Music Published in America, 1870-1885

  • Introduction to Music Published in America, 1870-1885 In 1870 the Library of Congress became the repository for all music submitted for copyright registration. In the ensuing decade, more than twenty-two thousand items of musical interest were deposited. Some items, because of their book-like format (for example, hymnbooks and opera scores) were separated from the music deposits and either cataloged or simply laid aside. From time to time, other deposits were moved...
  • The Popular Song: Old and New The years 1870 to 1885 represent a period of transition in American popular song. Stephen Foster had died in 1864, though some of his songs continued to be republished. Tin Pan Alley would be a creation of the 1890s, though some of its leading songwriters, notably Gussie L. Davis, were practicing their craft by the mid-1880s.
  • Friends from the Stephen Foster Era Some of Foster's fellow songwriters of the Civil War period were still active: Henry Clay Work (1832-1884), Will S. Hays (1837-1907), and George Frederick Root (1820-1895). Work, with his "Grandfather's Clock,"(audio clip) and Hays, with "The Little Old Cabin in the Lane" (parodied as the cowboy song "The Little Old Sod Shanty on My Claim"), each had one of his most enduring hits in...
  • A New Generation of Songwriters The new songwriter of the period whose songs made the most permanent impact on American music was James M. Bland (1854-1911), the first prominent African-American songwriter, whose "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," "In the Evening by the Moonlight," and "Golden Slippers" are still well known. Other songs of his that were major hits during the period are "In the Morning by the Bright...
  • Music for Public Occasions Music in this online collection abounds in echoes of the Civil War. Some pieces are reprints of Civil War songs; some are nostalgic reminiscences; some are funeral marches for Civil War officers who died during the period. There are also many songs for Decoration Day, the holiday (now Memorial Day) first celebrated in 1868 as a memorial day for the dead of the Civil...
  • Themes in Popular Songs Two great social causes of the 1870s and 1880s were temperance and woman suffrage. The two are very unequally represented in this online collection: temperance by hundreds of pieces, woman suffrage by a mere handful. The near-complete lack of suffrage songs may not represent a lack of interest among songwriters: George Cooper and Edwin Christie, who wrote "Daughters of Freedom! The Ballot be Yours"...
  • Ethnic Groups and Popular Songs Characters from several ethnic groups appear repeatedly in songs of the period. Though they often speak in the first person ("I'm Terence O'Reilly, I'm a man of renown. . ."), they are usually seen from outside (though "Is That Mr. Reilly?" is in fact by Irish-American comic Pat Rooney). The two groups that appear most often are Irish and Irish Americans (the distinction is...
  • How Did These Songs Reach the Public? How did these songs reach the public? Some were from American operettas. This genre had already produced its first lasting work, Julius Eichberg's The Doctor of Alcantara, in 1862. It had its first long string of successes in the 1870s with David Braham's Mulligan Guard shows.
  • Music for Piano and Other Instruments There is more music for piano than any other kind of music in this online collection. A fair amount of it is by American composers who hoped that their works would join the company of piano pieces played in concert: brothers of the Schumann genre pieces, the Mendelssohn Songs Without Words, the Chopin nocturnes, the Brahms intermezzi. Louis Moreau Gottschalk(1829-1869), the first American composer...
  • Vocal Music for Concert Performance Not all American songs of 1870-85 were popular songs. There were also composers who wrote songs for concert performance, songs written in emulation of the great European song composers or of the humbler parlor ballads of which Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord" and "Tosti's Farewell" are the best-known examples from the period. American composers in this tradition include John Knowles Paine, Homer N. Bartlett...
  • Music for Band and Orchestra It was during the 1870s and 1880s that American music publishers began regularly publishing music for orchestra and band. This music was published in the form of parts, not scores; it was music for use, not for study. The conductor (if there was one) was expected to conduct from a principal part--violin or piano for orchestra, usually E-flat cornet for band--that had other important...
  • European Music in America Not all the music in this collection was written in the Americas. A good proportion--more than a third, less than a half--was written in Europe by European composers. A very few items are copyright deposits by European publishers, deposited in America to secure American copyright. (Johannes Brahms's publisher was the most careful about this.) There are also a few deposits by Canadian publishers, and...
  • Religious and Devotional Music Various types of sacred music were published during this period. The style of music that came to be called gospel received its name from the collection Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs, first published in1875 by gospel pioneers P. P. Bliss and Ira D. Sankey. (Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs, as a published hymnbook, is not part of this online collection.) Most of the hymns...
  • Conclusion In 1876 the periodical Church's Musical Visitor polled its readers to find their favorite writers of vocal and instrumental music. The result of the poll was: