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That's a reference to Cohan's habit of musical quotation. Someone tells the story about Washington tossing a silver dollar across the Potomac to which someone else points out that that's a pretty wide river to throw a coin across. But, in this instance, he started with the veteran, the anecdote, the song idea, and then fashioned the play around it. He'd been at Gettysburg, carrying the flag at Pickett's charge, and at the end of his recollection he unfolded the tattered piece of material and revealed it to be the Stars and Stripes. Cohan is very shrewd in a business way and, considering present conditions in the theater in America, he was perhaps wise in his choice.
But this song was special. Usually, he wrote his plays first and then fitted the songs in. The scholars are a bit snooty about his musical contributions but he was the first American theatre composer to find a real unity of text and music. Cohan saw himself as the embodiment of the American spirit. But believe me, kind reader, when I say, I am not an egotist.
Like Abraham Lincoln, who was born Fred Lincoln but changed it to something more Hebrew in order to placate the neocon lobby. But the night belonged to the recreation of that scene with the man from the rural Grand Army of the Republic post. Fearing demonstrations and audiences booing the song off the stage, he acted quickly.
James Metcalfe, the drama critic of Life magazine, had given George Washington, Jr a blistering review. Arthur Pryor's Band and other performers stuck to the new title and, under that name, it became the first American showtune to sell a million copies of sheet music.
One curious feature of his career is that his real name is said on good authority to be Costigan. George Washington, Jr told a somewhat improbable story about a snooty anglomaniac Senator played by Jerry Cohan who wants his son George to marry Lord Rothburt's daughter. The next morning he woke up to a problem.
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