According to Ed Cray in the second edition of The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs
, "She Was Poor But She Was Honest" was originally "a bathetic lament, sung with tongue in cheek by English music hall singers" and probably dates from the latter half of the 19th
Century. There are numerous versions; when it crossed the Atlantic, it was adapted as a jibe at James Folsom.
"Kissing Jim" Folsom who died as recently as 1987 was Governor of Alabama 1947-51. He was also known as "Big Jim" because at 6 feet 8 he was even taller than Jim Garrison, the District Attorney whose fanciful conspiracy theories
inspired the Johnny Rebel song "Keep A Workin' Big Jim
James Elisha Folsom Senior was also a populist who ran as "the little man's big friend." According to Ed Cray he was also a racial liberal and said on one occasion that at the age of 18, "I spent a lot of time below decks on freighters crossing the Atlantic. I slept and ate with men of different colors from all over the world... There are a lot more important things about a man than the color of his skin."
While his allusion to sleeping with men of different colors is not to be taken literally, the claim that he sired a child out of wedlock is, a charge that apparently he never denied.