Political Songs of 1904

Three campaign songs offer interesting views of how the candidates in the 1904 presidential contest were presented. Celebrating his role in the Spanish-American War, Theodore Roosevelt is pictured racing with sword drawn as “The Hero of San Juan Hill.” Although the cover art is unremarkable, the lyrics to the song for Democrat Alton B. Parker (1852–1926) criticize “jingoism,” the belligerent chauvinism depicted in war images such as the one on the Roosevelt sheet music cover. Ignoring specific references to the other parties, the cover of the sheet music promoting former Democrat Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926) and other Marxist-inspired Socialists, simply promises the dawn of a new political age.

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  • Revilo. “The Hero of San Juan Hill.” Copyright by Revilo, 1904. Music Division, Library of Congress (35)

  • George Haydn Bromby. “Pull Together Boys.” New York: Sol Bloom, 1904. Music Division, Library of Congress (36)

  • Thos. G. Fudge, music, and Frank Sence, words. “The Dawning Day.” Terre Haute, Indiana: T.G. Fudge, 1904. Music Division, Library of Congress (37)

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“Get on the Raft with Taft”

When Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) refused to seek a third term in 1908, he suggested that William Howard Taft (1857–1930) be nominated. With the imprimatur of such a popular politician, Taft had the advantage over William Jennings Bryan, who was running for the Democrats for the third and last time. The lyrics of “Get on the Raft with Taft” confirmed for voters that Taft was indeed Teddy’s chosen successor. Its title demonstrates how a clever political slogan could be popularized in song.

“Abe Holzman” New York: Leo Feist, 1903. Music Division, Library of Congress (38A)

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Cleveland and the Veto

Democrat Grover Cleveland (1837–1908) became known for exercising the presidential power of the veto during his first term (1885–1889). Although he saw these decisions as positive economic measures, his rejection of military pensions and assistance for farmers was unpopular. This Republican campaign song cover depicts Cleveland carrying his political “baggage” out of the White House. Straining under the weight of his administration, he has already removed a hefty bundle of vetoes, seen just in front of his feet.

Hattie B. Wheeler. “The Great Moving Day.” Chicago: Chicago Music Co., 1888. Music Division, Library of Congress (30)

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Grant, “The Man Who Saved the Nation”

Any candidate pitted against Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) in 1868 struggled against Grant’s reputation as “the man who saved the nation,” as the song title states. Since a majority of voters would have been veterans of the Civil War, the engraving of Grant in uniform would be particularly compelling. The music publisher used the same cover for four songs (the titles appear below his portrait), thereby saving money and advertising other campaign compositions.

George Cooper. “General U.S. Grant, The Man Who Saved the Nation.” New York: J. L. Peters, 1868. Music Division, Library of Congress (26)

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William Jennings Bryan’s Famous Line

William Jennings Bryan (186–1925) made three unsuccessful runs as Democratic presidential nominee. In 1896, the year of his first nomination, he gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech, advocating both silver and gold monetary standards. This sheet music cover, in rich blue and gold, memorializes the quotation for which Bryan would forever be associated: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

Grant Schaefer, music, and H.O. Nourse, words. “No Crown of Thorns, No Cross of Gold.” Chicago: Chicago Music, 1896. Music Division, Library of Congress (33B)

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The Bandanna versus the Flag

Although the elephant and the donkey are unmistakable images in American politics, past elections featured other symbols. When campaigning, Grover Cleveland’s 1888 running mate, the aging and ailing Allen Thurman (1813–1895), would mop his brow with a red bandana. Democrats took this symbol to heart in song. Republicans turned this symbol to their advantage. Retaliating with tunes that depicted Thurman’s bandana as a sweat rag, they insisted that the only proper American symbol to wave was the flag.

