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“Little Annie Rooney”

‘Something to warm us up,’ Laura asked, and the fiddle, gay and bright, began to warm them up. Pa played and sang, ‘Little Annie Rooney is My Sweetheart!’ and ‘The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used Be,’ till even Ma’s toes were keeping time to it…. — The Long Winter, Chapter 12, “Alone”

AAlthough included in both the manuscript and published The Long Winter, “Little Annie Rooney” was written almost a decade after the historical Hard Winter of 1880-1881 in Dakota Territory. While the fictional Ingalls family sang this song during that winter, there is no way the historical Ingalls family could have done so.

“Little Annie Rooney” was written and composed in 1889 by Michael Nolan. It was introduced in English music halls and brought to New York. Annie Hart sang the song in “The Bowery Girl,” first performed in the London Theater in New York. When it became a big hit, Nolan was unable to collect royalties on the piece due to no international copyright law at the time; he became so bitter that he gave up his career as a composer.


1. A winning way, a pleasant smile,
Dress’d so neat but quite in style,
Merry chaff your time to wile,
Has little Annie Rooney;
Ev’ry ev’ning, rain or shine,
I will make a call ‘twixt eight and nine,
On her who shortly will be mine,
Little Annie Rooney.

[chorus] She’s my sweetheart, I’m her beau,
She’s my Annie, I’m her Joe.
Soon we’ll marry never to part,
Little Annie Rooney is my sweetheart!

2. The parlor’s small but neat and clean,
And set with taste so seldom seen,
And you can bet the household queen,
Is Little Annie Rooney!
The fire burns cheerfully and bright,
As a family circle ’round, each night
We form, and ev’ry one’s delight,
Is little Annie Rooney.

3. We’ve been engaged close on a year,
The happy time is drawing near,
I’ll wed the one I love so dear,
Little Annie Rooney!
My friends declare I am in jest,
Until the time comes will not rest,
But one who knows its value best,
Is little Annie Rooney.

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Click on the above images to view a copy of original sheet music for “Little Annie Rooney.”

This music is archived in the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708-0185 USA.. The Historic American Sheet Music Program provides access to music published in the United States between 1850 and 1920.    


“Little Annie Rooney” (TLW 12)
     “Little Annie Rooney is my sweetheart”