The popular song "Low Bridge, Everybody Down" was written by Thomas S. Allen (although some have questioned its origins ), recorded in 1912, and published by F.B. Haviland Publishing Company in 1913. It was written after the construction of the New York State Barge Canal, which would replace the Erie Canal, was well underway, furthering the change from mule power to engine power, raising the speed of traffic. Also known as "Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal", "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal", "Erie Canal Song", "Erie Barge Canal", and "Mule Named Sal", the song memorializes the years from 1825 to 1880 when the mule barges made boomtowns out of Utica, Rome, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, and transformed New York into the Empire State.
The music cover published in 1913 depicts a boy on a mule getting down to pass under a bridge, but the reference to "low bridge" in the song refers to travelers who would typically ride on top of the boats. The low bridges would require them to get down out of the way to allow safe passage under a bridge.
Early 20th century recordings of the song include ones by Billy Murray, Vernon Dalhart, and Jack Narz. The song has become part of the folk repertoire, recorded by folksingers like Glenn Yarborough, Pete Seeger and the Weavers, The Kingston Trio, the children's series VeggieTales, and artists like the Sons of the Pioneers. Dan Zanes included it on a children's album with Suzanne Vega singing lead. Bruce Springsteen recorded the song on his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. The cartoon series Animaniacs parodied "Low Bridge" with their song about the Panama Canal. The lyrics are also the text of the book The Erie Canal (1970), illustrated by Peter Spier.