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  • Emma Washburn. “Wave High the Red Bandanna.” Washington, D.C.: Edward F. Droop, 1888. Music Division, Library of Congress (31)

  • A.T. Gorham. “Up With the Flag, Down With the Rag.” Cincinnati: John Church, 1888. Music Division, Library of Congress (32)

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Rutherford B. Hayes Campaign Song

Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893) and William Wheeler (1819–1887) were placed in the unenviable position of redeeming the Republican Party from the accusations of corruption in the two-term administration of Ulysses S. Grant. This eye-catching engraving, rich in imagery, uses the candidates’ names in word play: Uncle Sam rides to Washington on a wagon full of Hay(es), which is pulled by sturdy Wheel(er)s. Voters are assured that “honest money” will be spent in their White House.

Y.D., Esq., music, and Thomas Peppergrass, words. “Roll Along, Roll Along, Shout the Campaign Battle Song.” Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1876. Music Division, Library of Congress (61)

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“Hayes the True and Wheeler, Too!”

Another 1876 Hayes-Wheeler campaign song used a different tactic to win the Civil War veterans’ vote. Because Grant had proven a less than model president, Republicans harkened back to another great fighter: William Henry Harrison. This song, by R.E. Publican, employed the immensely popular Whig song “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!” Older voters might have remembered it; for those who did not, the original lyrics were included to further link the candidates with their political models.

R.E. Publican. “Hayes the True and Wheeler, Too!” New York: Wm. A. Pond & Co., 1876. Music Division, Library of Congress (62)

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Al Jolson Supports Harding

Although most of his show business colleagues were Democrats, Al Jolson (1886–1950) was an avid Republican. Using his star power to stump for Warren G. Harding in 1920, he wrote and performed “Harding You’re the Man for Us.” Although the sheet music prominently listed him as its composer to entice voters with his endorsement, its cover focused on photographs of Harding and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), for whom Jolson would campaign in 1924.

Al Jolson. “Harding You’re the Man for Us.” New York: Al Jolson, 1920. Music Division, Library of Congress (64)

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1912 Campaign Songs

Three candidates ran in the election of 1912: Republican William Howard Taft, renegade Republican Theodore Roosevelt for the Progressive Party, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924). The Republican split improved Wilson’s chances. Nevertheless, his campaign planners took care in presenting his image, even on sheet music. One song cover featured Wilson listening to his constituents as they sat in rockers on the porch of his “little white house in New Jersey.” This gentler side was countered by the stern image of the “trust buster” who demanded that business power be taken away from price-fixing interest groups and returned to the people.

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  • L.H. Fisher, music, and J.J. Shirkey, words. “Sit Down and Rock It Out With Me.” Baltimore: H.R. Eisenbrandt, 1912. Music Division, Library of Congress (40)

  • Licco I. Liggy, music, and F.J. Miller, words. “Bust the Trusts: A Democratic Campaign Song.” New York: Weiss, MacEachen & Miller, 1912. Music Division, Library of Congress (41)

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A Changing Political Climate

Two Democratic election song covers illustrate how the national climate changed during Woodrow Wilson’s second term. One comic song was used to campaign for Wilson’s re-election in 1916. The Democratic donkey’s feed pail lists his platform: an eight-hour work day, a child labor law, federal-reserve legislation, farm credits, and peace. The patched-up elephant in the next stall offers only platitudes, promises, and criticism. The campaign in war-weary 1920 was more somber. Democratic nominee James M. Cox (1879–1957) continued Wilson’s push to join the League of Nations. The cover art addresses the country’s mourning of thousands of World War I casualties buried in Europe. The lyrics support the League’s diplomacy instead of Warren G. Harding’s idea of “Peace by Resolution,” a separate Congressional declaration of peace.

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  • I.A. Foster, music, and C.R. Foster, words. “Wilson Has A Winnin’ Way and a Gosh-darned Way of Winnin’.” Los Angeles: C.R. Foster, 1916. Music Division, Library of Congress (43)

  • Edouard Hesselberg, music, and A.J. Kiser, words. “‘Peace by Resolution.’” Colorado Springs: A.J. Kiser, 1920. Music Division, Library of Congress (44)

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Songs for the 1924 Election

One of the most famous political scandals of the twentieth century involved the Teapot Dome oil reserves. This matter and other charges of corruption in the Harding administration threatened Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), who took office when Harding died in 1923 and ran for re-election a year later. This cartoon cover art shows the Democrats kicking the corrupt Republicans’ teapot. In spite of the shadow the previous administration cast over his campaign, Coolidge easily defeated opponent John Davis (1873–1955).

Despite an administration burdened by scandals such as Teapot Dome, Vice President Calvin Coolidge nevertheless managed to win his party’s nomination as well as the election in 1924. Once again, Al Jolson helped the Republican Party by crooning “Keep Cool with Coolidge.” Other songs such as this one evoked a dignified White House worthy of the man who bore the nickname “Silent Cal.”

Reproduction restricted due to copyright.

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  • Sara L. Ingraham, music, and W.J. Croghan, words. “Tea Pot Dome.” Charleston, South Carolina: W.J. Croghan, 1924. Music Division, Library of Congress (46)

  • Frank Drago, music, and John H. Bickley, words. “Keep Coolidge in the White House in the Presidential Chair.” Hartford, Connecticut: John J. Bickley, 1924. Music Division, Library of Congress (47)

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Songs for Smith and Landon Campaigns

Alfred E. Smith (1873–1944), four-time governor of New York, ran for the presidency against Republican Herbert Hoover (1873–1944) in 1928. This campaign song cover capitalizes on his popular image as “Al” Smith. A workman tips his hat to the genial candidate, trusting, the cover art suggests, that he would represent the nation’s workers. However, Smith’s Roman Catholicism became a campaign issue, and Hoover, although he had a less approachable personality, won the election by a landslide.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt broadcast his first “fireside chat” in 1933. His use of the nation’s airwaves to promote New Deal programs as solutions to the Depression’s economic woes became the butt of satire three years later when, during his bid for a second term, he faced Republican Alfred “Alf” Landon (1887–1987). In this song, billed as “The Country’s Favorite Comic Song,” opponents suggest that voters, plagued by unemployment and inflated taxes, should not trust what they hear on the radio.

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  • George H. Perkins. “Just Our ‘Al,’ The Workingman’s ‘Pal.’” Boston: George H. Perkins, 1932. Music Division, Library of Congress (49)

  • Al. Meyers. “I Heard It on the Radio.” Legler, New Jersey: A.D. Myers, 1936. Music Division, Library of Congress (50)

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“Good-Bye Prohibition,” 1932

In 1919, the sale of “intoxicating liquors” was banned. An end to Prohibition became a campaign issue for Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945) during his first run for office in 1932. On this cover, a smiling F.D.R. watches as the Republicans’ “1920 model” gets a kick from the Democratic donkey, which is fed by votes. The song’s lyrics grew serious as they welcomed the demise of bootlegging and mobsters who had profited illegally during the liquor ban.

Reproduction restricted due to copyright.

L.E. Benner, music, and words. “Good-Bye Prohibition.” Minneapolis: Standard Publishing, 1932. Music Division, Library of Congress (48)

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“Humanity with Sanity,” for Landon and Nixon

Composer/publisher William Seiffert liked the slogan “Humanity with Sanity” so much that he used it in his musical campaigns for two sets of Republican candidates. In 1936, he wrote a song supporting the Alf Landon and Frank Knox run against Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Nance Garner (1868–1967). Twenty-four years later, Seiffert, employing new lyrics and a new melody, re-used the title for the campaign of Richard Nixon (1913–1994) and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., (1902–1985) against John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973).

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  • William R. Seiffert. “Humanity with Sanity.” Oceanside, New York: William R. Seiffert, 1936. Music Division, Library of Congress (55)

  • Bill Seiffert. “Humanity with Sanity.” Oceanside, New York: William R. Seiffert, 1960. Music Division, Library of Congress (56)

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Songs for Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, and Nixon

“Kennedy and Johnson,” a song published in Johnson’s home state of Texas, relayed the simple promise that the nation’s hope would be renewed. The sole serious thought in the lyrics of “Hubie Humphrey—We Love You!” suggested that the candidate would “get our boys out of Viet Nam.” Also shown are the music and lyrics for the 1968 “Vote for Nixon.”

