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Collection The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America

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  1. 1900

    Songs of America

    Amy Marcy Cheney Beach sets to music Three Browning Songs, including "Ah, Love, But a Day and "The Year's at the Spring."

    John Rosamond Johnson writes the anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" to lyrics by James Weldon Johnson.

    The King Family performs the traditional dance song "Cripple Creek" on string band instruments: banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and bass fiddle. Originally from Arkansas, this family of musicians moved west during the dust bowl. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin the Arvin FSA Camp, 1940.

    "Casey Jones," ballad sung by Jim Holbert. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Visalia FSA Camp, California, August 7, 1940.


    Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams

    John Philip Sousa takes his band on their first European tour

    Magnetic recording introduced

    L. Frank Baum publishes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

    Mail order catalogs begin making it easier for Americans in remote rural areas to obtain instruments such as mandolins and banjos. This availablity gives rise to what becomes known as "string band music."

    In the News

    Engineer John Luther "Casey" Jones is killed when his train, passenger train Number One, also known as the "Cannonball Express," crashes into the back of a caboose on the track at Vaughan, Mississippi on a foggy night.

    Carrie Nation begins her hatchet crusade against liquor

    Boxer Rebellion in China

    Devastating hurricane in Galveston, Texas

    William McKinley is re-elected president of the U.S.

    Secretary of State John Hay announces Open Door Policy with regard to international access to China

    U.S. population is over 75,000,000

    J. Rosamond Johnson
    The King Family (string band)
  2. 1901

    Songs of America

    American composer and teacher Arthur Farwell (1872-1952) founds the Wa-Wan Press to promote new music by American composers. The name Wa-Wan comes the Omaha language, meaning "to sing to someone." Farwell and other composers published by the press were part of the "Indianist" movement in which "classical" composers used Native American musical themes in their compositions.

    Philip Dalmas (1870-1925) writes Four Songs from Whitman, including "As I Watch'd the Ploughman Ploughing," and "A Clear Midnight."

    Carrie Jacobs Bond's "I Love You Truly" is published, the first song written by a woman to sell over one million copies of sheet music.

    Edgar Stillman-Kelley (1857-1944) sets to music Edgar Allan Poe's El Dorado.

    "Zolgotz," a ballad about the assassination of President McKinley, sung and played on the banjo by folksong collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford of North Carolina. Recorded by Duncan Emrich, March 1949 in Washington, D.C.

    "Funeral Song," sung by George Miller and Joseph Merrick. Recorded by Francis La Flesche, September 1895. Collector's note: "the Omaha had only one funeral song." This Omaha song provided the inspiration for "Song to the Spirit" in American Indian Melodies, by Arthur Farwell, 1901.


    Pablo Picasso's Blue Period begins

    The Victor Talking Machine Company is founded by Emile Berliner and Eldridge Johnson.

    Booker T. Washington: Up from Slavery

    Henry Hadley's Symphony no. 2, "The Four Seasons" wins the Paderewski Prize.

    Arthur Farwell publishes American Indian Melodies. A story of an encounter with the ghost warrior Formation of the Hethu'shka Society, told by Hollis Stabler Sr. on August 22, 1985 is also related by Farwell in his introduction to the sheet music. Neptune Plaza Concert Series Collection: 1985/015: 0714.

    In the News

    U.S. Steel incorporated as the first billion-dollar corporation

    President McKinley is shot twice on September 6 by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, while touring the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. One bullet was removed, but the doctors were unable to find the second. McKinley dies on September 14. Theodore Roosevelt becomes the twenty-sixth president.

    Queen Victoria dies in England

    Assassination of President McKinley
  3. 1902

    Songs of America

    John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951) writes a collection titled Improving Songs for Anxious Children with drawings by his wife, interior designer Rue Winterbottom.

    Frederick Converse (1871-1940) sets to music the John Keats poem La Belle Dame sans Merci for baritone voice and orchestra.


    Claude Debussy writes the opera Pelléas et Mélisande

    Enrico Caruso makes his first phonograph record

    Scott Joplin composes "The Entertainer"

    In the News

    Congress limits the number of Chinese people that may enter the U.S. in any given year

    Carnegie Institute founded in Washington D.C.

    Cecil Rhodes scholarship fund forms with $10 million

    First Rose Bowl played in Pasadena, California

    Anthracite coal miners strike

    Ida Tarbell's series on the history of Standard Oil begins in McClure's Magazine

    "The Entertainer"
  4. 1903

    Songs of America

    Organist and composer Homer N. Bartlett sets to music Hamlet's soliloquy, "To Be or Not to Be." A prolific composer, Bartlett published over 271 works including later pieces that highlight his interest in Japanese culture.

    Clara Kathleen Rogers (1844-1931) sets to music "Overhead the Tree Tops Meet" by Robert Browning. Although Ms. Rogers's personal collection of correspondence and manuscripts was donated to the Harvard University Library, a manuscript copy of this song can be found in the A.P. Schmidt Company Archives at the Library of Congress.

    "The Old Ninety Seven" a ballad about train wreck in Virginia sung by Fred J. Lewey. An early version of the song better known as "The Wreck of the Old Ninety Seven." Recorded by Robert Winslow Gordon in Concord, North Carolina, October 15, 1925.


    W.E.B. DuBois publishes The Souls of Black Folk

    John Singer Sargent paints Charles Martin Loeffler

    Victor Herbert's "Babes in Toyland," premieres in New York City

    Enrico Caruso's recording of "Vesti la giubba" for Victor is the first record to achieve sales of a million copies over time.

    In the News

    First successful airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina by Orville and Wilbur Wright

    U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor forms

    U.S. signs agreement acquiring a naval station at Guantanamo Bay Cuba

    The Southern Railroad train known as the "Fast Mail," or the "Ninety Seven" derailed at Stillhouse Trestle near Danville, Virginia, killing eleven people.

    Hay-Buneau-Varilla Treaty gives the U.S. the right to a 10-mile strip in Panama, where future canal will be built.

    Wilbur Wright
  5. 1904

    Songs of America

    Horatio Parker's Four Songs include "Serenade" (Nathan Haskell Dole) and "Good Bye" (Christina Rossetti).

    Tin Pan Alley composer Kerry Mills writes "Meet Me in St. Louis" in honor of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World's Fair.

    Victor Herbert writes the patriotic song "In the Folds of the Starry Flag."" Complimentary copies of the song were distributed to new subscribers by the Chicago Tribune on July 31, 1904.


    First performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel on poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Charles Ives writes Symphony no. 3, "The Camp Meeting"

    The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, commonly known as the St. Louis World's Fair, opens in St. Louis, Missouri.

    In the News

    Russo-Japanese War begins

    American Academy of Arts and Letters forms

    New York Subway officially opens

    Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine asserts U.S. authority of international police power in Latin America

    Horatio William Parker, 1863-1919
  6. 1905

    Songs of America

    Arthur Farwell publishes Folk Songs of the West and South, op. 19.

    Charles H. Gabriel (1856-1932) writes the classic gospel song 'His Eye is on the Sparrow.'


    The Institute of Musical Arts is founded in New York – forerunner of The Juilliard School

    Albert Einstein proposes theory of special relativity

    In the News

    Theodore Roosevelt inaugurated president

    Russo-Japanese War ends with the defeat of the Russian fleet

    Rotary Club organized in Chicago

    International Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies") formed

    Russians and Japanese after the surrender -- Port Arthur
  7. 1906

    Songs of America

    Charles Wakefield Cadman (1881-1946) sets to music 'At Dawning' by Nelle Richmond Eberhart.

    "Corrido del soldado," a ballad about the Brownsville Affair sung by José Suarez. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax


    Upton Sinclair publishes The Jungle

    Ambrose Bierce publishes The Cynic’s Wordbook

    Alexander Scriabin performs his own piano music in New York City

    In the News

    San Francisco's great earthquake

    Mahatma Gandhi coins the term Satyagraha to characterize the non-violence movement in South Africa.

