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Battles, Balderdash & Beauty: American Popular Sheet Music from the Howard W. Wildin Collection: America at War

Sheet music covers

Case 3: America at War: Introduction

Case 3: America at War: Introduction

The case "America at War" shows how popular culture dealt with the various wars from the Civil War to World War Two.  There also are songs about pacificism and patriotism. 

Berlin, Irving. "They’re on Their Way to Mexico". Illus. John Frew. New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co. 1914. (HW-02758)

Berlin, Irving. "They’re on Their Way to Mexico". Illus. John Frew. New York: Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co. 1914. (HW-02758)

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This song was written about the Mexican War, which occurred in 1846 to 1848 between the United States and Mexico over the annexation of Texas.  Decades after this event, song writers like Irving Berlin used the war as the basis for their lyrics.

Cohan, George M. "Over There". Illus. Norman Rockwell. New York: Leo Feist. 1917. (HW-02460)

Cohan, George M. "Over There". Illus. Norman Rockwell. New York: Leo Feist. 1917. (HW-02460)

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The artwork was done by well-known illustrator Norman Rockwell. The piece was popular during World War One as well as World War Two.  The composer George Cohan received a Congressional Gold Medal for his songs by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.

Chorus: “Over there, / over there, / send the word, send the word over there. / That the Yanks are coming, / the Yanks are coming, / the drums rum-tumming everywhere. / So prepare, / say a prayer, / send the word, send the word to beware – / We’ll be over, we’re coming over, / and we won’t come back till it’s over over there.”

Dresser, Paul. "Come Home Dewey, We Won’t Do a Thing to You." New York: Howley, Haviland & Co. 1899. (HW-02453)

Dresser, Paul. "Come Home Dewey, We Won’t Do a Thing to You." New York: Howley, Haviland & Co. 1899. (HW-02453)

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George Dewey (1837-1917), an admiral of the United Sates Navy, is famous for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. During this battle on May 1, 1898, the Spanish fleet was virtually destroyed without the loss of American men. 

The lyrics describe the nation’s devotion to his heroism and plead for him to return to the United States: “Come home Dewey, we won’t do a thing to you, / Grand old hero of the Red, White and Blue; / Seventy million people, with nothing else to do, / wait for your coming and they’ll make it warm for you.”

Paull, E.T. "Battle of Gettysburg: March Descriptive". Illus. A. Hoen & Co. New York: E. T. Paull Music Co. 1917. (HW-00001R)

Paull, E.T. "Battle of Gettysburg: March Descriptive". Illus. A. Hoen & Co. New York: E. T. Paull Music Co. 1917. (HW-00001R)

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Detailed artwork on the cover shows Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.  Music is a reenactment of Pickett’s charge, the battle raging, and his orders to retreat.  Piano music includes notations to sound like a bugle call to arms, cannon, and fife and drum corps. 

“The topics Paull chose for his own pieces, or from among many submissions sent to him, most often centered on disasters, wars, victory, or exciting activities. They lent themselves to the public's desire for the spectacular, celebratory or the profound. Many of the marches were very descriptive, often including text queues entailing what each section of the piece was intended to represent in terms of action or exposition. This may have been more for the amusement of the pianist than the listener, unless there was someone to announce the action as the music was played.” (www.perfessorbill.com)

 

Piantadosi, Al. "A Mother’s Plea for Peace: I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier". Lyricist: Alfred Bryan. Illus. R.S. New York: Leo. Feist. 1915. (HW-01784)

Piantadosi, Al. "A Mother’s Plea for Peace: I Didn’t Raise My Boy to be a Soldier". Lyricist: Alfred Bryan. Illus. R.S. New York: Leo. Feist. 1915. (HW-01784)

 

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Not all songs written during the First World War were pro-war.  This is the first commercially successful anti-war song.

Chorus: “I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier, / I brought him up to be my pride and joy, / Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder, / to shoot some other mother’s darling boy? / Let nations arbitrate their future troubles, / It’s time to lay the sword and gun away, / There’d be no war today, / if mothers all would say, / ‘I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier’.”

Von Tilzer, Harry. “Keep the Trench Fires Going for the Boys Out There”. Lyricist. Eddie Moran. Illus. E. H. Pfeiffer. New York: Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing Co. 1918. (HW-02850)

Von Tilzer, Harry. “Keep the Trench Fires Going for the Boys Out There”. Lyricist. Eddie Moran. Illus. E. H. Pfeiffer. New York: Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing Co. 1918. (HW-02850)

 

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This music was a favorite patriotic recruiting song in 1918 during World War I.  Harry Von Tilzer and his brother Albert wrote numerous songs.  Chorus: Keep the Trench-fires going for the boys out there. / Let's play fair, / do our share. / Our boys are fighting for you and me, / can't you see? /  For you and me and Liberty. / Let's make a showing while they're o'er the foam, /  Do your bit and bring them home. /  Keep the Trench-fires going for the boys out there. /  Let ev'ry son of Uncle Sammy do his share.

Wallace, Oliver. "Der Fuehrer’s Face". Illus. Walt Disney. New York: Southern Music Publishing. 1942. (HW-00007R)

Wallace, Oliver. "Der Fuehrer’s Face". Illus. Walt Disney. New York: Southern Music Publishing. 1942. (HW-00007R) (Image restricted by copyright laws. Available on 3rd floor, Foley Library)

 

For additional bibliograhic information

 

This song is from Walt Disney’s motion picture “Donald Duck in Nutzi Land.”  The film was a 1943 animated propaganda short film.  Spike Jones performed the song first. 

Chorus: “Wen der Fuehrer says, / “Ve iss der Master Race, Ve Heil! / Heil! / right in der Fuehrer's face; / Not to luff der fuehrer iss a great disgrace, / So ve Heil! / Heil! / right in der Fuehrer's face”