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  • Pinky Herman and Mac Perrin, music, and Pinky Herman, words. “Vote for Nixon.” Yonkers, New York: Manor Music Company, 1968. Music Division, Library of Congress (60)

  • Loyd E. Roberson. “Kennedy and Johnson.” Abilene: Pratt Publishing, 1960. Music Division, Library of Congress (57)

  • Herman (Doc) Silvers. “Hubie Humphrey—We Love You!” New York: Herman (Doc) Silvers, 1968. Music Division, Library of Congress (59)

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“Let’s Carry Barry to the White House,” 1964

The Music Division’s rich collection of campaign songs includes copyright deposits sent to the U.S. Copyright Office for registration. This song, written for the 1964 campaign of Republican Barry Goldwater (1909–1998) was never published as sheet music but was copyrighted before it was recorded as the “B” side of a novelty 45-rpm record. Here its lyrics are preserved as they were submitted for copyright protection.

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Jan McCall, music, and Jan McCall and Ralph Taylor, words. “Let’s Carry Barry to the White House.” Submitted for copyright by Protone Music, Hollywood, California, 1964. Music Division, Library of Congress (58A)

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For or Against F.D.R.

In 1940, Republican Wendell Willkie (1892—1944) faced two-time winner Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945). This parody of “Casey at the Bat” is full of political satire. A gleeful F.D.R. recalls Willkie’s debate (“de-bait”) with Solicitor General Robert Jackson. Meanwhile, Willkie, a fierce critic of F.D.R’s Tennessee Valley Authority, misses another pitch, despite coaching from former president Herbert Hoover (1874–1964). There would be no joy on Wall Street, the lyrics state, when the former industrialist strikes out, a call made by the umpire (the American people).

During his presidency (1932–1945), F.D.R. guided the nation through much of the Great Depression and World War II. This campaign song, published in 1944, depicts Roosevelt heading back to Washington on the Democratic donkey, an ironic image given his paralysis. Aware of Roosevelt’s poor health, the Democrats nominated Harry S Truman (1884–1972) for vice president in case Roosevelt did not survive the term. In fact, just five months later, Truman took the oath of office.

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  • Josephine T. Buell. “Wendell at the Bat.” Buellton, California: Odin G. Buell, 1940. Music Division, Library of Congress (51)

  • Frank J. Davis. “We’re Ridin’ to Glory on a Mule.” Los Angeles: Dixie Publishing, 1944. Music Division, Library of Congress (52)

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Campaign Songs from 1952

Adlai Stevenson, Jr., (1900–1965) ran as a Democrat in 1952. This campaign song cover united all elements of middle-class America: the farmer, the businessman, and the blue-collar worker, who reveled in the prosperity won during the administration of Harry S Truman. As the lyrics proclaimed, the farmer had money, the workman drove a coupe, and the businessman could “sleep at night.” A vote for the Republicans would threaten a solid economy. “Don’t let ‘em take it away!” the song urged.

As a child in Texas, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) was called “Ike.” This nickname followed him through his military career and inspired one of the most memorable campaign slogans of the twentieth century: “I Like Ike.” Voters in 1952 sported this saying on buttons and saw it everywhere on campaign posters. Irving Berlin turned it into a campaign song. Variations appeared, of course, including this piece which made the slogan more inclusive: “We like Ike.”

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  • Bernie Wayne, music, and Robert Sour, words. “Don’t Let ‘Em Take It Away!” New York: Meridian Music, 1952. Music Division, Library of Congress (53)

  • D. Clyde Lloyd. “We Like Ike.” Salt Lake City: D. Clyde Lloyd, 1952. Music Division, Library of Congress (54)

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