Thursday, June 23, 2022

Examples Of Autograph Book Rhymes (comments & examples from Mudcat Folk Music Forum)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part pancocojams series on comments about and examples of autograph book verses. 

This post presents some comments and examples from a mudcat folk music forum discussion thread that I started Sept. 30, 2009.

Click for Part II of this pancocojams series. That post presents examples of autograph book verses from websites other than Mudcat folk music forum.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and historical purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.


Selected comments from 

Pancocojams Editor's Note: I started this discussion thread in 2009. As of June 23, 2022 (the date that this pancocojams post is published) that mudcat discussion thread is still open for additional comments.

While I was an active member of Mudcat forum, I was the only African American* and one of very few other Persons Of Color (POC) who was a member of that forum. Consequently, it's probable that all Mudcat members (but not all guests) who posted to that forum were White. If I recollect correctly, when I was active on that forum (from August 2009 to Nov. 2014) , one Person of Color who was active on that forum was from China and two POCs were from Australia. A Nigerian man who posted on my then active cultural website joined Mudcat, but only posted there a very short while. To my knowledge, while I was active on that forum, with the above exceptions, all other Mudcat members were White men or White women from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany Australia, New Zealand, and Australia.

*When I was an active member of Mudcat, I received a private message from a member who shared with me that he was Black, but didn't want anyone else on that forum to know that. (His screen name gave no hint about his race and he never posted on any discussion thread about racial issues. Consequently, when I enumerate the number of People of Color who were Mudcat members during the time I was active on that forum, I don't really count that man.

I made minor changes to my first comment in this pancocojams compilation for clarity's purposes. 

Numbers are added to this pancocojams compilation for referencing purposes only.

Notice that in the 1950s and 1960s (Atlantic City, New Jersey) "autograph books" were called "autograph albums".

1. "While reading several archived Mudcat threads, I found some interesting examples of children's sampler rhymes (rhymes included on children's needlework embroidery).

Those examples prompted memories of children's autograph albums-the rhymes that children either remembered or made up and wrote in their classmate's books designed for that function. I recall when I graduated from high school (in New Jersey in 1965) that my fellow graduates and other students chose not to buy the small books with blank pages that were called “autograph albums” because we considered autograph albums to be kids' stuff. But we still signed our names and sometimes added a rhyme in other graduates' year books.

I recall looking for autograph books a few years ago, as I thought they might be a nice end of year gift for the children my daughter taught who were graduating from elementary school. But the only books that were even somewhat similar were children's diaries (they were the same size as I recall autograph albums to be, and they had blank pages). But I chose not to purchase them because there weren't enough of them for sale. Besides which my daughter told me that children wouldn't know what to do with them, since they didn't know any autograph rhymes, and "kids hadn't done that" even when she graduated from high school in 1991 and undergraduate university in 1995. It struck me then that she was right. I don't recall her having autograph albums. I wondered how that could have escaped me. And now I wonder if children anywhere still remember or make up rhymes that they sign into autograph books.

That said, the purpose of this thread is to share examples of children's autograph album rhymes. This thread also provides opportunities to discuss the custom of signing autograph albums.

I've added the custom of writing epitaphs to this thread because it seems to me that there is a relationship between the custom of children making up or choosing rhymes they have learned for autograph albums and individuals' writing rhymes for their graveyard markers. Consequently, this thread also provides opportunities to share examples of & comments about epitaphs.

This thread also provides opportunities to share examples of sampler rhymes, though I didn't have enough room to add that to this thread's title.

I'll start this thread off by posting some examples of autograph album rhymes that I remember. I'll also post some autograph album rhymes and related sampler rhymes that I found on an archived Mudcat thread."
-Azizi,  30 Sep 09 - 08:27 AM,, Autograph Album Rhymes & Epitaphs [hereafter given as "mudcat: autograph album rhymes"

2. "Here are two examples of autograph rhymes that my mother taught me:

Love many.
Trust few.
And always paddle your own canoe.

There are gold ships
And silver ships
But the best ship
Is friendship.

