The sheet music found in Music for the Nation, American Sheet Music, 1870-1885 allows students to examine how songwriters tapped into popular sentiments of the era. Tributes to Ulysses S. Grant, assessments of Grant and other candidates striving to reach the White House, the depiction of African-Americans on the minstrel stage and discussions of temperance and the role of women in society, are just some of the social ideas and attitudes represented in this collection. These materials could serve as valuable resource material for discussions on the electoral process, race, and gender.
Chronological Thinking: Presidential Campaigns
Campaign songs were used throughout the presidential elections of the 1870s but their popularity took off during the 1880s. In fact, here are more songs for any one major-party candidate in the 1880 or 1884 election than all of the songs about the four candidates in the 1870s combined. With searches on presidential campaign and election, students can put together a timeline of candidates hoping to become president and determine ways in which the public viewed them.
For example, George Leithead's 1884 "Campaign Song No. 1" assesses the two candidates:
Ben Butler is the choice of a very motley crew,
Doubtless Ben has an eye, what money best can do;
This we know for certain, he is against Free Trade,
And of him working men need not be afraid.
This we say of Cleveland-Democratic nominee,
he is no poor man's friend, his vetoes please to see;
With twelve hours for labor and ten cents for a ride,
There are few working men, who will not let him slide.