1. Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley, the area around 28th Street and Fifth Avenue, is famous as the home of song writers and publishers. For more than half a century, beginning in the late 1800s, the name was synonymous with American popular music.

What’s the Erie Canal connection? In 1905 a Tin Pan Alley songwriter named Thomas Allen published sheet music for a tune called “Low Bridge, Everybody Down.” The piece begins, “I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal . . .” It became the classic Erie Canal song, offering a nostalgic look backward at a time when mules were being phased out. Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and countless millions of school children have sung the song down the decades.

Jack Kelly is the author of Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal (St. Martin’s Press), a lively account of the canal and the many excitement generated along its banks. Next, read about the Secrets of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal.