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Carrie Jacobs-Bond collage
(Above photos, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, 1900 & ca 1940)
America's First Great Woman Popular Song Composer


"The only thing that seems to me at all remarkable about my life is that I was nearly thirty-two before I ever even thought of having a career. In Janesville, Wisconsin where I was born in 1862, I was early given some instruction in music and painting, but anything that I could turn to in case of need was not taught me. It was the necessity of supporting myself and my little son that made me a writer of songs. It is true that even as a little girl, when I thought of the future, I always thought of myself as a songwriter."

So said Carrie Jacobs-Bond in 1927 in writing her biography, The Roads Of Melody. If ever a person foresaw their own destiny, it was that little girl in Wisconsin. Carrie Jacobs-Bond went on to become America's premier popular songwriter for a period of several decades. She wrote some of the most lasting "heart and home" songs that this country has ever known. Two of her songs, I Love You Truly and A Perfect Day continue to be well known and have been favorites for nearly 100 years. Left virtually penniless, disabled by rheumatism and with a young boy to raise by herself, Carrie Jacobs-Bond overcame adversity and through her own faith and hope, built a music publishing empire and became known world wide.

 

In 1862, the United States was deeply embroiled in a Civil War that would leave millions dead and huge areas of the country scorched for decades. In quiet Janesville, Wisconsin the war surely seemed a far away problem. Carrie was born at her grandfather's home in Janesville, a rather nice but unassuming brick house in the country side (now within Janesville). There is some research that indicates a possible 1861 birth date for Carrie, however, her own words (above) seem to firmly establish her birth date as 1862.

 

Below: The birthplace of Carrie Jacobs-Bond in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Carrie enjoyed telling people that she was born in the cupola atop the house and though she was disciplined for telling untruths, she believed "These deviations from the truth are sometimes the sign of an imagination. That I was born in that cupola I really believed, for to me it was the most interesting and nicest part of the house."

 

At a young age (four) Carrie discovered that she could pick out tunes on the piano after hearing them sung or whistled. By age six she could play "just about anything by ear", and by age nine she was able to play Liszt's Second Hungarian Rhapsody (sequenced by Steve Beedle) entirely by ear. Carrie took music instruction from a number of well qualified local musicians and played in local events, sometimes presented as a curiosity due to her ability to pick up a tune in one hearing. The next several years were musically uneventful but certainly not uneventful for her personally. Her father lost their family fortune in a grain market panic and died shortly thereafter. In 1880 (age 18) she married a Mr. E. J. Smith. After seven years they were separated. In 1887, she married Dr. Frank Lewis Bond who in her words, "took a deep and sympathetic interest in my music and encouraged me to put down on paper some of the songs that were continually running through my mind."


Seven wonderful years full of love and familial fulfillment passed and then tragedy began to plague Carrie. First, she became more and more disabled by a terrible case of rheumatism that sometimes was so bad she was completely unable to care for herself. Then, Her husband, who was employed by the iron mines in Iron River, Michigan, where they now lived, found himself unemployed when the mines closed. At that time Carrie wanted to help and had the idea that she could publish some of her songs. The good Dr. Bond would have none of it; he believed in traditional women's roles so Carrie was forced to wait for her destiny. He did relent later and Carrie sought out a newspaper, The Chicago Herald, as a source for publication of one of her songs and they suggested children's songs. Carrie went back to her hotel and penned a song called Is My Dolly Dead?. I have not been able to find a copy of this song but here are some of the lyrics:

I dropped my dolly - broke her head,
Some one told me my doll's dead,
Tell me dolly is it true,
I can no more play with you?

As ghoulish as it seems, the song was accepted and picked up by a performer in a musical play "Fourteen Ninety-two" and was modestly successful, giving the Bonds some much needed royalty money.

 

Though most of her earliest music was unpublished, I have recently acquired a copy of When Church Is Out a very short song, written in 1887 (the year she married Dr. Bond) and dedicated to Mrs. E.P. Duty of Janesville, Wisc. Unfortunately, I do not have a cover for it but here is an image of the first page. To hear the song, as with all our covers, just click on the image.

 

One snowy day, in 1894, Dr. Bond left and encountered some children throwing snowballs and roughhousing. One of the children shoved him, he slipped and fell, striking his head on the frozen ground. According to Carrie, his last words to her were "My darling, this is death. But, oh, how I want to live". Now widowed and a single mother, Carrie was forced to take over her own future, but, much more hardship and adversity would face her before she became successful.

