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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

George M. Cohan. "Over There." New York: Leo Feist, Inc., 1917. Sheet music. Music Division, Library of Congress (102.00.00)
George M. Cohan. "Over There." New York: Leo. Feist, Inc., 1917. Original musical sketch by Cohan. Music Division, Library of Congress (103.00.00)
Popular Songs of the AEF. YMCA, 1918. Coolidge Pollard Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (106.00.00)

"The Yanks Are Coming!"

Approximately 35,000 patriotic songs, military marches, love ballads, and protest songs were copyrighted during World War I. More than half were written by women, who usually collaborated as lyricist with a male composer. Lyrics ranged from rallying cries and odes to bravery to pleas for pacifism and celebrations of peace. George M. Cohan, considered the father of American musical comedy, became the first entertainer to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, which he received in 1940 particularly for his 1917 patriotic standards "A Grand Old Flag" and "Over There"—the latter song most closely identified with the American experience of the war. On view is one of the many sheet music versions of the song and Cohan's own manuscript, which he signed.

Due in part to the absence of radio, World War I was the last American war in which singing was a widespread and popular pastime among the troops. Whether filling the time on the tedious passage across the Atlantic Ocean or helping to boost morale on the battlefield, song could be heard nearly everywhere among the American Expeditionary Forces as this "songster" pamphlet published by the YMCA helps to illustrate.