Library of Congress: “America Singing: 19th Century Song Sheets”

In our our sing-along performances and discussions, we draw many primary sources for songs from this extensive archive:

Collection: “America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets” at the Library of Congress

For most of the nineteenth century, before the advent of phonograph and radio technologies, Americans learned the latest songs from printed song sheets. Not to be confused with sheet music, song sheets are single printed sheets, usually six by eight inches, with lyrics but no music. These were new songs being sung in music halls or new lyrics to familiar songs. Some of America’s most beloved tunes were printed as song sheets, including “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Song sheets are an early example of a mass medium and today they offer a unique perspective on the political, social, and economic life of the time, especially during the Civil War. Some were dramatic, some were humorous; all of them had America joining together in song.

ABOUT THE COLLECTION: 

Contains 4291 song sheets. Included among these American songs are ninety-seven British song sheets from Dublin and London. The collection spans the period from the turn of the nineteenth century to the 1880s, although a majority of the song sheets were published during the height of the craze, from the 1850s to the 1870s. Held by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

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