 


(Below: The widow Bond and her young son, ca. 1894)

The loss of her husband forced Carrie to fend for herself. With little in the way of resources, she borrowed some money and moved to Chicago, obtaining a house and then subletting rooms for income. With little income, she was forced into a smaller house then ultimately she was forced to rent three rooms for $15 a month. Even during these trying times, Carrie was a generous and giving person for she would often give up one of her rooms for homeless people who would come by looking for food or shelter or to shovel snow. In one case, she took in a homeless family and she herself was struck with an attack of her rheumatism that immobilized her for four months. That homeless family selflessly cared for her till she was able to recover. Even in times of her greatest need, she would make sacrifices for others. During this period she was forced to slowly sell off all of her possessions till she and her young son had virtually nothing, except for her beloved piano.

 

During this period, Carrie continued to draft songs and one day, when a neighbor was expecting some callers and had asked Carrie to receive them till she arrived home, the callers spotted Carrie's piano and the manuscripts upon it. The callers happened to be a performer and his agent. One of the men, Mr. Victor Sincere, went to the piano and began playing them. The first song he played was I Love You Truly and he was quite impressed by it. He asked Carrie for copies of her works and promised to help her sell her songs. At around the same time, Carrie had also been holding recitals in people's homes of her songs so was beginning to have a small following .

 

(Below: The cover of I Love You Truly, one of
Carrie's first published songs. 1901)

As a result of these contacts, the prima donna of the Boston Opera Company, Jessie Bartlet Davis, told Carrie she must have her music published and promised her she would sing them which would gain them famous exposure. She had seven songs to publish but the printer wanted $500 to print them. Ms. Davis loaned Carrie the money she needed and as a result, Carrie published her first book of music, Seven Songs to be sold at the handsome sum of $1 per copy. Included in the issue were Parting, Shadows, Just A Wearyin' For You, (Midi) I Love You Truly (Midi), De Las' Long Res, Still Unexprest and Des Hold My Hands. Two of the songs, I Love You Truly and Just A Wearyin' For You became so popular they were later sold separately. It was at this point that Carrie Jacobs-Bond became her own publisher. Her son, whom she had lovingly cared for in spite of her own problems, became her partner and helper and thus was born "Carrie Jacobs-Bond & Sons", also know as "Bond House".

 

The original "Bond House" was nothing more than a corner of one of the bedrooms in her rented rooms in Chicago. In spite of the humble beginnings and "low rent" district" location. Bond and Sons managed to create a music publishing empire against the odds and that would lead to multi-million selling editions and world-wide acclaim for this humble and caring woman. Though it seems no photos exist of the original Bond Shop, Carrie did provide us with a sketch of her original shop.

 

One thing that anyone who owns any original Bond music notices is the extremely high quality of the paper and printing. Though Carrie had to contract for the printing, she was meticulous in choosing a vellum quality paper that has lasted like iron. The low acid content of the paper has allowed most of these works to come down to us in pristine condition. Of course there are some in pretty bad shape due to poor storage conditions over the years. In addition, you may notice a "sameness" of art in her works, mostly delicate roses. Carrie herself painted many or most of her covers. Later, as her business flourished, other artists were employed, and a few other art motifs were used. However, the rose motif became a hallmark of the Bond "look" and was used to great success. In all cases, the art associated with Bond songs is very high quality. In addition to "The Sandman" cover featured this month, here is one other other unique Bond cover:

 

 

In The Meadow was published in 1925 from the Hollywood Bond shop that was established in California after Carrie and her company became wildly successful.

Though today, I Love You Truly seems to be her most lasting hit, it was not her biggest hit. That honor goes to the great song, A Perfect Day (Scorch format) (see our feature this month) which sold five million copies, matching the previous best seller record of Charles K. Harris' After The Ball (Scorch format) from 1892. (See our essay on Tin Pan Alley from March of this year). The story of A Perfect Day is interesting. While traveling in California around 1909, Carrie stopped by at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California. In her own words: "..while dressing for dinner I thought how I wished I could express my thanks to my friends in some little way, just out of the ordinary; and almost at once came the words for "A Perfect Day" (see our feature this month for the text). I wrote them very hurriedly; I did not have time to change a word or a sentence. I took them down and read them at the dinner that evening, then put them in my purse and thereupon forgot them." Three months later, while crossing the Mojave Desert she began singing a tune to the words. A friend with her said "Carrie, you have another song, haven't you?" To which she replied, "well, maybe I have." And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Once Seven Songs were published, Carrie and her son's fortunes changed rapidly and she slowly, in her words "climbed the ladder". Bond house grew to a "real" publishing house, established in Chicago at first in the Collonade Building, eventually offices were established in Boston and Hollywood. Around 1910, Bond began extending recording rights for her music and record royalties became another source of income. As a result, Bond became the first woman composer to earn over one million dollars, quite an impressive sum in those days. I guess it is today also but you can get a million today as an instant winner, Bond earned hers the hard way. Of course, in spite of her success, her health continued to challenge her and of an on over the years to her death, she spent many many weeks and months in hospitals completely incapacitated. Her fame extended to many other parts of the world and Carrie performed twice at the White House. Once for Teddy Roosevelt and again for Warren Harding.

