haute) authored the resolution commemorating songwriter Paul Dresser and presented it to the Executive Director from Art Spaces, Inc., Mary Kramer.
“Today, Indiana recognizes an astounding part of our state’s history; the 100 year anniversary our state song. As Indiana’s first official emblem, adopted four years before the state flag, the music symbolizes more than a world renowned song, it is intertwined in the very fabric of our Hoosier heritage,” said Rep. Heaton on the House floor.
Paul Dresser, born in Terre Haute on April 22, 1858, is remembered as one of the best songwriters of his time. Inspired by the Hoosier landscape, Dresser was raised on his family farm located next to the Wabash River.
After his childhood, Dresser moved to New York City and wrote many songs working at Howley, Haviland & Company music firm. Away from his family, he often reminisced of times he spent on the farm or walking along the Wabash inspiring him to compose, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” in 1897. The song was published and later became the second, best-selling song in the 19th-Century.
“As a Terre Haute resident and legislator, Paul Dresser’s life has closely impacted my own, and I consider it a privilege to author this resolution honoring such an extraordinary person on this historic day,” said Rep. Heaton.
On March 14, 1913, the 68th Indiana General Assembly adopted the song officially and it was signed into law by Governor Winfield Durbin. As part of the Indiana Code, Indiana’s lawmakers held a joint session to sing the historic music and passed legislation in 1925 requiring public school instructors to teach it. The song is widely used during state government ceremonial events like the inauguration of the governor.
After Dresser passed away in 1906, the New York Daily News called Paul Dresser in his obituary “the greatest of American popular song writers” and was eulogized as the “ballad maker of a nation.” Additionally, the Songwriters Hall of Fame calls him “one of the most important composers of the 1890s.”
“We are pleased for Dresser and his legacy to be honored in this way, and we all need and rely on music in our lives, but often forget those that create it,” said Director Kramer. “Indiana has so much to be proud of, and the Wabash is a beautiful and unique natural resource. Dresser's music has created a lasting tribute that even 100 years later can be appreciated and celebrated, and we are grateful to Representative Heaton and the legislature and wish everyone in Indiana a happy Paul Dresser Day from Terre Haute.”
Kramer is working with Art Spaces Board members and others in the community to honor Paul Dresser and the state song through a work of public art in Terre Haute's Fairbanks Park.
Visit www.in.gov/legislative for more information about House Resolution 28 or visit http://www.wabashvalleyartspaces.com/pauldresser.html for more information about Paul Dresser and Indiana’s state song.