Victor Herbert at His Desk

Victor Herbert often composed at a standing desk. The desk shown in this photograph is now on display in the Performing Arts Reading Room at the Library of Congress.

Victor Herbert at his desk, ca. 1915. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (002.00.00)

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Mr. and Mrs. Victor Herbert

In 1886, Herbert married star soprano Therese Förster, recently engaged as a leading lady at the Metropolitan Opera. Herbert was hired as first cellist in the Met Opera Orchestra and quickly became active in New York musical life. In the early years of their marriage, Therese Herbert-Förster, as she was known, was the greater star, but she soon retired to raise their two children.

Victor Herbert and Therese Herbert-Förster, 1887. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (004.00.00)

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Premiere of Herbert's Second Cello Concerto

Upon his arrival in the United States, Victor Herbert quickly established himself as a leading cello virtuoso. This program is from the premiere of his Second Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, which remains popular and is often played by cello soloists. New York Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Anton Seidl (1850–1898) was best known for conducting works by Richard Wagner (1813–1883), whose assistant he had once been. Composer Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) attended the concert, which inspired him to write his own Cello Concerto, Op. 104.

Philharmonic Society of New York concert program, March 10, 1894. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (005.00.00) (005.01.00)

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Victor Herbert and His Cello

Following the death of his father and his mother’s remarriage, Herbert’s family moved to Germany, where young Victor began studying music—the cello as well as composition. After graduating from the Stuttgart Conservatory in 1879, he performed in the court orchestra and traveled widely as a solo cellist; his first instrumental and vocal works were published during this time.

Victor Herbert with cello, 1887. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (006.00.00)

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First Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

In the late 1880s Herbert began to compose works that showcased his skill as a cello soloist, such as his first cello concerto. When he played it at a concert at the Metropolitan Opera House on January 8, 1887, the New York Tribune noted that “The ‘andante, serenade and tantelle’ from a suite of his own show not a little invention and are distinguished by good writing.” Herbert’s playing was also praised as being “infinitely more easy and graceful than that of most ‘cello players.”

Victor Herbert. First Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 8, 1894. Holograph manuscript score. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (007.00.00)

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Victor Herbert Orchestra Program, 1917

This program is for several "All Herbert" concerts given at Willow Grove Park by Victor Herbert and his orchestra. Regarded in the early part of the twentieth century as the "Summer Music Center of the United States," Willow Grove Park prominently featured Herbert's Orchestra, which spent several weeks there each summer, as did John Philip Sousa and His Band.

Victor Herbert Orchestra program, Willow Grove Park, Pennsylvania, July 11, 1917. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (08.00.00) (08.01.00)

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Victor Herbert Orchestra in Saratoga Springs

Each summer around the turn of the twentieth century, the Victor Herbert Orchestra was engaged for concerts at the luxurious Grand Union Hotel in the resort town of Saratoga Springs, New York. One of the largest hotels in the world, it attracted the wealthy elite of the time. The orchestra played several concerts a day, some of them on the hotel piazza, as shown in this photograph.

Victor Herbert Orchestra in Saratoga Springs, New York, 1899. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (09.00.00)

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Concerts at Willow Grove

Between 1901 and 1923, the Victor Herbert Orchestra spent several weeks each summer performing free outdoor concerts at Willow Grove Park. As this program shows, the concerts featured works by classical composers such as Richard Wagner, Peter Tchaikovsky, Felix Mendelssohn, and Antonin Dvorak, as well as Herbert's own works.

Program for Victor Herbert Orchestra performances at Willow Grove Park, Pennsylvania, August 14, 1914. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (10.00.00) (10.00.01)

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Herbert Relaxing Between Concerts

This photograph shows Herbert’s informal nature, as he escaped the brutal New Orleans heat in his underwear during a Herbert Orchestra tour in 1907. Although beloved by his musicians and regarded as one of the boys offstage, onstage Herbert was all business.

Victor Herbert in New Orleans, 1907. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (11.00.00)

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Victor Recording Company Advertisement

Herbert made many recordings for both the Victor and Edison Recording companies, both as conductor of his orchestra and as a cello soloist.

