Over There! and Back Again: Patriotic American
Sheet Music from World War I

Selections from the
Wade Hall Sheet Music Collection

The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library
The University of Alabama

Exhibit by:
Jessica Lacher-Feldman,
W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library
and Daniel oldmark, School of Music,
The University of Alabama

   

 

Exhibit Overview

Before CDs, before LPs, before 45s, before 78s, sheet music served the public’s desire for popular music. You could walk into your local music shop, buy any of the big hits of the day for no more than a dime a piece, take it home and sing with your family or friends with someone at the piano or perhaps the ukulele.

When World War I began in August of 1914, sheet music was at the height of its popularity. Commercially, the music industry was booming; the Woolworth’s chain of sheet music counters alone sold more than 150 million pieces of sheet music every year at ten cents per copy. Particularly popular songs—“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”—could sell upwards of three million copies each.

Composers of sheet music had also reached a creative zenith, with names like George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and the Gershwin brothers, George & Ira, all writing some of the their most popular tunes during this decade.

For this exhibit we chose nearly fifty pieces — all from the Wade Hall Sheet Music Collection. Dr. Wade Hall, a native of Union Springs Alabama, is one of the largest donors to the Hoole Library. He has given generously in the areas of books, sheet music, sound recordings and photographs. Materials from the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture reflect broadly American culture in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the history and culture of the American South, and popular American culture.

These selections exemplify some of the major trends in both music publishing and public perceptions of the war. One music publisher felt that war songs could be divided into six categories, and we have divided this collection into six themes: women in the war (mothers, daughters, and sweethearts), wartime hits, miniatures, and novelty songs. This sheet music gives us a unique view into some of the social concerns and widespread cultural themes circulating in the United States during the War.

Click on any of the themes to begin!

 

 

Exhibit Home | Exhibit Overview | Wartime Hits! | Sweethearts | Daddies and Daughters | Wartime Miniatures | Mothers | Novelty Songs

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