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Singing the Dream: American Sheet Music at the British Library: Part 9

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9| Part 10

Presidential Campaigns

Music and songs were a staple part of presidential campaigns from the early days of the Republic and the lyrics would invariably praise one candidate while raising doubts about his opponent. In the nineteenth century, many of the songs were set to well-known tunes, such as "Yankee Doodle", "John Brown's Body" and "Battle Cry of Freedom". However, much original music was also created and marches were particularly popular for rallying the crowds. In the early twentieth century, marches gave way to ragtime as the music of choice for political campaigns, reflecting the change in popular tastes.

Lincoln-Union-Victory March

Lincoln-Union-Victory March 5kb
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Lundberg, C.O. Lincoln-Union-Victory March. Chicago, 1864. h.1459.g.(18)
Copyright © The British Library

The presidential election of 1864 was conducted during the Civil War, and those living in the Confederate states did not participate. Early that year, with the war taking a heavy toll on Union troops, President Lincoln's position appeared to be somewhat vulnerable. However, a succession of victories under Generals Grant and Sherman made a Union victory seem increasingly inevitable. This fact, combined with tensions within the Democratic Party, helped Lincoln to clinch an electoral victory and win by 400,000 popular votes. For the first time, many states allowed soldiers on the frontline to vote and 70% of them voted for Lincoln.

 

U.S.G.: A Song for the Times

U.S.G.: A Song for the Times (11kb)
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Emmett, Daniel Decatur. U.S.G.: A Song for the Times. New York: W.A. Pond & Co., 1864. H.1780.b.(27)
Copyright © The British Library

In 1864, in the midst of a protracted war with an uncertain outcome, several prominent Republicans felt the party needed a new leader if it was to recapture the White House. Lincoln's main threat came from his Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon P. Chase. However, The New York Herald urged Ulysses S. Grant, Commander of the Union Army to run, and Grant's home state, Missouri, gave him all of its votes at the Republican Convention. This pro-Grant song, written by the composer of "Dixie", vividly portrays Republican politicking at this time, confidently proclaiming, "Goodbye Chase, you'll lose the race..." and explaining that Grant, "Dug a trench at Vicksburg and sure as you're alive/He'll dig one more, 'Round the White-house door in eighteen sixty-five." Grant apparently never intended to stand, however, believing that Lincoln was vital to a Republican victory. In the event, Lincoln won by a large majority and Grant became President himself in 1868.

 

Hayes & Wheeler Campaign Songster.

Preparing to retire on a Pullman (13kb)
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Hayes & Wheeler Campaign Songster.Cincinnati: John Church & Co., 1876. A.868.f.(3)
Copyright © The British Library

Admitting that "generally political songs are very poor trash," the author of this volume expresses his hope that "this little work…[would]…supply the Republican party with songs that are worth singing and that are worthy of living even after the immediate cause of their being has passed away". It is also explained that the tunes for all of these songs may be purchased as sheet music from John Church & Co., or any other music or book dealer. The election of 1876 was to the most fiercely contested to date, and, as in 2000, the result rested on electoral proceedings in Florida. Just three days before the Inauguration in 1877, a specially appointed Electoral Commission finally declared that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes would be the nineteenth President of the United States.

 

McKinley and Roosevelt March

McKinley and Roosevelt March (13kb)
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Spencer, Frederick L. McKinley and Roosevelt March. New York; Chicago: Howley, Haviland & Co., 1900. h.3282.bb.(66)
Copyright © The British Library

In 1900, the incumbent President, William McKinley, chose Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate in his campaign for re-election. Six months after they were sworn into office, McKinley was assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York and Roosevelt assumed the Presidency. In 1904, Roosevelt was elected in his own right, winning 56% of the popular vote. His Administration was notable for its anti-monopoly legislation, which earned Roosevelt the nickname "trust-buster". In foreign affairs, the dictum "walk softly and carry a big stick" probably best sums up his approach to diplomacy.

 

Taft: March.

 Taft: March (13kb)
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Wheeler, Mortimer. Taft: March. Chicago: Frank K. Root & Co., 1912. h.3828.hh.(25)
Copyright © The British Library

In 1907, determined not to run for re-election, President Theodore Roosevelt named William Taft as his successor. The following year, Taft was elected President and he spent an uncomfortable four years in the White House caught up as he was in the intense battles between the Progressives and conservatives. Bitterly disappointed by his protégée, Roosevelt returned to Republican politics in 1912. However, Taft outmanoeuvred his mentor, and gained the Republican nomination for president. Roosevelt's decision to run on the third party, or "Bull Moose" ticket, split the Republican vote, however, and allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to become the twenty-eighth president of the United States.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9| Part 10


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