Victor Recording Company advertisement, 1924. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (12.00.00)

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Herbert Leading the Lambs Club Band

Herbert was an active and enthusiastic member of the New York theatrical club “The Lambs.” Each year members of the club would tour with a special show and donate proceeds to charity. Herbert (center) and the band are shown drumming up business for performances in the capital.

Victor Herbert Leading the Lambs Club Band, Washington, D.C., 1916. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (14.00.00)

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Herbert Orchestra Performs Messiah

Large semi-professional choruses, such as the Choral Society of Philadelphia, were engaged to perform with the Victor Herbert Orchestra during its many successful concerts at Willow Grove Park. This program is for four concerts given on August 13, 1914, including performances of the first and second parts of the oratorio Messiah, the most popular work by George Fridrich Handel.

Program for Victor Herbert Orchestra performances at Willow Grove Park, Pennsylvania, August 13, 1914. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (15.00.00) (15.01.00)

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Herbert in a Conducting Pose

Victor Herbert struck a characteristic pose as conductor for what is clearly a staged publicity photograph.

Victor Herbert, ca.1913. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (16.00.00)

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Drawing of Herbert by Enrico Caruso

The world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso (1873–1921) and Victor Herbert were good friends. Caruso was a gifted artist as well as singer and this drawing was a particular favorite of Herbert, who remarked, “He does not draw me as fat as others do!”

Enrico Caruso. Photoprint of pencil drawing, ca. 1912. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (18.00.00)

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Score for Irish Rhapsody

Always ready to promote all things Irish, Victor Herbert composed this rhapsody on favorite Irish melodies. The Irish Rhapsody remains a popular work with orchestras and bands throughout the world.

Victor Herbert. Irish Rhapsody, 1892. Holograph score. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (19.00.00)

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Herbert as Conductor of the 22nd Regimental Band

Beginning in 1893, Victor Herbert led the 22nd Regimental Band on popular tours of major U.S. cities as well as appearances at fairs and expositions. Herbert and his band were selected to be the chief performing ensemble at the inaugural festivities for President William McKinley in 1897.

Victor Herbert as conductor of the 22nd Regimental Band, 1898. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (20.00.00)

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Herbert Hit of 1913

A contemporary critic pronounced The Madcap Duchess, a love story set in eighteenth-century France, “as old-fashioned as a bunch of garden pinks, and as sweet.” The operetta has not enjoyed lasting success although it was considered a hit at the time and critics praised Herbert’s music.

Victor Herbert. The Madcap Duchess. Piano-vocal score cover. New York: Schirmer, 1913. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (21.00.00)

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Program for The Century Girl

With The Century Girl (1916), a lavish revue produced by Florenz Ziegfeld and Charles B. Dillingham, Herbert began working on a new kind of musical, more up to date than operetta. Herbert wrote half of the music for the revue, which set new standards of opulence and scenic display. The young and already famous Irving Berlin wrote the other half of the music.

Program for The Century Girl, November 6, 1916. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (22.00.00)

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The Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller (1898) is the most important work Herbert created during his first decade of work as a stage composer. After a brief tryout in Toronto, the show opened in New York to an enthusiastic reception. It toured the United States for almost a year and was presented in London in 1901 and Melbourne, Australia, in 1903. The plot involves a band of gypsies, and perhaps the operetta’s most famous number is “The Gypsy Love Song.”

Victor Herbert. The Fortune Teller. Facsimile of piano-vocal score cover. New York: Witmark, 1898. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (23.00.00)

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Posters for The Fortune Teller

This colorful and vivid poster is for the touring production of The Fortune Teller (1898), one of Herbert's most popular and beloved works. As the title suggests, the music has an exotic and Gypsy-like quality. One of the best-known songs in the musical is the "Gypsy Love Song." Alice Neilson (1872–1943), Victor Herbert's first great prima donna, became a Broadway star in Herbert's The Serenade (1897). After several years of touring with her own company during the early years of the twentieth century, Nielson became a celebrated grand opera star, who performed with the Metropolitan Opera, among other noted opera companies

Posters for Alice Nielson's production of The Fortune Teller. Lithograph. Cincinnati and New York: U.S. Lithograph, 1905. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (54.00.00) (54.00.01)

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Program for The New Fortune Teller

Opened on July 22, 1946, The New Fortune Teller combined music from The Fortune Teller (1898) and The Serenade (1897). It was authorized by Herbert’s daughter, Ella Herbert Bartlett, who spent her lifetime promoting her father’s work both in revivals and in new adaptations. She donated his collection to the Library of Congress.