 

In or around, 1920*, Carrie and son moved to California and she purchased a nice, rather modest considering her success, home in Hollywood. This home she termed "The End of The Road". As well she also had a "cabin" in Grossmont, California near La Mesa. It was there in California that they established the Bond Shop in Hollywood. In California, Carrie suffered perhaps her most painful tragedy, the loss of her son Fred to his own hand. In perhaps the most dramatic, almost cinematic ending, Fred Bond Smith who was described as being depressed over a severe illness went to a cabin at Lake Arrowhead in 1932. There he killed himself. His body was found in a room where two candles were burning and his mother's song A Perfect Day was playing on the
phonograph. Carrie worshipped the boy and this loss was devastating and probably would have caused any normal person to give up. Yet, she still managed to pick herself up and move on, creating still more beautiful music out of the tragedies of life.

 

Carrie Jacobs-Bond is one of America's greatest songwriters. She fought against all odds: infirmity, gender bias, poverty, and alone showed that faith and belief in yourself can overcome all. For me, she is a shining example of the human spirit, that special spark that can make the difference between success and failure and that special ingredient that I personally believe makes creativity work. Her music and art has always captivated me, and I am seeking to collect as many if not all of her published songs as possible.

 

Her life has been described as tragic by more than one author and collector. It is true that she suffered tragedy and faced daunting obstacles that would have made many people give up. But, I would not describe her life as tragic, nor her as a tragic figure. Instead, I consider her to have lived a life of triumph and faith. We all suffer tragedies, some more than others. It is what we do with them that makes the difference and Carrie Jacobs-Bond made a difference at a time when it was almost impossible for someone of her status to do so. We can all look to her as a role model and inspiration.

 

All that said, each time I see a photo of her and look into her eyes, I see a sadness, a pain that in turn makes me sad. You can see that all those years of struggle, the loss of her one true love and the effort to overcome came at a price. You can also hear it in her music. Her lyrics and her pain often comes through in some of her songs, yet she still was able to produce for us some of the greatest and most joyous music ever created. I dearly hope that Carrie Jacobs-Bond found peace and happiness before she passed away. For someone to have given us so much beauty and happiness through her music and art, it would be the final tragedy if she were not able to find for herself that same joy.

 

In 1940, Carrie Jacobs-Bond gave what was one of her last personal concerts, at San Francisco. There on 24 September, a concert at the California Coliseum featured some of America's greatest composers and songwriters performing their own works. Among the many luminaries, Albert Von Tilzer performed Take Me Out To The Ball Game, L. Wolfe Gilbert performed Waiting For The Robert E. Lee (Scorch format) and George M. Cohan performed Over There (Scorch format) and a medley of his other famed works. The concert ended with Irving Berlin singing God Bless America. In the first half of the concert, a 78 year old, still robust Carrie Jacobs-Bond took to the stage and played her most famous work, The End Of A Perfect Day. Singing the work was Alan Linquist. As the music started, Bond played at a fairly brisk tempo but Linquist would have none of it and dragged this upbeat song into a doleful ballad. Bond dutifully accompanied him, but my personal opinion is that Linquist's attempt to make the song into a smarmy sentimental ballad really did the song an injustice. After this piece, Bond and Linquist performed a terrific patriotic piece written for the occasion, The Flying Flag. Since these performances are still copyrighted, I cannot bring them to you in total, however, I do want to bring just a few seconds sampling of each so you can hear for yourself Carrie Jacobs-Bond playing her own music. These samples are in MP3 format.

 

A Perfect Day, performed by Carrie Jacobs-Bond & Alan Linquist, Sept., 24, 1940

The Flying Flag, performed by Carrie Jacobs-Bond & Alan Linquist, Sept., 24, 1940

(Both of the above extracts are from an incredible 4 CD set that documents the 1940 San Francisco concert. Though I believe the CD set is now out of print, copies may still be available . The CD set is Titled, Carousel Of American Music, The Fabled 24 September 1940 San Francisco Concerts.)

