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Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  1. 1759

    Songs of America

    Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791) sets to music Doctor Parnell's "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free" – America's earliest surviving secular composition.


    Voltaire (1694-1778) writes his satirical masterpiece Candide

    My days have been so wondrous free [manuscript]
  2. 1760

    In the News

    George III becomes King of England.

  3. 1761

    Songs of America

    "Young Johnny," sung by Winifred Bundy. Recorded by Helene Stratman-Thomas and Robert F. Draves in Madison, Wisconsin, April 1941. This is a version of the early American ballad that concerns the death of Thomas Mirrick.


    On August 7, 1761, in Wibraham, Massachusetts colony, twenty-year old Thomas Mirrick dies of snakebite shortly before he was to be married, inspiring the creation of a ballad, "The Elegy of the Young Man Bitten by a Rattlesnake." The song varies in oral tradition as "Springfield Mountain" or "Young Johnny."

    A young man and woman
  4. 1762

    Songs of America

    An entertainment titled The Military glory of Great Britain is given at the anniversary commencement ceremony in Nassau Hall, Princeton, New Jersey. The music may have been written by James Lyon (1735-1794), Princeton graduate and publisher of the important sacred tune book Urania (1761). Though drawn primarily from British sources, Urania is the first American tunebook to identify the contributions of American composers.


    Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) writes the influential political treatise Of The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right

    In the News

    Treaty of Fontainebleau, France cedes Louisiana to Spain

    The iron steam ship of Great Britain
    Jean Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778
    Palais de Fontainebleau, façade sur la Cour des Adieux (autre vue)
  5. 1763

    In the News

    French and Indian War ends

    Proclamation of 1763 restricts westward settlement by colonists

    American Indian rebellion led by Pontiac

    Montcalm trying to stop the massacre
  6. 1764

    In the News

    Sugar Act passed by the Parliament of Great Britain to generate revenue from the American Colonies

  7. 1765

    Songs of America

    Moravian composer Jeremiah Dencke (1725-1795), the first American to write vocal music accompanied by an instrumental ensemble, writes his first American composition for the "Liebesmahl" (Love Feast) held in Bethlehem, PA on August 29, 1765.


    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) composes his first symphony (K. 16)

    Bach-Abel concerts (1765-1782) begin in London. These concerts were the first subscription concerts organized independently by composers (J.C. Bach and Carl Abel) to promote their own music.

    In the News

    Great Britain imposes the Stamp Act and the Quartering Act on the colonies

    Colonial Stamp Act Congress draws up the Declaration of Rights and Grievances and sends it to British Parliament

    Sons of Liberty organized

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791
  8. 1766

    Songs of America

    Josiah Flagg (1737-1794) publishes a collection of Sixteen Anthems…To which is added a Few Psalm Tunes, one of the first collections of American sacred music to be written for "those who have made some proficiency in the art of singing," instead of congregrational use.


    Anthony Benezet (1713-1784), the French-born American abolitionist and author, writes A Caution to Great Britain and Her Colonies, in a short representation of the calamitous state of the enslaved negroes in the British Dominions

    Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is appointed Principal Kapellmeister for the Esterházy family.

    In the News

    Non-importation agreements in defiant response to British colonial taxes

    The Stamp Act is repealed, but the Declaratory Act is imposed

  9. 1767

    Songs of America

    Francis Hopkinson writes Psalms of David for the Dutch Reformed Church


    Andrew Barton’s The Disappointment, or the Force of Credulity is America’s first Ballad Opera.

    In the News

    British Parliament passes the "Townshend Acts" to raise taxes on its American colonies

    Mason-Dixon survey line completed

    Dutch Reformed Church
  10. 1768

    Songs of America

    John Dickinson writes the poem Liberty Song to be sung to the tune of "Hearts of Oak." The text, which began "Come join hand in hand, brave Americans all," so irked the Tories, that they quickly published a parody which read "Come, shake your dull noodles, ye bumkins, and bawl."


    First edition of Encyclopedia Britannica is published in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    In the News

    British troops are sent to Boston to enforce "Townshend Acts"

  11. 1769

    Songs of America

    Daniel Bayley (1729-1792) combines William Tans'ur's Royal Melody Compleat (London, 1754) with Aaron Williams's Universal Psalmodist (London, 1763) as The American Harmony of which four editions were published between 1769 and 1774.

    In the News

    First in the chain of California Catholic missions founded in San Diego

    American Philosophical Society reorganized with Benjamin Franklin as president

  12. 1770

    Songs of America

    William Billings (1746-1800) publishes The New England Psalm Singer. Engraved by Paul Revere, it is the first collection of music written entirely by an American-born composer.

    In the News

    Boston Massacre (5 March)

    Parliament repeals the "Townshend Acts," except for Tea Tax.

    The New England Psalm Singer
    Boston Massacre
  13. 1771

    In the News

    Regulator movement in North Carolina

  14. 1772


    Charles Willson Peale paints his first portrait of George Washington

    In the News

    Samuel Adams heads a new committee of correspondence in Boston; committees will be formed in other colonies in 1773-74.

    Charles Wilson Peale
  15. 1773

    Songs of America

    The broadside song "Tea, Destroyed by Indians," is published after the Boston Tea Party. The chorus reads: "Bostonian's Sons keep up your Courage good, or Die, like Martyrs, in fair Free-born Blood."


    Dr. Benjamin Church, chief physician of the Continental Army, delivers the famous address An Oration to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770. During the war, he was tried and convicted of "communicating with the enemy" after one of his covert letters to British General Thomas Gage was intercepted.

    Baptist minister, John Allen's sermon An Oration upon the Beauties of Liberty is reprinted seven times and becomes one of the most popular pamphlets in the British colonies.

    In the News

    Parliament passes the Tea Act resulting in the "Boston Tea Party"

    Phillis Wheatley publishes her volume Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, the first book published by a former American slave. Wheatley has to publish the book in London, as no American publisher would accept the book.

    "Tea destroyed by Indians"
  16. 1774

    Songs of America

    Joseph Warren writes "Free America" to the tune of "The British Grenadier," warning Americans not to bow to tyrants.


    Thomas Jefferson's pamphlet A Summary View of the Rights of British America is published in Williamsburg, Virginia.

    Myles Cooper, Anglican priest and opponent of the American Revolution, writes the pamphlet A Friendly Address to all Reasonable Americans on our Political Confusions; in which the Necessary Consequences of violently opposing the King's Troops, and of a General Non-importation, are fairly stated.

    In the News

    Parliament passes the Intolerable or Coercive Acts.

    Parliament closes Boston Harbor.

    First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia

    Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers, arrives from England.

    Group of Shakers
  17. 1775

    Songs of America

    Andrew Law (1749-1821) writes the tune "Bunker Hill" to which he set Nathaniel Niles's poem The American Hero to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775).

    "The Bombardment of Bristol," a ballad about the British attack on Bristol, Rhode Island, October 7, 1775, sung by Sam Hinton, 1947. Recorded by Duncan Emrich and Rae Korson at the Library of Congress.


    James Adair's book The History of the American Indians claims a connection between American Indians of the Southeastern U.S. and the lost tribes of Israel. Although some of Adair's conclusions have been questioned, the book contains a wealth of information about the culture of the Chickasaw Nation in the 18th century.

    Philadelphia silversmith John Lealock writes the satirical biblical parody The First Book of the American Chronicles of the Times.

    In the News

    Patrick Henry proclaims, 'give me Liberty or give me death!'

    Daniel Boone established Boonesboro settlement in Kentucky.

    Paul Revere embarks on his famous ride.

    American Revolution begins with battles of Lexington and Concord

    Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia

    The Battle of Bunker Hill

    George Washington is named commander of the Continental Army.

    Bristol, Rhode Island is bombed by the British for the first time during the American Revolution.

    Battle of Bunker Hill
    Daniel Boone
  18. 1776

    Songs of America

    Francis Hopkinson signs the Declaration of Independence


    Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense challenges the authority of the British Government in the colonies.

    Friedrich von Klinger's Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) gives name to the dominant literary and musical artistic movement of the late 18th century, epitomized in the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

    In the News

    Declaration of Independence is adopted in Philadelphia

    New Jersey grants women suffrage

    Nathan Hale is executed as a spy by the British.

    Washington crosses the Delaware River and surprises Hessian troops at Trenton.

    Adam Smith publishes Wealth of Nations

    Francis Hopkinson
  19. 1777

    Songs of America

    "Fromajadas," a Minorcan Easter song sung in Spanish by Stella Burke. Recorded by Alton C. Morris in St. Augustine, Florida, September 25, 1939.


    Thomas Paine's The American Crisis, in which he writes, "these are the times that try men's souls," is published.

    In the News

    Continental Congress adopts a national flag with thirteen stars and stripes on June 14 (our modern Flag Day)

    French general Marquis de Lafayette volunteers his services to the American cause.

    The Battle of Saratoga in New York; British capture Philadelphia

    Congress passes the Articles of Confederation; it is sent to the states for ratification.

    Washington's troops in winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania into 1778.

    Pressure from the British colonial government of eastern Florida forced indigo plantation owner Andrew Turnbull to free Greek, Italian, and Minorcan workers who he had persuaded to follow him to colonize British Florida, but who he had treated as slave labor. Most of these freed colonists settled in and around St. Augustine.

    Minorcan Chapel
  20. 1778

    Songs of America

    William Billings' The Singing Master’s Assistant, which includes a revised version of the patriotic song "Chester," is published.

    Songs of Robert Burns, performed by Margaret Bennett and Ed Miller at the Library of Congress, February 5, 2009.

    A song about a vision of a sailing ship in 1777, sung by Chuna McIntyre of southwestern Alaska at the Library of Congress, November 12, 2003. Spoken in English and then sung in Yup'ik. The song describes a vision predicting the arrival of Europeans in Alaska by a Yup'ik medicine man a year before Captain James Cook mapped the shoreline of Alaska. The ships would have been visible off the coastal areas inhabited by the Yup'ik in the summer of 1778. The Yup'ik had little further contact with outsiders until the 1850s.


    English composer John Stafford Smith writes 'To Anacreon in Heaven,' which will become the tune of "The Star-Spangled Banner'.

    The first American edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert Burns is published July 7, 1788 by Peter Stewart and George Hyde in Philadelphia.

    In the News

    France formally allies with the United States

    British explorer Captain James Cook maps the shoreline of western North America from Vancouver Island to the Bering Strait looking for the Northwest Passage between April and September, 1778.

    The Singing Master's Assistant
    "To Anacreon in Heaven"
  21. 1779


    "Amazing Grace" is published in England by John Newton and quickly crosses the Atlantic to the U.S.

    In the News

    The United States allies with Spain

    John Paul Jones declared "I have not yet begun to fight" while captain of Bonhomme Richard.

    Olney Hymns in Three Books
  22. 1780

    In the News

    French soldiers and naval fleet arrive in America

    General Horatio Gates is defeated by the British at Camden, South Carolina

    Benedict Arnold betrayed Americans to join the British

    Horatio Gates
  23. 1781

    Songs of America

    William Billings' The Psalm Singer's Amusement, which contains fuging tunes and anthems, is published.

    Francis Hopkinson composes The Temple of Minerva, an operatic libretto, first published as a broadside and sung to music adapted from pre-existing compositions.


    Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason challenges the limits of philosophical understanding.

    Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) composes the popular comic opera La Serva Padrona challenging the divisions of social class.

    In the News

    British General Banastre Tarleton is defeated by Americans at Cowpens, South Carolina

    The Articles of Confederation are ratified

    British General Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown

    The Psalm-Singer's Amusement
    Yorktown surrender
  24. 1783

    Songs of America

    Andrew Law's The Rudiments of Music: or a short and easy treatise on the rules of psalmody is published


    David Humphreys, poet and lieutenant colonel in the colonial army, writes The Glory of America; or Peace Triumphant over War.

    In the News

    The Treaty of Paris grants independence to the former American colonies

    The Society of the Cincinnati is formed

    General David Humphreys
    Treaty of Paris
  25. 1784

    In the News

    Russians establish first permanent settlement in Alaska, on Kodiak Island

  26. 1785

    In the News

    The Land Ordinance of 1785 divides the Northwest Territory into townships

    Virginia adopts Thomas Jefferson's "A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom"

    A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom
  27. 1786

    In the News

    Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts protests taxes

  28. 1787

    In the News

    Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia

    Northwest Ordinance

    Signing of the Constitution
  29. 1788

    Songs of America

    Francis Hopkinson's Seven Songs for the Harpsichord or Forte Piano is dedicated to the composer's friend George Washington and includes the song "The Toast," written in Washington's honor.


    Alexander Reinagle composes The Federal March. The published sheet music is one of the first in America to use illustration on the cover.

    In the News

    U.S. Constitution ratified

  30. 1789

    Songs of America

    Abraham Wood (1752-1804) composes Divine Songs for voice and piano, musical settings of the poems of English hymnodist Joseph Hart.


    William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy: or, The Triumph of Nature is considered the first American novel.

    In the News

    George Washington becomes first President of the United States

    French Revolution begins

    United States government is established under a new Constitution

    Bill of Rights passed by Congress; sent to states for ratification

    Society of Saint Tammany organized by anti-federalists in New York; Tammany Hall will become a powerful Democratic political society in nineteenth century New York City

    United States Army established

    French Revolution
  31. 1790

    Songs of America

    Samuel Holyoke (1762-1820) writes the song Washington to commemorate the presidential inauguration of George Washington.


    Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) composes Cantata on the Death of Joseph II

    In the News

    Benjamin Franklin dies

    Congress passes the first copyright law

    First patent issued

    Samuel Slater opens the nation's first factory, a cotton mill in Rhode Island

    The first federal census reflects a population of four million people

    The inauguration of Washington
  32. 1791

    Songs of America

    Danish-born composer Hans Gram’s (1754-1804) The Death Song of an Indian Chief is considered the first orchestral score published in America.

    In the News

    Bill of Rights ratified

    Louis XVI of France and family are put under house arrest

    Bank of the United States chartered

    Benjamin Banneker publishes his first almanac and is appointed a commissioner to survey the new federal district.

    Indian Chief
    Louis XVI
  33. 1792

    Songs of America

    James Hewitt (1770-1827), an English-born conductor, composer, and publisher, arrives in New York. He is influential in the musical life of New York as the conductor of the Park Street Theatre. His compositions include the song "In Vain the Tears of Anguish Flow."

    Oliver Holden (1765-1844) composes the tune "Coronation" to Edward Perronet's hymn text "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." It is one of the earliest American hymn tunes still found in most Protestant hymnals.

    Raynor Taylor (1747-1825), an English-born composer best known for his piano music, emigrates to Philadelphia. An active part of musical life in Philadelphia, he was one of the founders of the Musical Fund Society (1820). He composed many settings of comic texts, including The Loves of Jockey and Jenny or, The Scotch Wedding (1793).


    Mary Wollstonecraft writes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects.

    Jeremy Belknap (1774-1798) writes An Historical Account of those persons who have been distinguished in America.