I got the impression that my mother and her classmates signed autograph books at the end of school throughout their entire school years-including when they or others graduated from high school. But I could be wrong about that."
-Azizi, 30 Sep 09 - 08:35 AM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes

3. Here's a rhyme that I remember from childhood:

2 good

2 b

4 got 10

It's interesting that this use of numbers in place of words predates by some years that same use of numbers in internet writing and text messaging."
-Azizi, 30 Sep 09 - 08:45 AM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes

4. A post written by Malcolm Douglas in this Mudcat thread thread.cfm?threadid=74217&messages=22 "Origins: 'Johnson Johnson is my name' A MYSTERY!" led me to this example of a sampler that was embroidered by a 15 year old English girl in 1799:

"Mary Hornby his my/ Name and england is/ My Nation Eirsby is/ My dwelling place/ and heaven his my/ Expectation AP 19/ age/ 15/ 1799/ finis/ hd work at Spridlington school"

-Mary Hornby, Spridlington School, Eirsby, England, 1799
-Azizi, 30 Sep 09 - 09:00 AM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes

5. "
I've learned from reading that "Origins: 'Johnson Johnson is my name'.." thread that there are a number of samplers, epitaphs, as well as songs and rhymes that include that formulaic verse as was found in the teenage girl's sampler that I referenced in my last post.

For example, that verse is found in the notes to "I Am A Little Orphan Girl, a song that is included in the Digital Tradition:

Rodger Lang Strang (1948), 27, as a line game;
continued with a rhyme properly belonging to the class
of book rhymes: When I'm dead and in my grave,/ And all
my bones are rotten,/ This little book shall tell my
name/ When I am quite forgotten./ Jeannie Rodger is my
name;/ Dundee is my nation;/ Heaven is my dwelling-
place/ And holy habitation.
Cf. White Paternoster, etc.; FSJ pt. 22, 86-89.


Also, that formulaic verse is included as part of a long song (which I actually think is a series of children's rhymes) that a New York City boy shared with a Federal Writers Project worker in 1938:

Johnson, Johnson is my name
Brooklyn is my station
Heaven is my resting place
God is my salvation!"

from "Johnny Billy", recited by George [Poohepka?], collected by Fred Romanofsky; American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940

Thanks in advance for your participation in this thread."
-Azizi, 30 Sep 09 - 09:19 AM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes

6. "Here's another autograph rhyme that my mother taught me from her childhood or youth:

Don't make love by the garden gate.
Love may be blind
But the neighbors ain't.

And here's a very common autograph rhyme that I may have learned from my mother or picked up somewhere else along the way:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Sugar is sweet
And so are You.

[notice that back in the 1950s and 1960s we didn't use letters as substitutes for words in this rhyme. Nowadays, if that rhyme is used at all, a lot of times it's probably written like this:

Roses R red
Violets R blue
Sugar is Sweet
And so are U."
-Azizi, 30 Sep 09 - 1:09 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

7. "I found that scribbled inside the binding of one of my mom's text books

She was in school from 1934 - 1946

Love is patient
love is kind
love is gentle
love is blind

Never kiss
by the garden gate
Love may be blind
but the neighbors ain't"
-VirginiaTam, 30 Sep 09 - 02:30 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

8. Thanks for sharing those rhymes, Virgina Tam.

I should have mentioned that the years my mother was in school were from the 1930s to the early 1940s.

Also, my mother is (and I am) African American.

My sense is that there were very little racial/ethnic differences in the USA between examples of autograph rhymes."
-Azizi, 30 Sep 09 - 3:28 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

9. "I remember the

2 good (or cute or nice)
2 B
4 got 10

I am certain there were more clever little ditties in my school year books, but I can't remember them and I don't have the books anymore."
-VirginiaTam, 30 Sep 09 - 3:45 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

10. "A variant from my WWii schooldays [yes I really am that old] —

Roses are red
You are sweet
Sugar is rationed
And so is meat


All a bit historical now..."
-MGM·Lion, 01 Oct 09 - 01:10 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

11.  "By way of comment on the autograph book practice, my mother (high school class of 1934) had one, with most of the rhymes possibly derivatives from popular songs of the preceding decade or so.

My father (high school class of 1932) didn't have an autograph book, but he did have a mandolin so maybe he played the songs.

At my own junior high final year (1954) a few of the girls circulated autograph books for signings, but almost none of the boys knew (or could make up) anything clever enough to sign in them, so the circulation and signing quickly became a "girl thing" despite a few half-hearted attempts by a very few girls to induce a fewer number of the boys to sign one.

There were isolated "graduation pictures" found in my parents' records, but it appeared that individual pictures were very rare. It was common by then to have a "class picture" taken of each graduating class. Because of the small class sizes, my father's "class picture" included four years from three schools and still only got to about 80 individuals in the photo.

