I received a CD for Xmas - Mark Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia and was captivated by the track of the same name. First its a great piece of music and second I love music that has an historical story that connects me emotionally with the past - Al Stewart, for example, is my favorite song-writer.
But as I first listened to the track, I realised that as a Brit, although I had heard of the Mason-Dixon line - I had no idea what it was. A Google search and I quickly knew the basic historical facts of the Mason Dixon line.
Jeremiah Dixon and Charles Mason were commissioned in 1763 by the heirs of William Penn and Lord Baltimore to establish the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Many years later their boundary - the Mason-Dixon Line - became the demarcation between the slave and non-slave states.
But interestingly in my search I found other people who had been inspired like me by the song to conduct similar research. Take a look at this page from Ian Gurney in Finland
This says it all - everything I wanted to know wrapped up in one web page by a Eurpoean who had the same questions in his mind as me. Or read this article by Paul Briand of the Portsmouth Herald where he says:
"What is wonderful in all this is the power of surprise and exploration. I bought a CD on the hope it would contain a song or two of interest. Instead, to my delight, I found a path of information unknown, undiscovered."
So if you are intrigued go take a look and I wonder if Jeremiah Dixon and Charlie Mason when sailing to Philadelpha in 1763 ever realised just how well known they would become.