For most of the nineteenth century, before the advent of phonograph and radio technologies, Americans learned the latest songs from printed song sheets. These were new songs being sung in music halls or new lyrics to familiar songs, like "Yankee Doodle" or "The Last Rose of Summer." Not to be confused with sheet music, song sheets are single printed sheets, usually six by eight inches, with lyrics but no music. Song sheets are an early example of a mass medium and today they offer a unique perspective on the political, social, and economic life of the time, especially during the Civil War. The collection spans the period from the turn of the nineteenth century to the 1880s, although a majority of the song sheets were published during the height of the craze, from the 1850s to the 1870s.
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Go directly to the collection, America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets, in American Memory.
These online exhibits provide context and additional information about this collection.
These historical era(s) are best represented in the collection, although they may not be all-encompassing.
- The New Nation, 1780-1815
- Expansion and Reform, 1801-1861
- The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1877
- Development of the Industrial United States, 1876-1915
Related Collections and Exhibits
These collections and exhibits contain thematically-related primary and secondary sources. Browse the Collection Finder for more related material on the American Memory Web site.
- African American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
- Civil War Maps
- Civil War Photographs, 1861-1865
- Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
- Music for the Nation, 1870-1885
- The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana
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For help with general search strategies, see Finding Items in American Memory.