Program for The New Fortune Teller, 1946. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (24.00.00)

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Herbert’s Popular Red Mill

When the show opened in September 1906, a reviewer wrote that “The Red Mill will grind its grist of mirth, music and melody for a long time to come.” Fulfilling his prophecy, the operetta ran for 274 performances in New York, a huge number for the time, and doubled that number when it was revived in 1945. It toured the country extensively after its premiere and is still frequently performed.

Victor Herbert. The Red Mill. New York: Witmark, 1906. Piano-vocal score cover. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (26.00.00)

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Revival of The Red Mill, 1940s

Victor Herbert’s popularity continued into the 1940s and beyond. This program is for a highly successful revival of The Red Mill at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The production, which opened on October 16, 1945, and closed on January 18, 1947, played for 531 performances. In May 1947, it opened at the Palace Theatre in London.

Program for Victor Herbert’s The Red Mill, Ziegfeld Theatre, New York, between 1945 and 1947 (55.00.00)
Courtesy of Martha Hopkins

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Highly Successful Operetta

Sweethearts (1913), one of Herbert’s most successful operettas, attracted much critical praise. For example, the New York Tribune said that the score was one of Herbert’s “most melodious and musicianly” and that the “beautiful” production was “an operetta to rejoice over.” Sweethearts toured for years and was revived in 1915, 1929, and 1947, when it ran for 288 performances.

Victor Herbert. Sweethearts. New York: Schirmer, 1913. Piano-vocal score cover. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (27.00.00)

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Film Version of Sweethearts

A whole new generation of musical comedy fans were introduced to Herbert’s music in the film version of Sweethearts, starring the popular Nelson Eddy (1901–1967) and Jeanette McDonald (1903–1965). The first MGM film made in Technicolor, it was one of the biggest box office hits of 1938.

Victor Herbert. “On Parade” from Sweethearts. Sheet music cover. New York: Schirmer, 1938. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (28.00.00)

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Herbert’s Last Operetta

Orange Blossoms, which opened in September 1922, was the last musical that Herbert composed. The libretto was by B. G. DeSylva (1895–1950), a popular songwriter who also wrote lyrics for some of George Gershwin’s compositions. Although the show was not a success, it contained one of Herbert’s most popular songs, “A Kiss in the Dark,” as well as “Way Out West in Jersey.”

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  • Victor Herbert. Orange Blossoms. New York: Harms, 1922. Piano-vocal score cover. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (31.00.00)

  • Victor Herbert. "Way Out West in Jersey" from Orange Blossoms. Holograph manuscript, 1922. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (32.00.00)

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Musical Fantasy Little Nemo

Based on a popular New York Herald newspaper cartoon series about the fantasy adventures of a small boy in Dreamland, Little Nemo (1908) was one of the most successful, effective, and, for its time, expensive extravaganzas ever produced on Broadway. A critic described the three-hour show as “a superb spectacle, as bright as a silver dollar in its comedy, and with music that caught the public favor.”

Victor Herbert. Little Nemo. Piano-vocal score cover. New York: Cohan and Harris, 1908. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (33.00.00)

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Herbert’s Biggest Hit

Herbert’s fantasy extravaganza Babes in Toyland (1903) opened to universally glowing praise and is still often performed. A New York critic called “the biggest, most brilliant, and most captivating show of the kind that has turned its rays on the metropolis in a long time.” The operetta features a pair of ship-wrecked children who encounter various characters from nursery rhymes. Some of Herbert’s most famous songs, among them “Toyland” and “The March of the Toys,” appear in the show.

Victor Herbert. Babes in Toyland. Sheet music cover. New York: Witmark, 1903. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (34.00.00)

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Laurel and Hardy in Babes in Toyland

The 1934 film version of Babes in Toyland (sometimes titled March of the Wooden Soldiers) starring Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and Oliver Hardy (1892–1957) is one of the comedy team’s most popular films. However as Variety pointed out when the film was released, "Babes in Toyland is as far away from the Victor Herbert original operetta as Admiral Byrd [discoverer of the South Pole] from his home port. The arithmetic song and "March of the Toys" are the only outstanding survivors of Herbert's score, and these are merely background.” Outraged at what the filmmakers did to the work, Herbert’s daughter, Ella, took steps to ensure that later filmed works were closer to the original productions.