 

Carrie Jacobs-Bond continued to write music for a few more years but her health continued to deteriorate. One of her last known songs is My Mother's Voice, written in 1942. They say that the last thought most people have before death is of their mother and perhaps by 1942, Carrie realized the end was near. This photo, one of the last of her we have, taken in 1943,shows a tired, yet still proud woman.

 

Carrie Jacobs-Bond lived out her last years in California, at her beloved "cabin" and died in 1946 at the age of 84. Her home in Grossmont is still there, up for sale last I heard. Thanks to Ken Regez of Janesville, Wisconsin, we've learned that "two homes significantly connected to her were razed several decades ago, in 1954. The home where she was born on what is now called West Court Street has been the site of a strip mall, the first in Janesville, (The Sunnyside Shopping Center) since the 1950s. The house where she wrote I Love You Truly near downtown on East Milwaukee
Street was razed to make room for an auto dealership, and that dealership moved to the far east side of town some twenty years ago.
The site is now a small parking lot. All that marks both sites are
small stones with plaques. Other than a few people who are interested
in history I don't think that anyone here even knows her name or her
music today."

 

Carrie Jacobs-Bond died in 1946 and finally found her peace with her beloved son Fred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park at Glendale California, USA. She (and Fred, interred together) can be found in the Great Mausoleum, Court of Honor, under the Last Supper stained glass display. (Burial information from the Find a Grave Site.) Her memorial plaque is seen here (also thanks to Find A Grave). Her mausoleum is inscribed with a tribute from President Herbert Hoover:

 

Beloved composer of I Love You Truly, Just A Wearyin' For You, A Perfect Day and a hundred other heart songs that express the love, the longings, sadness and gladness of people everywhere..truly folk music of the world. Born in Wisconsin, devoted wife and mother who met widowhood, conquered hardship, and achieved fame by composing and singing her simple romantic melodies, she was America's gallant lady of song.


We have over 100 of Carrie Jacobs-Bond's works in the ParlorSongs.com collection, to date we have published 24 of them and of course as time goes by, many more will appear, at least those published before 1923 that are in the public domain. For Those of you who just can't get enough of her music, here is a list of those works published on our site that you can listen to in either midi format or enjoy in the Scorch format that permits view of the actual sheet music as the song plays. We will attempt to keep this list updated from time to time. Otherwise, check our search page to look for references on our site to this incredible composer.

 
Title
Year
Scorch Format
Midi Format
Do You Remember 1915
God Remembers When The World Forgets 1913
Not available as Scorch
Got To Practice 1917
His Buttons Are Marked "U.S." 1902
Hundred Years From Now, A 1914
Not available as Scorch
I Love You Truly 1906
Not available as Scorch
I'm The Captain Of The Broom Stick Cavalry 1890
In Dear Hawaii 1908
In The Meadow 1925
Not available as Scorch
Not available, in ©
Is Yo'? Yo' Is. 1905
I've Done My Work 1920
Just A Wearyin' For You 1901
Not available as Scorch
Little Bit O' Honey, A 1917
Little Pink Rose, A 1912
Not available as Scorch
O Time, Take Me Back 1916
Perfect Day, A 1910
Sandman, The 1912
Not available as Scorch
Through The Years 1918
Not available as scorch
We Are All Americans 1918
The Following pieces are from Carrie Jacobs-Bond original Seven Songs, published 1901
De Las' Long Res' 1901
Not available as score
Des Hold My Hands Tonight 1901
Not available as score
Parting 1901
Not available as score
Shadows 1901
Not available as score
Still Unexprest' 1901
Not available as score
I Love You Truly 1901
See above
Just A Wearyin' For You 1901
See above
   
   

 

Rick Reublin, June, 2000, updated June 2003

* Unfortunately, in writing her autobiography, Carrie Jacobs-Bond often did not give dates so many of the dates give in my essay are estimates based on the few dates clearly given and estimates of the passage of time between events. Certain dates are absolutely established, others are not. As well, I have found a lot of discontinuity in publication dates of certain songs with several different publication dates for the same song listed.

Photos displayed in this essay are from the book "The Roads of Melody" by Carrie Jacobs-Bond , D. Appleton & Co, 1927, from the Janesville, Wisconsin website (Jacobs home) and from the parlorsongs.com private collection



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