Origin of the word "Dixie"
Date: Sat, 22 Jun 1996 12:16:16 -0400
From: Richard A Straw <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In an Elderhostel class on images and stereotypes of the South I just finished teaching the question of the origin of the word Dixie came up. The Encycl. of Southern Culture doesn't say much about the origins of the word. Why did Emmett call South Dixie? Someone suggested it was related to the Mason-Dixon Line, one man thought it had French origins, since the Dixie cup comes from a French word meaning little cup. Anyone know anything about this incredibly trivial issue? Thanks in advance.
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 12:00:46 -0400
From: email@example.com (Ari Kelman)
In regard to the origin of the term Dixie, this may be apocryphal, but here is what I have heard down here in New Orleans. One of the more stable antebellum southern banks was located in the Crescent City -- I am afraid that I do not know the bank's name -- and apparently its paper currency was accepted throughout much of the of the Mississippi Valley. I suppose the most common note was the ten spot or dix -- many of New Orleans's institutions continued to transact business in French through the Civil War. I am told that this dix note spawned the term dixie. Take the story for what you will; I wouldn't want to bank on it (sorry, I couldn't help myself).
Brown University, Department of History firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 12:04:13 -0400
From: Jeff Quinton <email@example.com>
It came from Dix, French for ten, which appeared on ten-dollar notes in New Orleans. The notes were called "Dixies"
P. Jefferson Quinton
Laurens, South Carolina
I have now received many posts on this topic, all containing basicaly the same information. Unless new discussion on this topic surfaces, I will not forward similar posts.
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 1996 14:39:06 -0400
From: David Perry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John Reed mentioned to me that Howard and Judy Sacks's book "Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family's Claim to the Southern Anthem" (Smithsonian, 1993) explores several explanations for the origins of the word "Dixie."
David Perry voice: 919-966-3561 ext. 240 University of North Carolina Press PO Box 2288, Chapel Hill, NC 27515 email@example.com http://sunsite.unc.edu/uncpress
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 1996 09:03:43 -0400
It is time for me to jump into this discussion since my dissertation at the University of Mississippi was entitled" *"Dixie" : the Cultural History of a Song and Place.*
I am currently in the process of revisions and preparation for publication. I take the song and term through its various manifestions and uses over time, from Dan Emmett's introduction of it in Bryants' minstrel troupe on the even of the War, to the present. Dixie has exhibited variation, and will continue to evolve. I hope my book will have the impact of transforming the understanding of the song, and I expect there will be changes in how people feel comfortable and uncomfortable with the song.
There are 3 basic stories for the word origin.
- Dix bank notes. This is the most common story, but it is totally inaccurate and in fact was promoted early in the 20th century by a New Orleans bank.
- Mason/Dixon line. This version has frequently been presented without much popularity, but it was an argument for previous use of the term for the South. There is no indication that the South was called Dixie prior to the song.
- Mr. Dixie's Plantation Basically this is a mythic story, as Emmett himself said when asked: that there was a kindly master who freed/sold his slaves and they longed to go back to Dixie's Land. This was the most widely used interpretation in the mid-to-late 19th century, although sometimes with a specific place as "historic" accuracy. This is in fact the correct origin, but it is a fairly complex story (you have to wait on my book for the full details.) The word was used prior to the song as a minstrel show male name, there are indications of "real" (as opposed to coaled) Black men having been named Dixie, and African-American use of the term. The idea of a mythic place has had long lasting impact in how the term continued to be applied.
The word was attached to the South after the song, and it spread quite rapidly so that by very early in the War the South was known as Dixie much to the alarm of the Southern elite.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 1996 09:02:18 -0400
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Lawrence N. Powell)
A postscript to the dix note thread. The New Orleans bank in question was probably the Citizens Bank.
Lawrence N. Powell
Department of History
New Orleans, LA 70118
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 09:14:58 -0400
From: Richard A Straw <email@example.com>
Thanks to everyone who responded to my question about Dixie. Since everything that was noted was also in several encyclopedias I consulted that must be the extent of it.