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Collection Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1820 to 1860

Greatest Hits, 1820-60: Variety Music Cavalcade

Please note: This list of music popular in America during the years 1820-1860 is from Julius Mattfeld's Variety Music Cavalcade, 1620-1969, 3d ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971). Mattfeld drew partly on his experience as a librarian, citing songs that mid-twentieth-century readers had asked for; his lists become more accurate and inclusive as they approach the twentieth century.

Useful as a record of songs long remembered for the period 1820-1860, the list below cannot be taken as an inclusive guide to the most-performed music of any year. One should look also at songs that appear in many editions, at songs used as the subject of "brilliant variations," and at songs to which "answer songs" were written. (Even for the years covered by the companion collection Music for the Nation, 1870-1885, Mattfeld misses such major hits as "See that My Grave Is Kept Green" and "Moet and Chandon.") Paul Charosh's article "Studying American Popular Song" (American Music 15:4 [Winter 1997]) also provides other useful criteria for judging the success of a song of the period.

Many of the pieces Mattfeld lists are not in this online collection. Most that are not were published in Europe rather than in America; a few were not deposited for copyright in the Federal District Courts, and a few were published in a form that precluded their being bound with the music in this collection. Nevertheless, the usefulness of Mattfeld's lists warrants presenting them in their entirety rather than listing only those items available in the online collection.
See also Copyright and Other Restrictions.

Key for abbreviations

  • gtr. - guitar
  • acc. - piano accompaniment
  • ed. - edition
  • w. - words
  • m. - music
  • arr. - arranger