Victor Herbert. Babes in Toyland. New York: Witmark, 1934. Sheet music. New York: Music Division, Library of Congress (35.00.00)

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Babes in Toyland Adaptations

Babes in Toyland has continued to be revived in numerous adaptations, including this one by Alice Hammerstein Mathias, daughter of Oscar Hammerstein II. She created a new book and lyrics for the Light Opera of Manhattan that has since been used by other companies. Walt Disney made a film adaptation in 1961, and several television adaptations have also appeared. An animated version was produced in 1997.

Victor Herbert. Babes in Toyland: Vocal Selections. Lyrics by Alice Hammerstein Mathias. Mamaroneck, NY: Lamb Company, 1979. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (36.00.00)

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Images of Herbert, Formal and Informal

On August 14, 1911, Therese and Victor Herbert celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with 200 friends at their Lake Placid, New York, summer home “Camp Joyland.” The reception and garden party held that evening had an American Indian theme; Herbert referred to it as his “pow–wow.” He is shown with a guest, opera singer George Hamlin (1869–1923). The studio photograph shows Herbert in a formal pose.

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  • Victor Herbert and George Hamlin, August 14, 1911. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (37.00.00)

  • Victor Herbert. Photograph by Gutekunst, Philadelphia, ca. 1920. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (25.00.00)

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ASCAP Celebration at Lüchow’s

Herbert is regarded as the founder of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), one of the world’s largest creative rights organizations. In 1914 Herbert called a meeting in New York of a group of composers, authors, and publishers who established an organization to ensure that creators would reap the financial benefits of their work. In 1914 ASCAP celebrated its founding with a dinner at Lűchow’s, a noted German restaurant near Union Square where figures from the world of entertainment often gathered for good food, drink, and fellowship.

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  • Photograph of ASCAP dinner, November 27, 1914. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (39.00.00)

  • Program for ASCAP dinner, n.d. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (40.00.00) (40.00.01)

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Herbert at Copyright Hearings

Shortly before his death in May 1924, Herbert led a delegation of ASCAP’s best-known members to testify before the United States Senate in support of legislation to ensure that composers and authors were compensated when their works were played on radio. Long a passionate advocate of the rights of creative artists, Herbert remains a much beloved and admired champion. In this photograph, he is shown with fellow composers and delegation members John Philip Sousa (1854–1932) and Irving Berlin (1888–1989). Berlin had worked with Herbert on The Century Girl (1916) and greatly admired him.

Victor Herbert (left), Irving Berlin (center), and John Philip Sousa (right), April 17, 1924. Bain Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (41.00.00)

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March for New York City Police Band

Herbert could always be counted on to provide a musical salute to all things American, such as this tribute he created for the New York City Police Band. He wrote this march for them and dedicated it to them; “The Finest” is a nickname that has long been used for the New York City Police. On the bass drum of this venerable band was a statement proudly proclaiming it “The Band that fears no music written!”

Victor Herbert. “The Finest.” March. New York: Music Printing Company, 1918. Sheet music cover. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (43.00.00)

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Arrangement of Irish Folk Tune

Born in Dublin, Victor Herbert remained a passionate Irish patriot. Soldiers of Erin is Herbert's arrangement of a song composed by Patrick Heeney with words by Peadar Kearney that under the title The Soldiers Song became the national anthem of Ireland in 1926. Shown is Herbert's original manuscript for his orchestration of the piece.

Victor Herbert. Soldiers of Erin, ca. 1916. Holograph manuscript. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (44.00.00) (44.00.01)

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Herbert’s Irish Music

In 1913, Victor Herbert founded the Men’s Glee Club of the Society of Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York City. The group still exists and regularly performs Herbert’s works and Irish folk arrangements at their concerts. Shown are the Herbert’s original manuscript and the published version of Old Ireland Shall Be Free, his arrangement of an Irish ballad, The Boys of Wexford.

