Episode 162: America’s Greatest Sack of Flour

I may earn money from the participating companies linked in this post: Bookshop.org (supporting my nearby independent bookstore Bluebird & Co, in Crozet, VA) and/or Audible. My podcast is sponsored by Audible and Care/Of.

Can you imagine going to Nevada looking for a get rich quick scheme?


I would like to take this moment to point out that “food” spelled backwards is “doof”. As in “doofus“. That is all. Carry on.

This is the Mike the Chicken of cooking ingredients.


Colt’s Manufacturing Company:

shooty shoot shoot


founded 1855 as Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company: official site — They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2015.


“John Brown’s Body”:

First, who the hell is John Brown? Well, his capture of the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, is considered to be one of the triggers for the Civil War. He was found guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, several counts of first-degree murder, and inciting an insurrection among Virginia slaves, and hanged within a month of his capture in 1859.

This song has a strange, Dollop-y history. It initially was a song whose ever-changing lyrics were used to tease a Scotsman who belonged to the Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, an ongoing in-joke to boost morale. Then it was co-opted, and some verses rewritten, to be about the abolitionist John Brown, who was captured at Harpers Ferry. To muddy the waters, several people claimed they wrote it, in true American spirit (it ain’t ‘Murica! without someone claiming copyright or challenging patent, or yelling “me too!” and “me first!”)

Battle Hymn of the Republic
Selection of lyrics:

from civilwar.org:

John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave; (x3)

His soul’s marching on!


Glory, halle – hallelujah!  Glory, halle – hallelujah!

Glory, halle – hallelujah!  his soul’s marching on!


He’s gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord! (x3)

His soul’s marching on!


John Brown’s knapsack is strapped upon his back! (x3)

His soul’s marching on!


His pet lambs will meet him on the way;  (x3)

They go marching on!


They will hang Jeff. Davis to a tree!  (x3)

As they march along!


Now, three rousing cheers for the Union;  (x3)

As we are marching on!

Questions and remarks about this set:

his backpack: it’s probably going to be pretty funky and useless, given that he is “mouldering”, so why waste a perfectly good verse on it, eh?

“lambs”: Biblical reference to Heaven, or reference to Brown’s prowess with the ladies? As in, he is going to be reunited with all his bitches, y’all done messed up now?

next lyric is “They will hang Jeff Davis to a tree!” His lambs? Heaven’s lambs wouldn’t hang anyone, physical lambs’ legs are too stubby…so my vote is that “they” is Brown’s bitches…which I am adding to the band list for this episode.

“John Brown’s Body”, in one of its incarnations, was performed first in public in 1861. Abolitionist Julia Ward Howe got her creativity on, and wrote new words to the tune, penning the version that you probably know it by, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. That’s right. Look at any version of the lyrics of “John Brown’s Body” and sing it to “the glory, glory, hallelujah/grapes of wrath song”.

Tah-dah! You already knew it and you didn’t know you knew it! (America’s forgotten motto)

Also, note the “Army of the Lord”? This is where the Flour Parade got its idiosyncratic name.

More gruesome lyrics:

Old John Brown’s body is a-mouldering in the dust,
Old John Brown’s rifle ís red with blood-spots turned to rust,
Old John Brown’s pike has made its last, unflinching thrust,
His soul is marching on!

Um, a little iffy on the science with this one, but okay.

Also, was pike combat used in the Civil War?

John Brown’s Body, American Experience, PBS: also has a florid, hymn-like  ballad’s lyrics, which looks like the author reverse-engineered “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I call bullshit, because there is zero repetition, and high use of 19th century hymnal grammar–

heavy on the “o’er”s, “surely”s, and “e’er”s–

there were no battle-weary boys marching to that to keep up morale, nohow.

Mark Twain immortalized the entire Kflour Kardashian story in his book Roughing it. (You were thinking it: this bag of flour made a ton of money by doing nothing but riding on some guy’s shoulders.)

(I am so unreasonably proud of that joke. Join me in my glowing moment of pride. Ahhhh. Doesn’t that feel good?)

both on the National Register of Historic Places:

Stockton, CA: the Rueul Colt Gridley Monument (marks the site of his grave) “in gratitude for services rendered” (and cakes rendered, yo)

Austin, NV: Gridley Store, 247 Water Street


Band names from this episode:

  • Patriotic Cakes
  • Sponge and Broom (think Toad the Wet Sprocket)
  • Faux Repeat Auction
  • Brown’s Bitches (you know it)

Dollop Pages: FoodFood: Bread

Back to Top