We Don’t Know Where We’re Going But We’re On Our Way

We Don’t Know Where We’re Going But We’re On Our Way, 1917

W.R. Williams (Composer and Lyricist); Frank Henri Klickmann, 1885-1966 (Arranger); William Austin Starmer, 1872-1955 (Illustrator); Will Rossiter, Chicago (Publisher)

Song Sheet, lithograph on paper

On loan from the Joseph M. Bruccoli Great War Collection, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of South Carolina

In 1898, humorist Finley Peter Dunne created the Irish character of Mr. Dooley in response to a battle in the Spanish-American War. Mr. Dooley, who gave his witty takes on political and social issues, was a national phenomenon. His phrase “We don’t know where we’re going, but we’re on our way” became a mainstream reaction to American intervention. Still used in common parlance by World War I, songwriter W.R. Williams turns the phrase from one of negativity surrounding foreign engagements to one of confidence.

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