A Variety of Songsters

As these examples from the Library of Congress Music Division show, songsters remained popular into the early twentieth century, when they were published as larger booklets with vocal arrangements and piano accompaniments. Some songsters promoted specific tickets, such the 1884 “Blaine-Logan Songster.” Others focused on political parties’ platforms. The 1878 “Greenback” Party songster included tunes supporting the use of paper money; the Progressive or “Bull Moose” Party songster endorsed Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) after his split from the Republicans in 1912. Songsters also reflected aspects of contemporary culture. The Democrats’ tunes for 1888 were touted as “red hot”—in the most up-to-date style.

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  • “National Greenback Campaign Songs, as sung by the Des Moines Greenback Glee Club.” Des Moines: Mills & Company, 1878. Music Division, Library of Congress (8)

  • “Red Hot Democratic Campaign Songs for 1888.” Chicago: S. Brainard’s Sons, 1888. Music Division, Library of Congress (9)

  • “Blaine and Logan Songster.” Philadelphia: Thos. Hunter, 1884. Music Division, Library of Congress (11)

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Democrat and Whig Songsters

By the 1840s, partisan politics was well developed, and the two major parties of the day, the Democrats and Whigs, exploited the power of song as a campaign tool. Both parties published “songsters,” pocket-sized books perfect for campaigners to attract voters with an impromptu street corner rally. The earliest songsters included only lyrics printed along with the titles of well-known tunes to which they were to be sung. Two songsters from the 1844 contest between James K. Polk (1795–1849) and Henry Clay (1777–1852) offered their followers relevant new words for old standards like “Yankee Doodle” and “Old Dan Tucker.”

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  • “Old Dan Tucker.” and “The Democratic Songster.” New York and Philadelphia: Turner & Fisher, 1844. Music Division, Library of Congress (5)

  • “Whig Songs, Selected, Sung, and Published by the Choir of the National Clay Club.” Philadelphia, 1844. Music Division, Library of Congress (6A)

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