By the mid 1950s, and probably sometime before, it became almost universal for high schools to produce annual year books, with (usually) individual pictures, by class, of all the students. The individual pictures for the graduating class were customarily larger than for following classes in each book. The practice of taking "class pictures" with all members of a class in one picture largely disappeared in schools in my area (class sizes 300 and up to 800+) but may have persisted in smaller schools.

In my class, a small but significant number of the students skipped the earlier yearbooks, but nearly all bought a copy of their Senior yearbook.

The almost universal availability of the year books, that students could pass around to exchange autographs, quite probably was a significant factor in the disappearance of autograph books. The disappearance of rhymes and other "fancies" was concurrent with the appearance of the year books, but whether the cramped space in which one could "sign their picture" was a factor, or whether homilies of the older kind just fell out of fashion would be hard to say.

It might be obvious that "yearbook autographs" would fall within the scope of the present solicitation, but the gleanings from them may be sparse.

-JohnInKansas, 09 Feb 11 - 10:25 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

12. "I've just removed my grandmother's autograph book from it's acid-free wrapping.

It is 7x9" covered in paper that looks like leather - 2 corners are torn & show the cotton wool? padding & paper & cardboard underneath. It has Album written across the cover.

The cover is a dull crimson & the end papers are marbled in red & gold.

It was a present from her brother Cecil in 1918 on her 16th birthday. Entries are in elegant copperplate hands.

It was given to my mother in 1937 when she was 12, & I received it when I was 10 in 1962, so it has 3 generations of signatures & verses & some beautiful drawings. As one of the 1943 entries refers to my mother's sister, perhaps she owned it in her time.

Some pages have frames & lines for use, others are blank.

In 1919 one of my grandmothers friends drew the head of a woman wearing a very elegant cap. Another painted a sprig of a delicate white flower.

In 1946 one of my mother's friends contributed pencil drawings of Donald Duck as devil & angel.


Original entries

from another of my grandmother's older brothers -

Kind words cost Little
But mean much.

another verse from 1918 -

God made man,
His first thought;
God made woman,
His second thought;
As second thoughts are best
Here's to the ladies!!


Entries by my mother's contemporaries (the writing is not so elegant)

(simple drawing of a thumb tack)

He who sits on this
Shall shurely (sic) rise

(mum's sister, aged 11, 1943)

Good friends are like diamonds
Precious and rare
Bad friends are like Autumn Leaves
Found everywhere (1939)

Ladies afternoon Tea Party

Get (1938)

Mary had a hobbled skirt
tied tightly in
a bow, and Every-
that Mary
went she simply
couldn't go

(1939 but obviously referring to early years - before WWI)


my contemporaries

Make new friends
But keep the old
New friends are silver
Old friends are gold. (1962)

When God first made the world
He made man the stongest? (sic)
But just to give the girls a chance
He made their tounges the longest (my 8 year old sister)

'tounges' corrected with a 'u' inserted between 'g' & 'e'


Down in a valley
Carved on a rock
Are tree (sic) little words   (tree is corrected to three)
forget-me-not (10 year old friend)


One part of me sez. why was I given this precious book when I was 10, another part is pleased to see names I've almost, or sometimes, totally forgotten!

-Sandra in Sydney, 10 Feb 11 - 03:13 AM,  mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

13. "This thread brings back memories.

 In mine someone stuck a 1d stamp, and wrote across it
By Gum, it's stuck.

Other entries

Make new friends but keep the old
They are silver these are gold

Maureen Brown is your name
England is your nation
Happy may the young man be
Who makes the alteration

After a full back page of 'I'll be last' couplets came

Did you ever discover
I could write on the cover.

Not sure if it was written in my book but my mother had a couple of puzzles. The one already quoted- 2Ys UR, 2YsUB, ICUR, 2Ysfor me. and

If the B mt put :
If the B . putting :
-Mo the caller, 06 Oct 11 - 06:20 AM,  mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

14. "Nobody has so far contributed that classic

[obvious stage-direction implied

When on this page you look,
When on this page you frown,
Remember the friend who spoilt your book
By writing upside-down!

-MGM·Lion, 28 Apr 12 - 01:03 AM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 

15. "
I found this one in a book somewhere.


Remember Grant
Remember Lee
To heck with them
Remember ME!


Grant and Lee being famous war generals."
-GUEST,Spook2012, 30 May 12 - 09:05 PM, mudcat: autograph album rhymes 
This is the last comment that is posted to that Mudcat discussion thread as of June 23, 2022 at 9:57 AM EDT

This concludes Part I of this pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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