America's OTHER "March King"
Twice we have featured the works of one of the masters of American music, Edward Taylor Paull. One of our earliest features in June of 1998 featured just a very few of his works. In July of 2001, we provided a much expanded feature of his works based on our collection. In addition, several of his works have appeared in other issues, including our issue on transportation related themes in February of 2001. In addition, several other similar sites like ours around the net feature works by Paull. Perfessor Bill Edward's site, like ours, has a number of works with covers and fine commentary. J. Feenstra's site has perhaps the largest collection of Paull MID files and covers displayed, but alas, no commentary or descriptive material. Of course, our site is the only one where you can actually see the score as the music plays. In addition to the continuing exposure of his music, copies of his sheet music are among the most sought after sheet music collectibles there are. In terms of avid collectors and price, perhaps his music is the number one sheet music collectible category there is.
What is it about ET Paull and his music that attracts so much attention after over one hundred years since its first appearance and almost 80 years since the composer's death? If you visited our features and sampled his music, no doubt you discovered that his music, though sometimes exciting, is not all that memorable. Several experts have somewhat uncharitably described it as "forgettable", while others, myself included have accused him of repetitiveness and recycling of his own musical ideas. All one has to do is look at the fabulous sheet music cover from Paul Revere's Ride, published in 1905, at the right to discover the attraction of ET Paull sheet music. (Click the cover to see and hear the scorch version, click here for the midi version) Paull was a journeyman musician who was also a master of marketing. As such, Paull clearly understood the value of image and a cover. Though most folks would agree with the old saw; "you can't tell a book from its cover", most would also agree that covers sell books. Paull understood this and from the start, his very first publication, he used high quality paper, and contracted for a high quality lithographed cover with an attractive and fascinating theme. Though he refined the look and most of his covers are absolutely much more stunning than his first, the Paull "look" is clearly there from the start.
Here is a the cover of his first publication, The Chariot Race or Ben Hur March, published in 1894. We can see that Paull had the right idea from the very start. What is perhaps strange is that one day Paull and his marches were not there and the next day there he was, sweeping the nation with a hit song and incredible cover with his very first publication. Unlike many composers, there appears to be no period of "struggle" where the composer published a few tentative works that were unnoticed and inconsequential till after the composer became famous with later compositions. Either Paull hit a home run with his first swing, or the real history of his work has been lost or obscured. Conventional thinking seems to only support the home run theory. However, at least one student and collector of Paull, Wayland Bunnell, has some evidence of Paull's involvement in music publishing (not necessarily composing) as early as 1888. Paull's impact on popular music was exceptional. He taught publishers the value of well designed covers and capitalized on a musical craze for march music and in doing so, was dubbed the "New March King" (Sousa being the first) by the New York Music Trade Review and many leading music publications of the time. In this article, we do not pretend to offer any new facts on his life. We have simply consolidated some of the information available and are offering our own unique view and commentary on his life and work.
Many of the facts of E.T. Paull's life would remainu nknown to this day were it not for the work of Wayland Bunnell of Manchester, N.H. who in the 1980's traced the life of Paull by visiting his home town and other areas where Paull operated. Bunnell searched local records and traced Paull's activities and documented them for us. It is with a great deal of appreciation for his efforts that we provide much of these biographical facts. Bunnell's original 1989 article in the Sheet Music Exchange is included at the end of our article.
Edward Taylor Paull was born on February 16, 1858 in Gerrardstown, Virginia (Now West Virginia), to Henry W. Paull and Margaret C. Thornburg Paull. Little is known about Paull's early years, his education, occupations and activities seem unknown or unpublished from birth to 1878 or so. His father is listed variously as a miller and farmer in Gerrardstown and later, a boarding house keeper in Martinsburg by 1870. According to Bunnell, the earliest record of Edward was in 1878 when an ad in the Martinsburg paper for a music store mentioned Paull as general manager. According to one source, this store was owned by Paull and he sold pianos and organs. Paull amassed a fair amount of debt during his early years and though his father was fairly prosperous, his father sold off some of his assets to help Edward pay his debts. Apparently, his own business failed and in 1894, when he was issued his first copyright for Ben Hur, he was general manager of the Richmond Music Co. in Richmond. The copyright was taken out in the Music Company's name as were the next three Paull compositions, What Might Have Been, The Della Fox Little Trooper March and Two Step and The Old Man's Story, which was later renamed to The Stranger's Story .
The Chariot Race was the watershed event though in defining Paull's style and approach to selling music. That song sold over 60,000 copies the first year, quite a good result for a first publication by an unknown artist. Later, the work was recorded by John Phillip Sousa and even later became connected to the silent film Ben Hur (1926) which helped continue to stimulate sales over a period well into the late 1920's.
