Where Is the Swanee River That Ira Gershwin Wrote About and How Did it Get its Name?

In the first draft of his 1851 song “The Old Folks At Home,” Stephen Foster’s river was the Pedee.

But that didn’t work so he searched an atlas and found the Suwannee River, which he shortened to Swanee.

In 1919, Gershwin and Irving Caesar reused the name in the Jolson classic and made the Swanee the most famous river that never existed.

Al Jolson sang about it, and Stephen Foster and Ira Gershwin wrote popular songs about the Swanee River.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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