Above: A "Palace Garden" Scene from 1858, litho. Cover from the Marshall - Morrow Collection.

Music of the 1850's

From the Marshall - Morrow Collection

Last year we received a generous and most important donation of sheet music from the Marshall - Morrow families of Alexandria, Virginia. This unique donation included sheet music from the period 1839 to 1870 and includes some of the most incredible lithograph covers we've seen from that period. We first introduced you to the collection with our article about music from the American Civil War period, then later with an overview of the collection that we published in December 2008. Then in March of this year, we published a feature about music of the 1840's from the collection As promised, we continue our look at this historic music by focusing on music from the 1850's in America from the collection.

As in the previous three articles, we are continuing to include the full cover art in the Scorch versions so you can enjoy them in more detail than our thumbnail images allow. As a result, the Scorch files are much larger than usual so expect some delay in downloading. In some cases, the download file size exceeds 2mb so some will take quite some time depending on your type connection. The wait will be worth it!

The music has been in the Marshall- Morrow families since it was first acquired by Mrs. Elmira Wood of New York City. For the history of this important collection, see the above linked December, 2008 article.

The decade of the 1850's was one of turmoil and social upheaval. The issue of slavery and states rights began in earnest with the compromise of 1850 and the fugitive slave act which called for new territories to be slave free and required citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves. The slavery issue would continue to become more contentious during the 1850's culminating in secession of the southern states and eventual call to war between the states in 1860. Among the other events of significance during this decade include the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1852. Technology was significantly advanced through the introduction of the Bessemer process for steel production. During this decade, the first successful fractionating of petroleum was completed. The first safety elevator was installed by Elisha Otis. The first transatlantic cable was laid and Charles Darwin published his controversial book, The Origin of Species. Early in the morning of September 13, 1859, on the shores of Lake Merced just south of San Francisco, Senator David Broderick of California became the first (and only) sitting senator to die in a duel.  The victor: California's Chief Justice David Terry.

Fashions in America were still influenced by those of Europe with women's fashion dominated by wide gowns and the introduction of crinolines. Necklines were lowered and new fashion for a [jacket] bodice appeared as well, buttoned in front and worn over a chemisette. Ladies clothing fabrics often included small patterns and elaborate borders. And men's fashions featuring Frock coats changed to a new style, the sack coat, loosely fitted and reaching to mid-thigh, it was fashionable for leisure activities and would gradually replace the frock coat over the next forty years and become the modern suit coat.. Shirts of linen or cotton featured high upstanding or turnover collars. The newly fashionable four-in-hand neckties were square or rectangular, folded into a narrow strip and tied in a bow, or folded on the diagonal and tied in a knot with the pointed ends sticking out to form "wings". Tall top hats were worn with formal dress and grew taller on the way to the true stovepipe shape, but a variety of other hat shapes were popular. Soft-crowned hats, some with wide brims, were worn for country pursuits. The bowler hat was invented in 1850 but remained a working-class accessory. (Some details of period dress extracted from Wikipedia)

America's music also continued the transition that began in the 1840's from music dominated by the classics and European composers to an emergence of American composers and uniquely American performance styles. Minstrelsy celebrated ten years of popularity and continued to be more popular than ever. It was during the 1850's that Foster found his greatest success with songs such as Old Folks at Home and became the first American songwriter to completely devote his time to composing. Louis Moreau Gottschalk of New Orleans was a darling of society as a piano virtuoso and writer of a number of works that continue to this day as part of the repertory. And in 1859, one of America's most enduring (and sometimes controversial) songs, Dixie (actually titled Dixie's Land) was first published by Dan Emmett. The purely American style of music became more identifiable becoming a fusion of Irish, Italian, English led by Foster and the strophic style of song emerges that will over time become the predominant construct for popular song.

If you are new to us, to enjoy the full musical experience, we recommend that you get the Scorch plug in from our friends at Sibelius software. The Scorch player allows you to not only listen to the music but to view the sheet music as the music plays and see the lyrics as well. Each month we also allow printing of some of the sheet music featured so for those of you who play the piano (or other instruments) you'll be able to play the music yourself. It's a complete musical experience! Get the Sibelius Scorch player now.

Richard A. Reublin, June, 2009. This article published June, 2009 and is Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Association, Inc. Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or a company officer.


Sheet music coverHow Can I Leave Thee!


Words and Music by: C Cramer
Arr. J. F. Petri
Cover art: Litho. not attributed


The music of America began a slow transformation during the decade of the '50's but much of the music was still either influenced by traditional European form and style or, as in this case, European music was used directly. The song is stated to be a "German Melody" arranged by Petri and it is unknown in what form or title Cramer originally wrote it. It is a typical "heart" song of the period with emotional lyrics and a kind hearted message. For those who were interested or spoke German, the publisher kindly has provided the German lyrics above the vocal staff. The music itself is fairly simple, a continuing trend in popular music of the time so as to suit the average player rather than the more advanced. The melody is nice and the accompaniment is thin but pleasantly harmonic. As with most songs of the period it is through composed with no repeats required.


C. (Carl) Cramer was the brother of Johann Baptist Cramer (1771 - 1858) a prominent German composer and musician and son of Wilhelm Cramer a celebrated composer, violinist and conductor. Carl himself was a also a celebrated violinist and a respected music teacher. He composed a number of works including Le Petit Rien, a set of Etudes for piano and the melody for How Can I Leave Thee as arranged by Petri. What is unknown to me at this time is whether or not this song was originally titled as the same and whether or not the lyrics were the same when originally written by Cramer.


Hear this "German" parlor song (Scorch format, be patient, all the Scorch files this month are very large file sizes, this sheet music is printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version



Sheet music coverThe Julius Quadrilles, Sett 4.


Words and Music by: Various, unattributed
Arr. by John C. Scherpf
Cover art: Unknown Litho.

The interest in European dance forms continued unabated during this period with the Quadrille being one of the most popular forms. Usually the quadrilles were imported as written from Europe however some American composers tried their hand at composing in the quadrille form and some arranged familiar American melodies for dance. This set of five quadrille melodies are taken from popular minstrel songs of the times. The titles arranged for this form were; Oh! Dearest Dine, Sambo's Lamentation or Dinah Mae, Oh! Sally White, Dinah's Wedding Day and Banjo Melody. The cover states that the tunes are from "Christy's Melodies" one of the most prominent Minstrel groups of the times.

The term quadrille came to exist in the 17th Century, within military parades, where 4 horsemen and their horses performed special square shaped formations. The word quadrille is probably derived from the Spanish word "quadrilo" (diminutive Spanish, meaning four) and from the Latin "quadratus" (meaning square). This performance became very popular, which led people to perform a quadrille without horses. In the 18th Century the quadrille evolved more and more in an intricate dance, with its foundation in dances like cotillions. It was introduced in France around 1760, and later in England around 1808. In the following years it was taught to the upper classes, and around 1816 many people could dance a quadrille. The standard form contained five different parts, and the Viennese lengthened it to six different parts.

The music again is thinly arranged for ease of playing and the melodies seem to have been used as written thus giving a definite American flavor to the work. In fact, it seems less a quadrille (see some of the later examples) than a medley of Minstrel tunes without lyrics. However, it does follow the standard 5 part form . Elements of the waltz were incorporated as the quadrille developed and that is clearly evident in the first element of this work. The music carries a caption that suggests that the performer place paper over the strings of the piano to simulate the sound of a banjo. This "Americanization" of the imported quadrille is one of the early examples of how music in America began to take on its own shape and flavor. In this case a purely European (mostly French and German) dance form set to uniquely American melodies.