In 1896, the publication of Charge of The Light Brigade (see our July, 2001 issue ) reinforced his success and firmly established the Paull "formula." What was the Paull formula? If you have seen the above issue, it becomes obvious. First and foremost, he was in tune to the public's appetite for certain styles of music. At the time, Marches were the rage and it just so happened that Paull was very adept at composing marches. He also published related works that were targeted to the public's interest such as gallops, waltzes, fox-trots and novelties. Though we have been critical of his works as repetitive, at the time he was admired and respected as a composer. His marches, called "thundering" by at least one biographer, were playable by even amateur pianists. Granted, probably not well as I think they present a level of difficulty and require a skill in performance that is a challenge. Also, his music had an appeal to our base emotions. Beyond the music, it was the packaging that really helped Paull sell music. You will find no other composer so associated with consistently beautiful color covers as ET Paull. It was Paull's good fortune to live in Richmond, Virginia for there resided a lithography company of the highest caliber, A. Hoen & Company. Hoen provided Paull with incredibly rich art with color that was rarely seen on music covers. Most of Paull's covers were printed using the a five color process which added to the range and depth of color. Most mass produced music covers of the period were produced using a three color and sometimes even a two color process. As a result, Paull's covers grabbed the consumer's attention and even added an aspect of visual art to the piano bench. This work, Ring Out Wild Bells, from 1905 is one of Paull's typically detailed and colorful covers. This particular work has some interesting attempts at bell sounds and chime sounds that don't quite work. Click on the cover to see and hear the score using the Scorch format, click here for the MIDI version.
Once he had a best selling work, financial security allowed Paull to focus entirely on his music publishing business. Though he occasionally used other lithographers and artists ( J.E. Rosenthal & Bert Cobb), his connection with Hoen helped ensure the success of subsequent publications. By 1896, Paull had moved to New York, the center of the music publishing business and there he established his own publishing house. Like most publishers, Paull issued and reissued his own works in different versions. These versions took form in smaller editions (almost all Paull sheets were issued in the large format ) and in some cases, even "budget priced" black and white reprints of popular works. Of course, a black and white issue of any Paull work is not at all as appealing as the original five color lithographs. From a collectors point of view, they are not particularly valuable but some sellers hype them as important. All ET Paull covers are NOT created equal. Oddly, even some of the art work changed from issue to issue. One example is the work, A Signal From Mars, originally published in 1901. The work was issued with two subtly different covers. Though at first glance, they appear the same, on closer examination, you can see that on one, the person looking in the telescope has an unbelted robe. The second cover has a belted robe and a telescope where it appears the viewer is looking through the wrong end of the telescope! The first published cover was the "belted" one while the unbelted version came later.
In addition, there are a few other covers with variations in artwork that can be found. For a person attempting to collect all versions of ET Paull composed or arranged works, the task could become quite complicated and daunting. If one were seeking to collect all works published by the ET Paull music company over its forty year span, it could become a life's work!
Paull's works have a special place in the history of sheetmusic and American popular song. If it were not for his eye for color and action, it is likely that today his works may not even be known, much less collected with any enthusiasm. His powerful musical and visual images inspired people, their patriotism and their emotions and as a result, he managed to become a phenomenon reflective of popular tastes and ideals. Paull died on November 25, 1924 and his wife carried on the Paull Music Company for a few years after. It is my understanding that the Paull family retained copyrights on his music until they passed into the public domain, not so many years ago. We would love to hear from any of Paull's descendants with more details of his life. Though his work is well known and he is an important figure in American music, the details of his life are still sketchy and lack some of the personal detail that allow us to truly understand important historical figures.
Paull was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.
We hope you have enjoyed this special biography and the music of Edward Taylor Paull. If you have not seen them, be sure to visit our most recent, July, 2001 feature of ET Paull works and our original feature from June, 1998 to see and hear a number of his works.
The following is the Bunnell article of 1989 which he has graciously provided to us with kind permission to reprint it.
April 1989 Vo1ume VII, Issue Number 2
THE SHEET MUSIC EXCHANGE
On January 20, 1857, Henry Washington Paull, then 41 years of age, and Margaret C. Thornburg were married. They were the parents of Edward Taylor Paull. Henry was listed in the 1850 census of Berkeley County, Virginia as a miller for the McClary family. E. T. Paull, their first child, was born in Gerrardstown on February 16, 1858. Two other children followed; Laura May, born May 23, 1859, and Mary C., born December 27, 1861.In 1860 county census, Henry is listed as a farmer, but by 1870, he is listed as a boarding house keeper in Martinsburg. The Civil War had come and gone, but undoubtedly not without its effect on the Paull family.
After 1902, his publishing career slowed down a bit, and he only published two and occasionally three pieces per year; and sometimes only one. Business must have quite active with the catalogue of material he already had to cut back on publishing so far. He did apparently; travel to Germany a couple of times before the First World War, once in 1900, and again in 1910. He spoke fluent German, and addressed an assembly in Germany in that language, and was well received. He also met the Crown Prince of Germany, and I believe he may have met Kaiser Wilhelm II.
ParlorSongs, July, 2001, revised October, 2005.
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