“On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away”


"'Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields... But one thing there is missing from the picture, Without her face it seems so incomplete." The singer misses his mother and his sweetheart Mary, left in the graveyards of his home on the Wabash


This piece is now Indiana's state song. Dresser (originally Dreisser; he was Theodore Dreisser's brother), who ran away to join a medicine show rather than enter the priesthood, was also the author of "The Letter That Never Came" and "The Pardon Came Too Late."

According to Sigmund Spaeth, _A History of Popular Music in America_, pp. 276-277, Dresser was "widely remembered as one of the most lovable characters in the history of Tin Pan Alley. A huge mountain of a man, with a heart as big as his body, his generosity was notorious. Whatever he had he shared with others, and most of his debtors never paid him back.... Like most of the songwriters of his day, Paul Dresser had a throroughly naive outlook on life.... He believes the sentimentalities he put into his songs."

Spaeth considers 1895 to be the peak of his career; in that year he produced "Just Tell Them That You Saw Me," described as "enormously popular" though it has had little impact on tradition.

It was Theodore Dreisser who suggested to his brother that he write a river song about Indiana, and this was the result.

Spaeth, p. 281, says that "by 1903 the Dresser gift had definitely declined," and he started to try to work the business end of the music trade. But Dresser, no businessman, managed to die in poverty in 1906 despite many hits. Spaeth, p. 282, cleaims that he died "at the home of his sister in Brooklyn, where he had been living for some time in obscurity. Regardless of any physician's diagnosis, hismalady was a broken heart." - RBW


  1. Dean, p. 117, "Banks of the Wabash" (1 text)
  2. Silber-FSWB, p. 45, "On the Banks of the Wabash" (1 text)
  3. Geller-Famous, pp. 166-169, "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Roud #9595
  5. BI, FSWB045


Author: Paul Dresser (1857-1906)
Earliest date: 1899 (sheet music)
Found in: US(MW)