    In the News

    George Washington is re-elected President

    Democratic-Republican Party, of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, is formed to oppose Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton

    New York Stock Exchange established

    Musical Fund Hall
    Mary Wollstonecraft
  34. 1793

    Songs of America

    Victor Pelissier (1740?-1820), a French-born composer and horn virtuoso, emigrates to New York. In 1811, he began publishing Pelissier's Columbian Melodies which consisted of multiple volumes of theatre songs, dances and instrumental music arranged for piano. He is one of the first American composers to write an independent keyboard accompaniment in his songs.


    Elihu Hubbard Smith edits the volume American Poems, selected and original, vol. 1, considered to be the first anthology of American poetry.

    Czech composer and pianist, Jan Dussek (1760-1812) writes the piano solo The Sufferings of The Queen of France, op.23 in honor of Marie Antoinette. The piece is made up of episodes of varied lengths with interpolated texts related to the Queen's sorrows, such as being separated from her children.

    In the News

    Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette sent to the guillotine

    Congress passes fugitive slave law to supplement that in the U.S. Constitution

    Piano accompaniment
  35. 1794

    Songs of America

    Benjamin Carr's Three Ballads from Shakespeare is published..

    Tavern owner and composer Supply Belcher, known as "The Handel of Maine," writes The Harmony of Maine

    "Fare Ye Well," a spiritual performed by the Metropolitan Community Church Choir, recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell, at the National Folk Festival in Chicago, Illinois, 1937.


    William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience is published. Poems from this collection, including "Tiger, Tiger" and "Little Lamb" have been set to music by numerous composers including Virgil Thomson, William Bolcom, and Benjamin Britten.

    Clergyman and historian, Jeremy Belknap writes American Biography I, followed by a second volume in 1798.

    Free African Americans in the North, frustrated with discrimination in white churches, begin formally creating African American Churches.

    In the News

    The Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania is put down by federal troops

    United States Navy established

    Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin

    [African Americans standing outside of a church]
  36. 1796

    Songs of America

    Irish musician and folk music collector Edward Bunting's A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music is published in Dublin


    Austrian composer Joseph Haydn composes Missa in tempore belli (Mass in Time of War)

    In the News

    Washington refuses a third term and John Adams is elected President

  37. 1797

    In the News

    Frigate U.S.S. Constitution ("Old Ironsides") launched

    XYZ Affair

    Frigate U.S.S. Constitution
  38. 1798

    Songs of America

    Joseph Hopkinson sets "Hail! Columbia" to the music of Philip Phile's 'President's March'

    Robert Treat Paine, Jr. writes the words of "Adams and Liberty," set to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven," by John Stafford Smith

    Peter A. Von Hagen, Jr. publishes his song "Adams and Washington," which describes the warlike tension between France and the United States


    Joseph Haydn composes his popular "Lord Nelson" Mass

    Composer, pianist, and piano manufacturer Muzio Clementi begins publishing music in London

    In the News

    Congress authorizes naval warfare with France as a result of strained diplomatic relations

    Congress passes the Alien and Sedition acts

    Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions passed in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts

    United States Marine Corps established

    Adams and Liberty
    Naval warfare
  39. 1799

    Songs of America

    Alexander Reinagle and Raynor Taylor collaborate on A monody on the death of the much lamented, the late Lieutenant General of the Armies of the United States to mark the death of George Washington.

    "Alaskan Promyshlenniki," sung and recorded by John Panamarkoff, c.a. 1958. This is an excerpt from a twenty-five-verse ballad that tells of the journey of Russians to Alaska, their encounters with native peoples, and their settlement.


    Johann Friedrich von Schiller's dramatic Wallenstein Trilogy depicts the decline of General Albrecht von Wallenstein. It is loosely based on the historical events of the Thirty Years War.

    In the News

    Russian American Company established headquarters at the city of Sitka, Alaska (Russian America is sold to the U.S. in 1867).

    George Washington dies (December 14)

    Washington's death bed