    The Brownsville Affair: African American infantrymen of the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiment are accused of conspiracy in the killing of a white citizen of Brownsville, Texas. Though they were in their barracks at the time of the killing, 167 troops were dishonorably discharged.

    Pure Food and Drug Act; Meat Inspection Act passed by U.S. Congress

    "At dawning"
    San Francisco earthquake
  8. 1907

    Songs of America

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes returns to America after studying composition in Berlin with Engelbert Humperdinck. Griffes is known for his masterful text setting in both English and German.

    Amy Marcy Cheney Beach writes The Chambered Nautilus, set to a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

    Tin Pan Alley composer John W. Bratton (1867-1947) writes the instrumental tune "Teddy Bear Two-Step." In 1932, lyrics are added by Jimmy Kennedy and the classic children's song "Teddy Bears' Picnic" is born.

    "Manabus Tells the Ducks to Shut Their Eyes," a Menominee song sung by Louis Pigeon. Recorded by Frances Densmore in Keshena, Wisconsin in 1925.


    Edward Curtis publishes The North American Indian, the first of twenty volumes of photos of Native American life

    MacDowell Colony is established in New Hampshire

    Ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore begins documenting American Indian music and song for the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of Ethnology in Washington, D.C.

    In the News

    Oklahoma becomes the 46th state in the U.S.

    Finland is first European country to give women the right to vote

    Roosevelt's "gentlemen's agreement' with Japanese to bar Japanese laborers from the United States

    U.S. Navy's "Great White Fleet" begins world cruise

    Russians and Japanese after the surrender -- Port Arthur
  9. 1908

    Songs of America

    "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," performed by baseball organist Ed Alstrom as a sing-along with the audience at the Baseball Americana Symposium at the Library of Congress, October 3, 2009.

    Arthur Farwell writes Three Indian Songs: "Song of the Deathless Voice," "Inketunga's Thunder Song," and "The Old Man's Love-Song."


    First exhibit of Ashcan School of painting

    "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer is one of the biggest hit songs of 1908. Singing it at baseball games subsequently becomes a seventh-inning tradition.

    First Cubist paintings

    The Christian Science Monitor begins publication

    L.M. Montgomery publishes Anne of Green Gables

    In the News

    First Model T Ford introduced

    The New York Singer Building is the first skyscraper in New York City

    Singer Building, New York
  10. 1909

    Songs of America

    Charles Wakefield Cadman publishes Four Indian Songs, op. 45 including the popular hit "From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water" after spending the summer with the Omaha Indian tribe.

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes sets to music Five German Poems, including Nikolaus Lenau's "By a Lonely Forest Pathway."

    John Alden Carpenter sets to music Robert Louis Stevenson's "Looking-Glass River" and "The Green River" by Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas.


    Poet Robert Underwood Johnson founds the Keats House in Rome

    The Ballet Russes is founded by Sergei Diaghilev

    Sergei Rachmaninoff makes first U.S. concert tour

    Columbia discontinues cylinder production in favor of flat disc.

    In the News

    William Howard Taft inaugurated as twenty-seventh president. Teddy Roosevelt leaves for hunting trip in Africa.

    American explorers Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reach the North Pole

    NAACP founded

  11. 1910

    Songs of America

    Carrie Jacobs-Bond's "A Perfect Day" is published, eventually selling over 8 million copies of sheet music and 5 million records.

    George Whitefield Chadwick sets to music "When I Am Dead" by Christina Rossetti.

    Charles Wakefield Cadman writes Sayonara: A Song Cycle on Japanese Themes.


    Igor Stravinsky's composes ballet score The Firebird

    Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony includes musical settings of Whitman

    Black musicians begin using the term "blues" to describe the established 12-bar form

    In the News

    Glacier National Park is established in Montana

    National Institute of Arts and Letters incorporated by Congress

    Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dali Llama, is exiled to India after Chinese invasion of Tibet

    Boy Scouts of America and Camp Fire Girls Organization founded

    "A Perfect Day"
    George W. Chadwick (1854-1931)
    Thubten Gyatso
  12. 1911

    Songs of America

    Irving Berlin (1888-1989) writes his first big hit "Alexander’s Ragtime Band."

    Carrie Jacobs-Bond writes a collection of Half Minute Songs.

    "My Slovak Tongue," sung in Slovak by Reverend Stephen M. Tuhy, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Slavia, Florida, and a chorus of young girls. Recorded by Alton C. Morris, August 31, 1939.


    Edith Wharton publishes her novel Ethan Frome

    Frank Lloyd Wright builds his home Taliesin in Wisconsin

    Members of a Slovak community in Cleveland, Ohio incorporated themselves as the Slavia Colony Company and purchased land northeast of Orlando, which became Slavia, Florida.

    In the News

    Roald Amundsen is first to reach the South Pole

    Calbraith Perry Rodgers makes the first transcontinental flight across the U.S.

    Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York results in 146 deaths, largely because exit doors had been locked

    Andrew Carnegie forms Carnegie Corporation of New York (for scholarly and charitable works)

    "Alexander's Ragtime Band"
    Taliesin I, interior: living room
  13. 1912

    Songs of America

    Wa-Wan Press is sold to publishing house G. Schirmer and closes.

    "God Moves on the Water," a song about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, sung by Lightnin' Washington and a group of convicts at Darrington State Prison, Sandy Point, Texas. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax, December 1939.


    Carl Jung publishes The Theory of Psychoanalysis

    Arnold Schoenberg writes Pierrot Lunaire

    James Reese Europe leads the first black jazz orchestra to perform in Carnegie Hall

    Henry Cowell shocks the San Francisco Music Club with a performance of his tone-cluster compositions for piano

    In the News

    New Mexico and Arizona become 47th and 48th states, respectively

    U.S. Federal employees are given an eight hour workday

    The RMS Titanic sinks, April 15, 1912, causing the deaths of 1,514 people.

    Juliette Gordon Low organizes Girl Scouts

    Democrat Woodrow Wilson defeats Republican William H. Taft, Bull Moose Theodore Roosevelt and Socialist Eugene V. Debs for the presidency

    Titanic survivors on way to rescue-ship Carpathia
  14. 1913

    Songs of America

    John Alden Carpenter sets to music three poems from Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, including "When I Bring to You Colour'd Toys."

    Methodist revival preacher George Bennard writes the classic hymn 'The Old Rugged Cross'.

    Mabel Wheeler Daniels (1877-1971) writes The Desolate City for baritone soloist, mixed chorus, and orchestra while staying at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire.


    Igor Stravinsky writes The Rite of Spring

    The first "talking movie" is demonstrated by Edison using his Kinetophone process, a cylinder player mechanically synchronized to a film projector.

    Rabindranath Tagore wins Nobel Prize for poetry

    New York Armory art show introduces Cubism

    Woolworth Building in New York is tallest in the world

    In the News

    Woodrow Wilson inaugurated

    16th Amendment establishes a federal income tax in the U.S.

    British House of Commons rejects women's right to vote

    Thousands of women demonstrate for Dutch suffrage

    17th Amendment leads to direct election of U.S. senators

    Henry Ford introduces moving assembly line

    Federal Reserve Bank established

    Rabindranath Tagore
  15. 1914

    Songs of America

    Henry Burleigh writes the song cycle Saracen Songs.

    Charles Ives writes "General William Booth Enters Into Heaven" on a poem by Vachel Lindsay, honoring the founder of the Salvation Army.

    "Hatikva" (or "Hatkivah," "The Hope"), performed in Hebrew by Alma Gluck, with Efrem Zimbalist on violin. The song reflects the hope of a Jewish homeland in Israel. This song was an unofficial anthem of Israel for decades, and became the official National Anthem of Israel in 2004. Victor recording, 1918.