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  • Victor Herbert. Old Ireland Shall Be Free, 1915. Holograph manuscript. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (45.00.00)

  • Victor Herbert. Old Ireland Shall Be Free. Sheet music. New York: Witmark, 1915. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (46.00.00)

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Herbert's Last Concert Work, 1924

This manuscript score is for A Suite of Serenades, Herbert's last concert work before his death on May 26, 1924. A set of four pieces for jazz orchestra, each representing a different national musical style, the work was Herbert's contribution to the "Concert of the Century," Paul Whiteman's 1924 "An Experiment in Modern Music." Herbert's work was well received by the audience, and Whiteman later commented, "I am glad that he was alive to sit in a box and bow to the cheers that greeted the playing of his Suite."

Victor Herbert. A Suite of Serenades, 1924. Holograph manuscript. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (47.00.00) (47.00.01)

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Herbert and George Gershwin

"An Experiment in Modern Music," the February 12, 1924, concert organized and conducted by noted bandleader Paul Whiteman (1890–1967), is now best remembered for the premiere of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which Whiteman commissioned for the concert. Herbert was a great champion of the younger set of American composers, and Gershwin, along with Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, was among his favorites. During rehearsals, Herbert reportedly made a suggestion to Gershwin that he adopted in one portion of the Rhapsody. This is the program for the concert, showing the pieces that were played and giving information about Gershwin, Herbert, and others who took part.

Program for "An Experiment in Modern Music," February 12, 1924. George and Ira Gershwin Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (48.00.00) (48.01.00) (48.02.00)

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Last Music Composed by Victor Herbert

Victor Herbert's daughter, Ella, found this music on Herbert's desk on May 26, 1924, the day he died from a massive heart attack. He was working on The Ziegfeld Follies of 1924 at the time.

Victor Herbert. Holograph manuscript, 1924. ASCAP Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (49.01.00) (49.02.00)

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Victor Herbert’s Death Mask

Victor Herbert had already been placed in a crypt at New York’s Woodlawn Cemetery when ASCAP members decided they wanted a death mask of their founder; his body was brought back to a funeral home to have it made. The resulting mask provides a three-dimensional portrait of Herbert and resembles the photograph taken a few years before his death.

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  • Victor Herbert's death mask. Plaster cast. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (50.00.00)

  • Victor Herbert. New York: White Studio, 1918. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (38.00.00)

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Recent Recordings of Herbert’s Music

Herbert scholar Larry Moore has recently overseen the production of a six-compact disc set of recordings of Herbert’s songs, concert pieces, and works for cello and piano. A number of the works were performed from copies of Herbert’s original and unpublished manuscripts held in the Victor Herbert Collection in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

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  • Larry Moore. Compact disc liner notes. Brooklyn: New World Records, 2012 (053.00.00) Courtesy of Loras John Schissel

  • Larry Moore. Compact disc liner notes. Brooklyn: New World Records, 2012 (052.00.00) Courtesy of Loras John Schissel

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Music for the Ziegfeld Follies

As popular musical taste began to change away from operettas after World War I, Herbert began to compose music for large spectacle productions and revues. His work on the famous Ziegfeld Follies was particularly noteworthy and garnered lavish praise in the press.

Victor Herbert. “The Love Boat” from The Ziegfeld Follies of 1920. Sheet music cover. New York: Harms, 1921. Victor Herbert Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (56.00.00)

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Honoring Herbert during the 1940s

Two decades after Victor Herbert’s death, he was still so well regarded that he was commemorated in various ways. In 1940 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative three-cent Victor Herbert postage stamp as part of its Famous Americans Series, which featured authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists, and inventors. The other composers in the series included Stephen Foster and John Philip Sousa. A World War II “Liberty Ship,” built to move men and materiel quickly to the front, was also named in honor of Herbert.

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  • Victor Herbert postage stamps. First day of issue covers, May 13, 1940. (57.00.00) Courtesy of Martha Hopkins

  • Victor Herbert postage stamps. First day of issue covers, May 13, 1940. (58.00.00) Courtesy of Martha Hopkins

  • Victor Herbert postage stamps. First day of issue covers, May 13, 1940. (59.00.00) Courtesy of Martha Hopkins

  • Victor Herbert postage stamps. First day of issue covers, May 13, 1940. (60.00.00) Courtesy of Martha Hopkins

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