Collection classmark: B-Amer.
Music Division. New York Public Library.
40 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023-7498
- Processed by:
- Music Division staff
- Date Completed:
- Encoded by:
- Robert Kosovsky
©2000 The New York Public Library,
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. All rights reserved.
The American Broadsides Collection was assembled from a variety of sources and
There are no restrictions to access.
For permission to copy or publish contact the Music Division.
Broadside Collection, Music Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox
and Tilden Foundations.
The paragraphs below are excerpted from: Edwin Wolf 2nd, American sheets, slip
ballads and poetical broadcasts 1850-1870 (Philadelphia: The Library
Company, 1963), iii.
A fad in American life produced a shower of song sheets, slip ballads and poetical
broadsides. Although such sheets had been printed by enterprising publishers for
centuries, it was not until about 1850 that it became big small-business. Then, to
meet a growing popular demand sheets, which had once been printed by the score,
appeared by the thousands. They were run off in large editions, sold wholesale to
dealers and sold retail by hawkers and in stationery shops and book stores. The peak
of their popularity was reached during the Civil War the issues and events of which
offered fertile seeds for the flowering of poetry, verse and doggerel. Gradually
after the war, the rage for song sheets seems to have died down, although they did
appear in plainer and cheaper form for years thereafter.
To some extent songs were expected to fill the emotional needs of people during times
of tenseness: patriotic songs to march to, ballads of battle to boast of,
sentimental songs to while away hours of around campfires or bring tears to
Victorian eyes, comic songs to fetch a laugh, bitter satirical songs to relieve
feelings, and old favorites just because people liked, and still like, to sing them.
As a result thousands of different song sheets were printed. Unlike sheet music
designed for the singer or instrumentalist who could read the notes, song sheets
were for the thousands to whom the tunes were familiar-one old tune covered a
multitude of songs-but the words new.