John C. Scherpf seemed to have made his mark in the musical world primarily as an arranger of music more than an original composer. During the decade of the 1850's a number of works arranged by Scherpf were published, many of which were dances. Among the other titles arranged by him are: a quartet version of Sleeping I Dreamed Love (Quartet) (seen in our article about music of the 1840's), The Prima Donna Waltz, African quadrilles, and Favorite Dances of the Rousset Family. In a book about music in this decade, Scherpf was cited as a composer, percussionist and secretary of the musical society (of New York).


Hear this set of Dances based on Minstrel songs (Scorch format, be patient, long load time)

listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this work)

sheet music coverI Never Can Forget Thee


Words & Music by: Caroline Rivé
Cover art: Litho.not attributed


This song is dedicated and was probably written expressly for one of the composer's piano students. The dedication reads, "To her pupil Miss Ada Payne. Exactly who she was is not clear but the most likely candidate from the period is Miss Ada Payne of Louisville who in 1853 married Reverend H. H. Hopkins in that city. This song was published in Louisville the year before her marriage so it is highly likely that this is the Ada Payne the song is dedicated to.

The music is uniquely forgettable. It begins with a bit of a flourishing fanfare and proceeds to plod along in an almost military march manner. Written to be played Andante Expressivo, if played a bit faster it is more pleasant however then in some spots the accompaniment becomes almost manic. If you listen to it using the Scorch player, you can adjust the playback speed and experiment with it yourself. Just use the slider bar at the top of the music window to adjust it. I think the thought behind the composition of this song for a pupil is wonderful, the music though does leave a bit to be desired. One unique aspect is that the second verse is written above the staff requiring a repeat to sing it through.

Madame Caroline Rivé, in the decade of the 1850's, Rivé was stated to be "a dramatic singer of rare powers and a teacher unsurpassed in America." Besides this work, I've only found a record of one other song published by her; The Music of the Foot Fall (1865), however given her reputation I suspect she wrote many more songs. Interestingly, her daughter Julie Rivé-King born in 1857 gained more fame than the mother as a performer who also studied under Lizst and Reinecke.

Listen to and watch the score ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in, long load time)

Listen to MIDI version


sheet music coverO Give Me A Home By The Sea


Words and Music by: E. A. Hosmer
Cover art: Litho. not attributed

The ballad was one of the mainstays of parlor music in the 19th century and this decade was rife with them. During this period, romantic (not only in the sense of love songs but style as well) ballads were the predominant song form. Usually dripping with emotion and with strong feelings towards home and family, these songs were reflective of morality and values that seem to have slipped by the wayside on the way to today.

This work sings of being near the sea and praising the wind, crashing waves, foam and even glee for the storms. That all strikes me as strange for a ballad, though the romance of the sea is there, the composer seemed gleeful himself in reveling in the violence of the sea rather than the calming effects. The song starts with a bit of a martial flair with a series of triplets that almost remind one of a bugle call. Once the verse starts, it is a nice melody with the rather simple bass note-chord-chord-chord accompaniment that was common in music of the time. However, later as we learn of the storms and waves the composer adds a rolling arpeggio to simulate waves and then near the end a chorus of sorts leads to a repeat of the opening theme. It is actually a rather interesting work.

E. A. Hosmer; I've discovered virtually nothing about Hosmer and references to him point only to this one song so either he was a one hit wonder of the times or his life's other works have become obscured with time.


Hear and see the score to this song (Scorch format, be patient for images to load)

Listen to MIDI version


sheet music coverWillie We Have Missed You


Words and Music by: Stephen C. Foster
Cover art: Litho. Sarony & Co.

Now here is a ballad! Written by none other than the master of popular song of the 1850's, Stephen Foster. Though we have seen songs by foster appear in the 1840's it was during the 50's when his songs came of age and he was his most successful and popular. Though not often heard as are his more famous songs, this one is a wonderful song about a family eagerly anticipating the return of a loved one. It is typical of the "heart and home" songs which Foster was well known for. The covers of these original editions of Foster's songs are wonderful examples of the engravers art and just how detailed lithography could be. We've included a larger image of the cover with the Scorch version so you can see more of the detail than the above thumbnail shows. Firth, Pond & Company published most of Foster's songs so there is a very nice series of similarly detailed covers with the songs. In listening to the song I began to wonder just where Willie had been. The lyrics are cryptic in that regard but the song is reminiscent of songs welcoming soldiers home from a war. In this case, there really was no major conflict underway except for a war with Mexico, the Crimean War and the Taiping Rebellion. Perhaps he was away on business or some other long mission.

The melody is pleasant and the accompaniment quite simple but the sentiment is warm and full of love, a hallmark of Foster's style. Though we have two verses followed by title phrase, the song is through composed rather than in a shorter format with repeats. That format would come later as we will see in examples later in this issue.

Stephen C. FosterStephen C. Foster ( b. 1826, Lawrenceville, Pa -d. 1864, New York, NY ) One of the first of America's great early songwriters. Despite showing a talent and enthusiasm for music while still a young child, Foster received no formal training. He taught himself the flute, a rather difficult instrument to "self teach." His deepest musical influence, as a child, was hearing the Negro spirituals when a household servant would take him to a Negro church whenever his parents were away. He attended high school years were spent at Athens Academy at Tioga Point, PA. While there, in 1841 he composed his first song, Tioga Waltz which was performed by the school band. Upon graduation, Foster enrolled in Jefferson College, at Canonsburg, PA. It was to be a short enrollment. Foster had absolutely no interest in higher education, and spent all of his time loafing about, composing tunes, day-dreaming, and playing his flute. Just a few days after his enrollment, he left the college, his academic training ended. After this, he was to devote his full time to composing music.

In 1844, Foster's first song Open Thy Lattice, Love was published, with lyric by George F. Morris. At this time, Foster was holding small gatherings, in his home, of some young friends. He composed several songs for presentation at these informal meetings. Among these songs, were: Old Uncle Ned, Oh, Susannah!, and Lou'siana Belle. Around 1846, Foster moved to Cincinnati, and began working for his brother's commission house, as a bookkeeper. Foster interested a Cincinnati music publisher who paid nothing for some of his songs and gave Foster a mere $100 for the rights to Oh, Susannah! which went on to become one of America's most popular songs and lead to Foster's loss of untold income. Copyright law at that time was virtually nonexistent and songwriters were often taken advantage of. Though he managed to make a good living from his music, he lost the equivalent of millions through his own mismanagement and predatory publishers who took advantage of him.

In his prime, Foster wrote so many lasting American hits that his enduring output has eclipsed virtually every other composer from that period. As well, his music was so different (compare this work and his others to Ho For The Kansas Plains for a stark contrast) that he set the nations music on a completely new course. His 1848 Oh, Susannah!, is almost as well known today as when he wrote it.

After Foster quit as bookkeeper and moved to Pittsburgh, PA. be met the famous black face minstrel show owner, Ed Christy. Christy began using Foster's songs in his own Minstrel Show, oft-times listing himself as the composer. But times were changing for Foster. He received a contract from a New York Publisher who offered him Royalty Payments in lieu of an outright purchase. Some of the benchmarks of his career are; 1850 Camptown Races 1851 Old Folks At Home, aka "Swanee River". Foster had never seen the Swanee river when writing this song he wanted to use a river name in the tune. He originally thought of the Pedee river. Looking at a Florida map, he noticed the Suwanee River, and altered the name for the Swanee sounded much better. Can you imagine singing, "way down upon the Pedee river?" Minstrel Ed Christy paid Foster $15.00 for the privilege of introducing the song, and to allow him to place his name on the music as composer, but with all royalties from the sheet music sales going to Foster. Inside of 6 months, Foster had earned royalties of over $1500.00.