    Charles Ives writes Three Places in New England

    Founding of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers

    English composer Gustav Holst begins writing The Planets

    In the News

    Archduke Franz Ferdinand and wife Sophie assassinated in Sarajevo; World War I begins

    Panama Canal opens

    Transcontinental phone service from New York to San Francisco

    As World War I begins, the nascent Zionist Movement in the United States is cut off from the larger movement in Europe. The organization appoints lawyer and public advocate Louis Dembitz Brandeis as its new president. Brandeis uses his considerable influence to bring greater attention to discrimination against Jews in Europe and the goal of creating a Jewish state in Palestine. (In 1916 he is appointed to the United States Supreme Court.)

    Federal Trade Commission established

    Marcus Garvey founds Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica

    Clayton Anti-Trust Act exempts labor unions from anti-trust laws

    Mother's Day celebrated nationally on the second Sunday in May

    Louis D. Brandeis
  16. 1915

    Songs of America

    Henry Burleigh sets to music Walt Whitman's poem "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors."

    "There is a Balm in Gilead," performed by the Fisk Jubilee Quartet. The lead tenor is John Wesley Work, Jr. Victor Recording, 1909.

    "Psalm 52: In that day we praise the Lord, I was the smallest brother of all," a psalm sung in Russian by the Russian Molokan congregation. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell, in Potrero Hill, San Francisco, California, 1938.

    "De le [Dle] Yaman," sung by in Armenian. This love song's refrain, yearning for "my beloved," took on a different meaning of loss for refugees escaping the Armenian Genocide of 1915. This singer is an immigrant to the U.S. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Fresno, California on April 16, 1939 [title written as "De Le Yaman" by Cowell].

    "Derzor [Deir ez Zor] Chollerenda," a love song sung in Armenian by Vartan S. Shapazian. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Fowler, California, October 30, 1939.


    New Orleans jazz flourishes

    Choir director and folk song collector John Wesley Work, Jr. publishes Folk Song of the American Negro, a compilation of the songs and spirituals. His son, John Wesley Work, III, will follow in his father's footsteps.

    D. W. Griffith directs the motion picture, The Birth of a Nation, which contributes to revitalization of the Ku Klux Klan

    Henri Matisse paints Goldfish

    The Panama-Pacific International Exposition opens in San Francisco.

    Russian Molokan Church leader Efim Gerasimovich Klubnikin dies in Los Angeles, California. Recognized as a prophet from childhood by exiled Molokans in the Caucuses, he led about 2,000 "Old Believers" to seek religious freedom in the U.S.

    In the News

    The U.S. Coast Guard is formed

    The Lusitania is sunk off the coast of Ireland

    The American Committee for Relief in the Near East is organized in the U.S., with the primary concern of aiding Armenians being deported from the newly-formed Ottoman Republic and to call attention to what is later called the Armenian Genocide. Armenian survivors flee to several countries, including the U.S.

    The Birth of a Nation
  17. 1916

    Songs of America

    Composer and critic Deems Taylor writes the song cycle The City of Joy depicting an idyllic life in the big city.

    Bandleader William Christopher (W.C.) Handy (1873-1958) writes his famous "Beale Street Blues" in honor of the famous musical thoroughfare in Memphis, TN.

    "I'm Sad and I'm Lonely," a love song sung by poet Carl Sandburg, recorded by Anne Grimes, 1953.


    Charles Ives writes Fourth Symphony

    James Joyce publishes A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    Oscar Sonneck publishes Suum Cuique: Essays on Music

    Carl Sandburg publishes Chicago Poems, for which he receives national acclaim. In speaking engagements that follow, he frequently performs folksongs as well as reading his poetry.

    In the News

    Woodrow Wilson is re-elected on "He Kept Us Out of War" slogan

    National Park Service created

    Congress passes Federal Farm Loan Act

    Pancho Villa raids on Columbus, New Mexico

    Keating-Owen Act passed to curb child labor

    Jeanette Rankin of Montana is the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives

    "Beale Street Blues"
    Pancho Villa
  18. 1917

    Songs of America

    Henry Burleigh publishes arrangements of spirituals, including "Deep River."

    Charles Ives sets to music Three Songs of War, including "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae.

    Charles Griffes sets to music Five Poems on Ancient China and Japan, op. 10.

    "Die Judische ligionerie," a song about the Jewish Legion, sung in Yiddish by Shloimele Rothstein. Composed by Joseph Rumshinsky. Recorded in New York, New York March 9, 1925.

    "Molly and the Baby Don't You Know," a temperance song composed by J. B. Herbert and sung by Homer A. Rodeheaver. Victor recordings, 1916.


    Salzburg Music Festival begins

    Marc Chagall paints The Grey House

    The Boston Symphony makes its first recordings

    Vachel Lindsay publishes The Chinese Nightingale and Other Poems

    Pulitzer Prize first awarded

    In the News

    U.S. Congress declares war on Germany and passes the Selective Service Act, entering World War I.

    Bolshevik Revolution in Russia forces Czar Nicholas II to abdicate

    Puerto Rico becomes a U.S. territory

    Great Britain announces the formation of the Jewish Legion, regiments of Jewish soldiers sent to fight in Palestine and North Africa during the First World War. The Legion includes both British and Russian soldiers, joined in 1918 by Canadians and Americans. Some veterans of the Legion, including Americans, settle in Palestine after the war.

    On August 1, 1917 the Senate passes a resolution with the language of the 18th Amendment to ban the sale, distribution, and manufacture alcoholic beverages. This then needed to be ratified by 36 states.

    U.S. takes possession of Virgin Islands from Denmark

    Zimmerman Telegram becomes known to U.S. authorities

    Liberty Loan Act passed, authorizing sale of government bonds to raise money for war effort

    John "Black Jack" Pershing named commander of American forces in France; American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) created

    Flanders Fields
    Bolshevik Revolution
  19. 1918

    Songs of America

    Arthur Foote (1853-1937) sets to music A Twilight Fear by C.G. Blanden.

    Charles Tomlinson Griffes composes Two Songs by John Masefield: "An Old Song Resung" and "Sorrow o' Mydath" and Three Poems by Fiona MacLeod, op. 11, including "The Lament of Ian the Proud."

    "La Piave," sung in Italian by Mario Olmeda. This is a patriotic song about Italy's "Battle of the Solstice" in June 1918. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Concord, California on February 13, 1939.


    Sergei Rachmaninoff moves to the United States

    In the News

    Woodrow Wilson announces his Fourteen Points, outlining his war aims into the postwar world.

    First air mail service begins

    In June 1918 the Italian Army successfully defeats the Austrian army at the Piave River, a major turning point in World War I. The U.S. supports Italy with needed materials such as coal and steel.

    American forces participate in battles of Belleau Wood, Saint-Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

    "Spanish flu" influenza epidemic becomes global pandemic

    Daylight savings time introduced

    Armistice on November 11 ends World War I

    1918 Influenza epidemic
    Serge Rachmaninoff
  20. 1919

    Songs of America

    Arthur Foote sets to music Three Songs 1914-1918: "In Flanders Fields" (Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae), "The Soldier" Rupert Brooke), and "Oh, Red is the English Rose" (Dr. Charles Alexander Richmond).

    George Gershwin (1898-1937) writes "Swanee" with lyrics by Irving Caesar. It was introduced by singer Al Jolson in the show "Sinbad" at the Winter Garden in New York City.

    "Alcoholic Blues," composed by Albert Von Tilzer, performed by Billy Murray, January 27, 1919.


    Folklorist Vance Randolph, who was born in Kansas, moves to Missouri. There he will spend much of his career documenting the life, lore, and songs of the people of the Ozarks.

    U.S. Post Office burns early portions of Joyce's Ulysses

    Bauhaus School of architecture begins

    The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) is founded. The company had a long association with Victor records and ultimately purchased it in 1929, creating RCA Victor.

    Darius Milhaud writes Le Boeuf sur le Toit

    In the News

    The Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the sale, distribution, and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, is ratified. It sets a delay of one year before it goes into effect under the Volstead Act.

    Grand Canyon National Park is established in Arizona

    The American Legion is formed

    The American Communist Party is formed

    Versailles Peace Conference in France; negotiations for end of World War I. U. S. Senate will refuse to ratify resulting treaty due to League of Nations.

    "Black Sox" baseball scandal

    "Alcoholic Blues"
  21. 1920

    Songs of America

    Charles Ives sets to music Cowboy Songs including "Charlie Rutlage."

    "The Argentines, the Portuguese, and the Greeks" was written by Arthur M. Swanstrom and Carey Morgan. Performed by the Duncan Sisters, it's a humorous song of envy and begrudging admiration for the new wave of immigrants

    "Bill Burroughs," sung and played on the piano by Theodore "Tea Roll" Rolle. A jazz song about a Bahaman who smuggled rum into Florida during Prohibition. Recorded by Stetson Kennedy in Florida, 1940.


    Maurice Ravel composes La Valse

    Edith Wharton publishes The Age of Innocence

    Sinclair Lewis publishes Main Street

    Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones on Broadway

    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a landmark of German Expressionist film

    In the News

    The 18th amendment prohibiting the sale, manufacture, and making of alcohol, or "Prohibition" goes into effect

    19th Amendment ratified; gives women the right to vote

    Thousands arrested and deported in Red Scare "Palmer Raids"

    Socialist Eugene V. Debs makes his fifth run for president, this time from prison

    League of Nations is created; United States never joins

    Italian anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti arrested on murder chargers; their case will become a cause célèbre

    First national radio service begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; broadcasts results of presidential election

    "The Argentines, the Portuguese, and the Greeks"
  22. 1921

    Songs of America

    Charles Ives publishes 114 songs, including "The Housatonic at Stockbridge."


    French composer, conductor and educator Nadia Boulanger begins teaching at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau

    James Joyce publishes full-length Ulysses

    T.S. Eliot publishes The Waste Land

    Rudolph Valentino stars in The Sheik

    Pablo Picasso paints The Three Musicians

    Einstein lectures in New York on theory of relativity

    In the News

    Warren Harding inaugurated as twenty-ninth President of the U.S.

    Former President Taft appointed as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

    Resurgence of Ku Klux Klan

    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier placed at Arlington Cemetery

  23. 1922

    Songs of America

    Charles Wakefield Cadman writes The Willow Wind, a song cycle on Chinese themes.

    "Boll Weevil," work song sung by Irvin "Gar Mouth" Lowry and Willie "Red Eye" Williams One of several different boll weevil songs with the same or similar titles. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax at Cummins State Farm, Camp #5, near Varner, Lincoln County, Arkansas, May 20, 1939.


    Maurice Ravel orchestrates Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition

    Louis Armstrong joins King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band

    F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age names a decade

    Carl Engel becomes head of Library of Congress Music Division

    Reader's Digest begins publication

    In the News

    Lincoln Memorial dedicated in Washington D.C.

    Benito Mussolini and his National Fascist Party rise to power in Italy

    Fourteen Russian states form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

    The crop-destroying boll weevil that entered the U.S. through Mexico in about 1892 spreads to the southeastern U.S. by 1922, causing a crisis in the cotton industry. Eventually the insect spreads to all states where cotton is grown.

    Maurice Ravel
  24. 1923

    Songs of America

    John Duke's first songs are published.


    Arnold Schoenberg turns to twelve-tone method of compositions

    League of Composers is formed in New York

    Le Corbusier writes Towards an Architecture

    In the News

    Harding dies; Calvin Coolidge becomes thirtieth President of the United States

    Antitoxin for scarlet fever is discovered

    Adolf Hitler is arrested after the failed "Beer Hall Putsch."

    The Treaty of Lausanne is signed, expelling Greeks from Asia Minor, now Turkey. These Greeks fled to Greece as well as to other countries, including the U.S. These people became known as "the Greek refugees."

    Greek immigrants
  25. 1924

    Songs of America

    Samuel Barlow (1892-1982) writes Three Songs from the Chinese. In 1935, Barlow's opera Mon ami Pierrot was the first American opera performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.

    Amy Marcy Cheney Beach: A Mirage, op. 100 for soprano and piano trio, on a poem by Bertha Ochsner.

    "Konjanik" (Rider on Horseback), sung in Serbo-Croatian by Peter Boro and played on the gusle. A portion of the Croatian epic about the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. Croatians are among the groups with quotas imposed on their immigration to the U.S. in 1924. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in San Mateo, California on May 7, 1939.


    Wallingford Riegger is the first American to win the Coolidge Prize for his cantata La Belle Dame sans Merci

    The Curtis Institute of Music is founded in Philadelphia

    Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain

    Eugene O'Neill: Desire Under the Elms

    H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan found The American Mercury magazine

    George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" premieres

    In the News

    The Indian Citizenship Act grants full U.S. citizenship to American Indians

    After two years of investigation, Congress directs the president to cancel fraudulent oil leases involved in the Teapot Dome scandal

    Leopold and Loeb murder case in Chicago; defendants represented by Clarence Darrow

    The Immigration Act of 1924 limits immigration to two percent of the number of a country's nationals in the U.S. as of 1890. The Act tailored to reduce immigration from parts of the world other than Western Europe. Japanese are excluded entirely.

    Amy Beach
  26. 1925

    Songs of America

    Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) writes "June Twilight" on a poem by John Masefield.

    Experimental composer John J. Becker (1886-1961) writes Heine Song Cycle on poetry translated from the German by James Thomson.

    "Santa Barbara Earthquake," sung by Mrs. Vester Whitworth with Zelmer Ward on guitar. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Arvin FSA Camp, California, August 1, 1940.


    Jazz arrives in Europe

    Society of American Women Composers founded; Amy Marcy Cheney Beach is first president

    Flowering of Harlem Renaissance

    The first electrically recorded 78 rpm discs were introduced.

    Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck premieres in Berlin

    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

    In the News

    Adolph Hitler publishes Mein Kampf

    The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, highlights the growing conflict in America between scientific truth and biblical truth, particularly over evolution. Clarence Darrow represents the defendant, while William Jennings Bryan aids the prosecution.

    On June 28 at 6:44 AM, a 6.3 earthquake hits Santa Barbara, California.

    Harlem Renaissance
  27. 1926

    Songs of America

    Sidney Homer (1864-1953) sets to music Vachel Lindsay's "General Booth Enters into Heaven."

    John Alden Carpenter publishes settings of Langston Hughes as Four Negro Songs: "That Soothin' Song," "The Cryin' Blues," "Jazz Boys," and "Shake Your Brown Feet, Honey."

    "Hurricane," sung by James Brown, Jr., Walter Bass, and Ned Bass. This song uses the tune and refrain of "God Moves on the Water," a song about the steamship Titanic. Recorded in Florida in 1940 by Corita Doggett Corse and Robert Cornwall.

    "Come by Here," sung by H. Wylie. Folklorist Robert Winslow Gordon makes the first recording of this song on wax cylinder. The location is not known, but, as the speaker uses Gullah dialect, it was probably recorded in costal South Carolina or Georgia. This song will become famous as "Kumbayah," as it is picked up by singers in the Folk Song Revival of the 1950s.


    Edgar Varèse: first performance of Amériques

    Langston Hughes publishes first jazz poems, The Weary Blues

    Ernest Hemingway publishes The Sun Also Rises

    In the News

    Henry Ford institutes the five day work week

    First public demonstration of television by John L. Baird in London

    Gertrude Ederle is the first woman to swim the English Channel

    A category four hurricane devastates Miami, Florida (sometimes called "The Great Miami Hurricane").

    General William Booth enters into Heaven [sheet music]
  28. 1927

    Songs of America

    Vittorio Giannini (1903-1966) sets to music Karl West Flaster's poem "Tell Me, Oh Blue, Blue Sky."

    Irving Berlin writes "Blue Skies"

    "Poet's Song" by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is a setting of E.E. Cummings’ poem "in spite of everything."

    "Oh, Mr. Brown," a fire jumping song performed by Zora Neale Hurston, which she collected in the Bahamas. Hurston explains the dance after singing the song. Recorded by Herbert Halpert in Florida, June 18, 1939.


    Henry Cowell founds New Music, quarterly journal that publishes scores

    "The Jazz Singer" is released as the first commercial talking picture, using Vitaphone sound on disks synchronized with film.

    "Grand Ole Opry" first broadcast

    Zora Neale Hurston, while a graduate student in anthropology at Barnard University, wins grants that allow her to do fieldwork on African American folklore and culture in the southern U.S. and the Caribbean (1927 to 1932).

    Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences formed; first Academy Awards given in 1929

    In the News

    Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti executed

    Charles Lindbergh flies solo from New York to Paris

    Joseph Stalin expels Trotsky and his supporters from the Russian Communist Party and gains full control

    President Coolidge signs bill creating Federal Radio Commission

    Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs, setting a record that will stand for more than 50 years

    Disastrous flood in lower Mississippi River Valley

    Holland Tunnel opens between New York and New Jersey

    Al Jolson in "The Jazz Singer"
  29. 1928

    Songs of America

    "Influenza," sung and played on guitar by Ace Johnson, April 15, 1939. Lyrics to the tune of "The Titanic" about the influenza epidemic of 1928-29. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax, Clemens State Farm, Brazoria, Brazoria County, Texas, April 15, 1939.


    Robert Winslow Gordon becomes the first "director of the Archive of American Folk Song" at the Library of Congress. In this recording, he is testing disc recording equipment by singing a verse from "Casey Jones," Library of Congress, 1932.

    Cartoon character Mickey Mouse appears in animated film Steamboat Willie

    In the News

    The U.S. influenza epidemic in 1928 and 1929 rekindles fears of the pandemic of 1918.

    Kellogg-Briand Pact signed; aims to outlaw war to settle disputes

  30. 1929

    Songs of America

    Milton Ager (1893-1979) writes the popular song Happy Days Are Here Again. It is used in the 1930 film "Chasing Rainbows" and in 1932 as the campaign song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    "The United States Needs Prayer, Everywhere," hymn sung by Lulu Morris and the congregation of the African Methodist Church. Recorded by Herbert Halpert in Tupelo, Mississippi, in May, 1939.

    "Yo cuando era niño mi padre querido" [first line], sung in Spanish and played on guitar by José Suarez, guitar, April 26, 1939. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax in Brownsville, Texas, April 26, 1939. A song composed by the singer about picking cotton as a child with his father.

    "Sunny California," Mrs. Mary Sullivan sings a song she wrote about her experience leaving her family in Texas to find work as a migrant in New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The song title is ironic, as she arrives in California during a flood. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Shafter FSA Camp, California, August 9, 1941.

    "Versos del Mojado" ("Song of the Wetback"), sung in Spanish and played on guitar by Homero López and Manuel Salinas. A song about the troubles of an illegal immigrant who crosses the Rio Grande to find work in the U.S. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax in Sarita, Kennedy County, Texas, April 29, 1939.


    William Faulkner publishes The Sound And The Fury

    Thomas Wolfe publishes Look Homeward, Angel

    Ernest Hemingway publishes A Farewell To Arms

    After completing his doctoral dissertation on British Isles sea songs at Harvard in 1928, James Madison Carpenter earns a Harvard Fellowship to return to England and Scotland to continue and broaden his research. He spends the next six years recording folksongs, ballads, and folk plays on wax cylinders, sung and played on the fiddle by Sam Bennett. Recorded by James Madison Carpenter in Bampton, England, in 1933.

    Thomas A. Edison Inc. ceases production of cylinders.

    In the News

    Herbert Hoover inaugurated as thirty-first President of the U.S.

    St. Valentine's Day Massacre, in which mobster Al Capone's men massacre rival gangsters in turf war in Chicago during Prohibition

    Stock market crashes in October, beginning of Great Depression; a decade of world-wide economic depression is worsened in the United States by a long period of severe drought in the Midwest and Southwest.

    Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

    Alexander Fleming
  31. 1930

    Songs of America

    Samuel Barber sets to music Matthew Arnold's poem Dover Beach for baritone voice and string quartet. A talented singer, Barber performed the work on many occasions.


    William Grant Still writes Afro-American Symphony

    Kurt Stille develops improvements in wire recording.

    Grant Wood paints American Gothic

    Edward Hopper paints Early Sunday Morning

    In the News

    Mao Tse-tung writes "A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire"

    Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto

    Communist Parties are formed in Vietnam and Panama

    Widespread drought affects Mexico, causing workers to cross into the U.S. to seek work as migrant laborers, mainly in California.

    Samuel Barber
    William Grant Still
  32. 1931

    Songs of America

    "Eaton Clan," ballad sung and played on guitar by Roger "Burn Down" Garnett. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax at State Penitentiary, Camp #10; Stockade Hall, Parchman, Sunflower County, Mississippi, May 23, 1939.


    George and Ira Gershwin write "Of Thee I Sing"

    Salvador Dali paints The Persistence of Memory

    Edgard Varèse completes his masterpiece for percussion Ionisation

    In the News

    President Hoover signs Public Law 823 of the 71st Congress which states: "That the composition consisting of the words and music known as "The Star-Spangled Banner is designated the national anthem of the United States of America."

    Al Capone sentenced to prison for tax evasion

    Bootleggers Ruey and Edgar Eaton of Dry Creek, Mississippi are convicted of killing Marshal Clyde Rivers.

    Nine African-American youths in Scottsboro, Alabama charged with assaulting a white woman. The convictions of the "Scottsboro Boys" were overturned by the Supreme Court in 1935.

    Empire State Building opens in New York City

    Ira Gershwin
    Al Capone
  33. 1932


    Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City

    In the News

    Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapped and killed

    Amelia Earhart is first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic

    Bonus Army March to Washington, in which WWI veterans lobby to receive promised bonuses early to relieve suffering during Great Depression

    Radio City Music Hall
  34. 1933

    Songs of America

    Charles Ives composes "Walt Whitman," based on a stanza from the poet's "Song of Myself."

    Henry Cowell sets to music two poems by Catherine Riegger: "Sunset" and "Rest"

    "Loveless CCC," a song about the Civilian Conservation Corps sung and played by Tommy Rhoades. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Vasilia FSA Camp, California, August 7, 1940.

    "The Job's Just Around the Corner," a poem composed and spoken by Mrs. Imogene Chapin, originally of Marshall, Arkansas. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Arvin FSA Camp, California, August 1, 1940.


    Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers make their first film together: Flying Down to Rio

    Samuel Barber’s The School for Scandal Overture wins the Bearns Prize

    Henry Cowell: American Composers on American Music

    In the News

    Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated as thirty-second Preisdent of the U.S. declaring, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." New Deal begins.

    FDR's first "100 days" leads to creation of many "alphabet agencies" including: Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), National Recovery Administration (NRA).

    FDR's first "fireside chat" over the radio

    21st Amendment: Prohibition repealed

    Adolph Hitler appointed German Chancellor

    Frances Perkins becomes first female cabinet member as secretary of labor

    Severe drought and erosion caused by non-sustainable farming techniques combine to create dust storms in the Midwest that strip the topsoil away, cause lung disease, and deaths. This results in the largest migration of people in American history, mainly to western states, during the era that to be called the "Dust Bowl." These conditions persist for nearly a decade.

    Civilian Conservation Corps
  35. 1934

    Songs of America

    "Hijo, hijo, mira esta muher," a children's game song sung in Spanish by Josephine and Aurora Gonzalez, >Pearl Manchaco, Lia Trujillo, and Adela Flores. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Alan Lomax in San Antonio, Texas, May 1934.

    "I Got a Home in New Orleans," a blues song sung by Clyde Hill. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax at Clemens state farm, Brazoria, Texas, April 16, 1939.

    "Just a Jitterbug," swing song composed and sung by James Griffin, 1939. Recorded by Stetson Kennedy and Robert Cook in Florida.


    Premiere of Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein

    F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes Tender is the Night

    American Academy of Poets founded

    John A. Lomax and his son, Alan Lomax, co-author American Ballads and Folk Songs, a collection of songs they had collected. Alan Lomax is just 19.

    Cab Calloway's recording "Call of the Jitterbug" popularizes the use of the word "jitterbug," for a style of swing music and dance.

    In the News

    Federal Communications Commission established

    Alcatraz becomes federal prison in San Francisco Bay

    Oklahoma aviator Wiley Post discovers the jet stream

    An attempt by Louisiana Senator Huey Long to unseat New Orleans Mayor Thomas Semmes Walmsley nearly results in armed conflict.

    Export-Import Bank established

    Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) established

    Notorious criminals Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger ("Public Enemy No. 1") all gunned down by authorities

    Cab Calloway
  36. 1935

    Songs of America

    Samuel Barber (1910-1981) writes "Night Wanderers," text by William Henry Davies.

    Henry Burleigh sets to music Langston Hughes's "Lovely, dark, and lonely one."

    Albert Malotte sets "The Lord's Prayer" to music.

    "Midnight Special," an excerpt played on guitar and sung by Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter. Recorded by Alan Lomax in Wilton, Connecticut, February, 1935.

    "Government Camp Song," sung by 12-year old girls Mary Campbell and Margaret Treat. The girls composed this song with Betty Campbell, Mary Campbell's sister. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Shafter FSA Camp, California, 1941.

    "Joe Louis," blues song sung by Buster Ezell. Recorded by Willis Laurence James and Louis Wade Jones in Fort Valley, Georgia, March 1943.


    George and Ira Gershwin write Porgy and Bess

    Bela Bartok’s fifth string quartet premieres at the Library of Congress

    Kurt Weill immigrates to U.S.

    AEG (Germany) exhibits its "Magnetophon" Model K-1 at the Berlin Radio Exposition.

    BASF prepares the first plastic-based magnetic tapes.

    John A. Lomax brings the singer/song writer Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter north, arriving in New York on January 1, 1935. Leadbelly performs and makes commercial recordings. This begins his process of gaining exposure to a wider audience than he had previously had in Louisana.

    In the News

    Nuremberg Laws in Germany discriminate against persons of Jewish descent

    Works Progress Administration (WPA) established; includes Federal Theatre and Federal Music projects

    Social Security Act is passed

    The Resettlement Administration (R.A.), later the Farm Security Administration (F.S.A), is established to aid agricultural families suffering from the effects of the Great Depression and the dust bowl. The F.S.A. establishes camps for migrant workers that help them to eke out a living by relieving them from the need to put all their income into housing and gasoline to move from place to place.

    Rural Electrification Administration created

    Alcoholics Anonymous founded

    Wagner Act establishes National Labor Relations Board

    Senator Huey P. Long assassinated in Louisiana

    Joe Louis Barrow knocks out heavyweight Primo Carnera in six rounds, knocks out former world champion Max Baer later the same year, and is proclaimed Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

  37. 1936

    Songs of America

    Union Man, sung by Albert Morgan. Recorded by George Korson in the Newkirk Tunnel Mine, Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, 1946.

    "La Capinera" (Blackbird), sung in Italian by Mario Olmeda, who learned the song from his father. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Concord, California on February 13, 1939.


    Piet Mondrian paints Composition in White

    Carl Orff composes Carmina Burana

    Many Italians who had opposed Benito Mussolini's rise to power immigrate to the U.S.

    Margaret Mitchell publishes novel Gone With the Wind; 1939 motion picture is equally popular

    In the News

    Union organizer and president of the United Mine Workers John L. Lewis helped to create the Congress of Industrial Organizations representing unskilled workers within the American Federation of Labor in 1935. The following year during a dispute within the union, the CIO members are expelled, and form their own union with John L. Lewis as their president. These unions merge again in 1955.

    Flint Sit-Down Strike of automotive workers in Michigan

    Mussolini and Hitler form Axis

    Spanish Civil War begins; American volunteers organize as Abraham Lincoln Brigade

    FDR reelected president; will be first president to be inaugurated in January, per change mandated by the 20th Amendment

    Hoover Dam completed on the border of Nevada and Arizona

    African-American track and field star Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at Olympics held in Berlin

    King Edward VIII abdicates the British throne to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. They will be given the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

    Flint strikers
  38. 1937

    Songs of America

    "Rock Island Line," a work song sung by Joe Battle, C.A. Story, Willie Johnson, John Denny, George Jones, and Joe Green. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax at Cummins State Farm, Camp #1, near Varner, Lincoln County, Arkansas, May, 21 1939.


    Marc Blitzstein writes The Cradle Will Rock

    Aaron Copland publishes What to Listen for in Music

    Copland and others found American Composers’ Alliance

    Virgil Thomson becomes music critic for the New York Herald- Tribune

    Pablo Picasso paints Guernica

    Nazi exhibit of "Degenerate Art"

    June 22, 1937, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter makes his first commercial recording of Rock Island Line, a song he learned in prison that he was to make famous, and that he recorded several times. John Avery Lomax had recorded the song in Arkansas prisons from inmates, including Ledbetter, beginning in 1934.

    In the News

    Hindenburg disaster, in which the dirigible caught fire as it prepared to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey

    Amelia Earhart Putnam disappears while flying over the Pacific Ocean

    The Golden Gate Bridge opens in San Francisco

    Indian National Congress party wins regional elections in India

    Possibly the singers of "Rock Island Line"
    Golden Gate Bridge
  39. 1938

    Songs of America

    Samuel Barber sets to music Four songs for voice and piano, including James Agee's "Sure on This Shining Night" and "The Secrets of the Old" by William Butler Yeats.

    Louis Talma (1906-1996) writes "I fear a man of scanty speech" on the text by Emily Dickinson.

    Irving Berlin writes the well-known revised version of "God Bless America."

    "Shove it Over," a track lining work song performed and described by WPA fieldworker Zora Neale Hurston. Recorded by Herbert Halpert in Florida, June 18, 1939.

    "Desert Blues," a blues song composed and sung by Hattie Ellis, with Jack Ramsey on guitar. Recorded by John Avery Lomax and Ruby Terrill Lomax at Goree State Farm, near Huntsville, Walker County, Texas, May 14, 1939.


    Samuel Barber writes Adagio for Strings

    Aaron Copland's ballet score Billy the Kid

    Jean-Paul Sartre publishes Nausea

    Frank Lloyd Wright builds Taliesin West in Arizona

    Orson Welles's radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds

    Zora Neale Hurston joins the WPA Federal Writer's Project to collect and describe songs, stories, and traditions of Florida.

    Pianists Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, and Pete Johnson perform at Carnegie Hall, launching the Boogie Woogie music and dance craze.

    Former bootlegger Hattie Ellis begins an unusual career as a blues singer while serving time for murder in Texas. She records songs for the prison radio station, WBAP, and becomes extremely popular with Texas blues fans. Later, all the recordings made by the radio station were destroyed. Recordings made by John and Ruby Lomax may be the only existing record Ellis's songs.

    In the News

    Germany invades Austria (Anschluss)

    Munich Pact; Britain and France appease Hitler in allowing Germany to control Sudetenland

    Kristallnacht; German Jews forced to wear Star of David

    Italy passes its own version of anti-Jewish Nuremberg laws

    U.S. Congress creates the House on Un-American Activities (HUAC)

    Pete Johnson
  40. 1939

    Songs of America

    Samuel Barber writes Three Songs, texts by James Joyce.

    "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," sung by Marian Anderson, recorded in 1924. This spiritual is among the songs performed by Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial concert.

    Harold Arlen writes Over the Rainbow for the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The song will win the Academy Award and become one of the most popular songs of all time.

    "Fight for Union Recognition," a union song sung by Ruby and Bert Rains. A song sung during the 1939 Madera Cotton Strike near Arvin, California. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin in Bakersfield, California, August 15, 1940.

    "Corn Dodgers," a folk song sung by Mrs. Myra Pipkin. According to the collectors, Mrs. Pipkin may have been the inspiration for the character "Ma Joad" in John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin at the Arvin FSA Camp, California, August 26, 1941.


    Founding of BMI: Broadcast Music Incorporated

    After the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., Eleanor Roosevelt intercedes and organizes an outdoor concert. On April 9, Marian Anderson performs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to an audience of seventy-five thousand, with a radio audience of millions more. Thousands of members of the DAR, including the First Lady, resign.

    Founding of American Music Center

    New York World's Fair takes visitors to "The World of Tomorrow"

    James Joyce publishes Finnegan's Wake

    John Steinbeck publishes his novel, The Grapes of Wrath, calling attention to the plight of migrant workers of the Dust Bowl. He based his work on the Arvin Federal Government Camp, also called "Weedpatch Camp."

    In the News

    World War II begins in Europe

    Researchers at Columbia University split the atom for the first time

    The Russo-Finnish War begins

    The Spanish Civil War

    Madera Cotton Strike near Arvin, California. This was a strike by the newly-formed United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA), which was violently opposed by the Associated Farmers.

    Hatch Act proscribes political activity by employees of the federal government

    Hitler-Stalin Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union

    Congress approves "cash and carry" plan in new Neutrality Act

    Marian Anderson
  41. 1940

    Songs of America

    "Kickin' Mule" a string band song performed by the King Family, a migrant worker family that performed for dances at the Visalia FSA Camp, California. Recorded by Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin, September 2, 1941. This band performed in the 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath.

    "Perdió Jacobo a José" (Jacob Lost Joseph), sung by Ricardo Archuleta. A song from the folk drama "El Niño Perdido." Recorded by Juan B. Rael, August 1, 1940. Location unidentified (Possibly Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico).

    Barbara Lynn and Friends: Texas Rhythm and Blues [webcast]. Recorded at the Library of Congress November 18, 2009.


    John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, is made into a motion picture directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda.

    Juan B. Rael embarks on his historic effort to document and analyze "shepherd’s plays," the folk dramas of rural Hispanic people of New Mexico.

    William Sidney Wilson invents the first fully electric guitar while a student in electrical engineering at North Carolina State College, improving on previous experiments in the creation of electrified guitars.

    Walt Disney's film Fantasia is released using eight-track stereophonic sound.

    In the News

    First peacetime military draft instituted in the United States

    "Battle of the Atlantic" by German U-boats against Allied ships

    Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of Great Britain

    President Roosevelt proclaims the U.S. to be the "arsenal of democracy" during December radio broadcast

    King family musicians
    Production crew at work on set of "The Grapes of Wrath"
  42. 1941

    Songs of America

    "We are Americans, Praise the Lord," a World War II Gospel song sung by Bertha Houston and congregation. Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Fort Valley, Georgia, 1943.

    "Roosevelt and Hitler," a World War II blues song composed, sung, and played by Buster Ezell. Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Fort Valley, Georgia, 1943.


    James Agee and Walker Evans publish Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

    William Grant Still's opera Troubled Island is produced by the New York City Opera company. It is the first grand opera by an African-American composer to be produced by a major opera company in the United States.

    Orson Welles's film Citizen Kane is released.

    Brothers Bruce and Sheridan Fahnestock travel in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) documenting the music and song of the region. This was also a covert intelligence-gathering mission funded by the Roosevelt administration, prior to the U.S. entry into World War II. "Tabuh Gari," played by the Gamelan Semar Pegulingan Ensemble. Recorded by Bruce and Sheridan Fahnestock in Ubud [Teges], Bali, in 1941. Fahnestock South Sea Collection, AFC 1986/033: AFS 25,863 A.

    In the News

    Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated for the third time.

    United Service Organization (USO) formed to meet the needs of servicemen through material goods and entertainment opportunities

    Lend-Lease Act allows the U.S. to provide military aid to Allied nations

    National Gallery of Art opens in Washington, D.C.

    Yankee baseball great Lou Gehrig dies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), now known as Lou Gehrig's disease

    Atlantic Charter issued by the United States and Great Britain

    U.S.S. Reuben James sunk by German U-boat while on convoy duty off Iceland

    On December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor is attacked, initiating U.S. military involvement in World War II.

    Willis Laurence James
  43. 1942

    Songs of America

    "Catfish Blues," a blues song played and sung by David "Honeyboy" Edwards at the 50th Anniversary Concert for the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress, 1978. The song, also known as "Rollin' Stone," was written by Robert Petway in 1941, and is the source for the name of the rock group The Rolling Stones. AFS 20103.

    "Obey the Ration Laws," a World War II blues song performed by Buster Ezell Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Fort Valley, Georgia, 1943.

    "What a Time," a World War II Gospel song performed by the Golden Jubilee Quartet. The chronology presented in the song ends with Hitler "ruling the sea," a reference to the U-boats off the U.S. coast. Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Fort Valley, Georgia, 1943.

    "Let's Go Fight," a World War II blues song composed, sung, and played by Buster Ezell. Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Fort Valley, Georgia, 1943.

    "Tear Tokyo Down," a World War II song sung by Deacon Sam Jackson, Oak Grove Missionary Church. These are World War II lyrics set to the old spiritual "Sampson," casting General Douglas MacArthur in the role of "the strongest warrior." Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Peach County, Georgia, 1943.


    Leonard Bernstein becomes assistant to Serge Koussevitzky at Tanglewood in Massachusetts

    Choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage begin collaborating

    William Schuman wins Pulitzer Prize for Music for the cantata A Free Song on text from Walt Whitman’s "Drum Taps."

    French author Albert Camus publishes The Stranger

    Alan Lomax makes the first recordings of influential blues artist David "Honeyboy" Edwards at the Library of Congress. Edwards does not make his first commercial recording until 1951.

    Rodeo, a ballet scored by Aaron Copeland and choreographed by Agnes De Mille premieres at the Metropolitan Opera House on October 16, 1942. Copeland found his inspiration for the "Hoe Down" theme in the ballet in a fiddle tune, "Bonaparte's Retreat," played by William Hamilton Stepp. Recorded by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in Salyersville, Kentucky, October 26, 1937. Alan and Elizabeth Lomax Kentucky Collection: AFC 1937/001: AFS 01568 A02.

    In the News

    On January 26, 1942, the first U.S. forces arrive in Great Britain.

    Executive Order 9066 orders the internment of Japanese Americans

    On March 12, 1942, under orders from President Roosevelt, General Douglas MacArthur retreats from the Philippines and relocates U.S. troops under his command to Australia vowing "I shall return". On April 18, 1942, MacArthur is appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific.

    Bataan Death March of Allied forces by the Japanese in the Philippines

    Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

    Office of Civilian Defense established

    Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC) created

    Battle of Coral Sea in the Pacific Theater; first battle fought solely by airplanes from aircraft carriers

    Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes Commander of U.S. forces in Europe

    Battle of Midway in the Pacific Theater

    World War II: the German navy begins a U-boat offensive along east coast of the U.S., attacking, damaging, and sinking U.S. and Allied naval, merchant, and passenger ships.

    Office of War Information established

    Office of Strategic Services (OSS) established; precursor to the postwar Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

    Battle of Stalingrad in the Soviet Union

    Battle of Guadalcanal; fight for island extends to February 1943

    The U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) freezes prices on nearly all everyday goods, starting with sugar and coffee. Ration books are issued, limiting the amount of goods that can be purchased by any individual.

    Shoe rationing has hit us, gentlemen ...
  44. 1943

    Songs of America

    Leonard Bernstein writes the comic song cycle I Hate Music! A Cycle of Five Kid Songs.

    "Gypsy Davy," a ballad performed by Woody Guthrie. Recorded by Alan Lomax and John Langenegger, 1942.

    Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008) writes the Ballad of Thomas Jefferson on a text by Louis Lerman.

    "Sit Down," (a World War II version of the Gospel song "Sit Down"), performed by Deacon Sam Jackson and chorus, Oak Grove Missionary Church. Recorded by Willis Laurence James in Peach County, Georgia, 1943.


    Leonard Bernstein makes his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic

    Woody Guthrie publishes Bound for Glory.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! opens on Broadway

    Norman Rockwell paints his Four Freedoms series

    In the News

    Casablanca Conference of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill

    The Pentagon building is completed in northern Virginia

    U.S. forces pushed back by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps at Kasserine Pass in Tunisia

    Jewish uprising in Warsaw ghetto

    The Jefferson Memorial is dedicated in Washington, D.C.

    Iin May, Winston Churchill travels to the U.S. to meet with President Roosevelt and plan strategy for the war in Europe. He also addresses a joint session of Congress, praising the partnership of the U.S. and Great Britain in the war effort.

    Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles between white servicemen and Mexican youth sporting "zoot suit" style clothing

    Current Tax Payment Act introduces income tax withholding policy still followed in the 21st Century

    Benito Mussolini forced to resign in Italy

    Italian campaign begins

    "Big Three" Conference in Teheran of FDR, Churchill and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union

    The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed by the Magnuson Act. This law, enacted in 1882, prohibited immigration from China, stopping the wave of immigration that had begun with the Gold Rush era.

    Woody Guthrie
    Jews rounded up in Warsaw
  45. 1944

    Songs of America

    Flory Jagoda and Friends: Traditional Sephardic Music from the Former Yugoslavia and the World. Recorded at the Library of Congress, March 21, 2007 [webcast]. The singer, who lost her family to the holocaust, immigrated to the U.S. in 1946.


    Leonard Bernstein's musical On the Town and ballet Fancy Free

    Aaron Copland's score for Martha Graham's ballet Appalachian Spring includes the Shaker melody "Simple Gifts"

    Tennessee Williams writes The Glass Menagerie

    In the News

    The Roosevelt Administration creates the War Refugee Board to aid civilian victims of the Nazi and Axis powers in Europe.

    German bombers attack London with V-1 and V-2 rockets

    D-Day Normandy invasion and liberation of Paris

    Servicemen's Readjustment Act, or "G.I. Bill," provided benefits for World War II veterans, including low-interest mortgages and tuition payments

    First liberation of a German concentration camp

    Following Japanese defeat at Leyte Gulf, Kamikaze missions begin

    FDR wins fourth presidential election

    Battle of the Bulge begins on the Western front in Europe

    [Martha Graham and ensemble in Appalachian spring]
    [View of unidentified German concentration camp at time of liberation by U.S. Army]
  46. 1945

    Songs of America

    Spade Cooley's Western Swing Song Folio is published. It is the first publication to identify the genre "Western Swing."

    John Jacob Niles publishes The Anglo-American Ballad Book.


    George Antheil writes memoir Bad Boy of Music

    First performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes (commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation)

    Two Magnetophon tape decks are sent back to the U.S. in pieces in multiple mailbags by Army Signal Corps Major John T. (Jack) Mullin.

    Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel wins the New York Drama Critics award

    In the News

    Yalta Conference of FDR, Churchill and Stalin to discuss the end of WWII.

    Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific Theatre

    Roosevelt dies; Truman becomes thirty-third president

    United Nations founded

    Germany surrenders, "V-E Day"

    Potsdam Conference near Berlin attended by Truman, Stalin, Churchill (and his successor as prime minister, Clement Atlee)

    Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; World War II ends with surrender by Japan

    Nuremburg Trials begin for high Nazi officials accused of war crimes

    General panoramic view of Hiroshima after the bomb
  47. 1946

    Songs of America

    Paul Bowles sets to music four poems by Tennessee Williams as Blue Mountain Ballads: "Heavenly Grass," "Lonesome Man," "Cabin," and "Sugar in the Cane."


    First Darmstadt Contemporary Music Festival

    Jack Mullin demonstrates "hi-fi" tape recording with his reconstructed Magnetophon at an Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) meeting in San Francisco.

    George Grosz paints Peace II

    Robert Penn Warren wins Pulitzer Prize for literature for All the King’s Men

    In the News

    Winston Churchill gives his "Iron Curtain" speech in Missouri, coins the phrase "cold war."

    Philippine independence

    Labor strikes begin following wartime pledges to refrain from strike activity

    Atomic Energy Commission established

    Dr. Benjamin Spock publishes Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care

    Tennessee Williams
    President Roosevelt signing the bill for Philippine independence
  48. 1947

    Songs of America

    Samuel Barber writes the orchestral song Knoxville: Summer of 1915.

    Elinor Remick Warren (1900-1991) sets to music verses from Whitman's "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" as "We Two."


    Arnold Schoenberg writes A Survivor from Warsaw

    Bing Crosby and his technical director, Murdo McKenzie, agree to audition tape recorders brought in by Jack Mullin and Richard Ranger. Mullin's is preferred, and he is brought back to record Crosby's Philco radio show.

    Ampex produces its first tape recorder, the Model 200.

    Tennessee Williams writes A Streetcar Named Desire

    American composer, author, and ethnomusicologist Paul Bowles moves to Tangiers, Morocco to write and to document traditional music of the region. "Chorus and dance," sung and played by Rais Mahamad ben Mohammed and ensemble, musicians of the Haha tribe in Tamanar. Recorded by Paul Bowles in Essaouira, Morocco, August 8, 1959. Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection, AFC 1960/001: AFS 11,625 3B.

    In the News

    Central Intelligence Agency is formed

    Truman Doctrine pledges the U.S. to aid nations threatened by Communism

    Partition of India and Pakistan

    Air Force established as a separate service

    Pilot Chuck Yaeger breaks the sound barrier in the Bell X-1

    Truman issues executive order instituting loyalty program for government employees

    Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposes recovery plan for Europe that will become known as the Marshall Plan

    Truman becomes first president to appear on national television broadcast

    HUAC begins to investigate communist influences in the motion picture industry

    Jackie Robinson integrates major league baseball when he signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers

    Truman defeats primary challenger Republican Thomas Dewey for the presidency

    Elinor Remick Warren
  49. 1948

    Songs of America

    John Duke composes song set Four Poems of Edwin Arlington Robinson, on "Luke Havergal," "Richard Cory," and "Miniver Cheevy."

    Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver of Tennessee, recipients of the 2006 National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Award, perform bluegrass songs and gospel songs in bluegrass style at the Library of Congress, September 13, 2006.


    Olivier Messiaen: Turangalila Symphony premiere (commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation)

    Aaron Copland writes his Clarinet Concerto for Benny Goodman

    Bluegrass emerges as a musical form distinct from old-time and country music. The name likely derives from The Blue Grass Boys, a band featuring Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise, and Howard Watts.

    The microgroove 33-1/3 rpm long-play vinyl record (LP) is introduced by Columbia Records.

    In the News

    Gandhi assassinated in India

    Organization of American States chartered (preceded by International Conferences of American States and Pan American Union)

    Article: "The Origin of Chemical Elements" by George Gamow, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman is published in Physical Review, proposing the Big Bang Theory

    Israel declares independence

    Palomar telescope dedicated in California

    Truman orders desegregation of the armed forces

    Bill Monroe
  50. 1949

    Songs of America

    Celius Dougherty writes Love in the Dictionary on text from Funk and Wagnalls Students’ Standard Dictionary.

    Riots in Peekskill, NY at Paul Robeson concerts.


    Leonard Bernstein composes The Age of Anxiety

    Blitzstein's Regina on Broadway

    RCA introduces the microgroove 45 rpm, large-hole, 7-inch record and record changer/adaptor.

    George Orwell publishes 1984

    In the News

    Mao Tse-tung proclaims People's Republic of China

    North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ratified by Congress

    Soviet Union detonates its first atomic bomb

    First women graduate from Harvard Medical School

    Alger Hiss trial for perjury related to alleged espionage; he will be found guilty in 1950

    Department of Defense created

    Chairman Mao Tse-tung