Foster, realizing the error of allowing someone else's name to appear on the sheet music as composer, wrote to Ed Christy. "Therefore, I have concluded to reinstate my name on my songs and to pursue the Ethiopian business without fear of shame and lend all my energies to making the business live, at the same time that I will wish to establish my name as the best Ethiopian writer." In pursuit of his goal to become the greatest "Ethiopian" songwriter, Foster composed: 1852 Massa's In De Cold, Cold, Ground and in 1853 My Old Kentucky Home. Both were great hits, earning him combined royalties of over $2000.00.

On July 22, 1850, Foster married Jane Denny McDowell. (She was the person who later inspired the ballad "Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair".) It was to become an unhappy home. Jane was a hard-nosed, practical, devout Methodist. She had no use for his friends, his drinking, his music, and his association with the theater. Still, despite his home life, Foster continued writing. Among his songs written during this period are
Old Dog Tray (1853), Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair (1854), Ellen Bayne (1854), Hard Times Come Again No More (1854), Willie, We Have Missed You (1854)
Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming (1855), Gentle Annie (1856) and Old Black Joe in 1860, his last Negro song.

Unfortunately, the tide began to turn for Foster. In 1860, he took his wife and daughter to New York City, where he found despair and frustration. His type of song was falling out of public favor, and he was forced to write lesser material to keep his home together. Shunned by the public and by his publishers, he often didn't have the price of a decent meal. He lived in poor surroundings in the Bowery section of New York. When his family left him, - they returned to Pittsburgh, his moral and physical disintegration became complete. He sought refuge in alcohol, living in an inebriated stupor for long periods of time.

One day he collapsed while at his wash basin. Discovered, bleeding, by the chambermaid, he was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died on Jan. 13, 1864. In his pockets, they found a a slip of paper on which had been written, "Dear friends and gentle hearts", - possibly the title of a new song, and three cents. He was 38 years old.

(Adapted from Foster biography at the Tunesmiths Database at http://nfo.net/.CAL/index.html and on a biography of Foster in Popular American Composers by Ewen, see our bibliography for details)

Listen to and view this Foster favorite ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in, be patient, long load time due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version


 sheet music coverDarling Nelly Gray


Words and Music by: B. R. Hanby
Cover art: unattributed Litho.

Though Hanby's song, Up on the House Top has continued as a Christmas favorite to the present day, this song was the most popular and well known song written by Hanby in his time. In 1856 Hanby sent the song to a music publisher in Boston (Ditson I presume) but never heard back from them. Some time later he noticed his song was a big hit across the nation and he wrote to the publisher requesting his royalties due. Reflective of the lack of protection for intellectual property of the time, the publisher wrote back to Hanby advising him they had no intention of paying him and that "he had the fame and we have the money and that balanced the account." Downright rotten, immoral and greedy of them.

The song begins with a pleasant introduction to the melody and then to the first verse. The accompaniment again is the standard bass-chord-chord-etc. form but the harmonies are very pleasant and despite the simplicity the sound seems more complex than usual. As in the older style, the chorus is written in four part harmony so that a family group or group of friends could all pitch in and take part in the performance. The second verse follows the chorus and then loops back with a Fine at the end of the second chorus. Listening to the melody and sentiment, it is no wonder this song was such a hit.

B. (Benjamin) R. Hanby (1833 - 1867) Popular composer. Graduated from Otterbein University in Westerville Ohio. Served as minister of the United Brethern Church in New Paris, Ohio from 1861 - 63. He worked for a time at the John Church Company in Cincinnati and afterward joined Root & Cady music publishers in Chicago. Among his many popular compositions are: Adoration (1866), Lowliness, Ole Shady, The song of the Contraband and surprisingly, he was the composer of the great "Santa Claus" song, Up On the House Top. He was best known for his super hit, Darling Nelly Gray (1857).

Listen to this wonderful old favorite song (Scorch format, be patient, long load time due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version


sheet music coverOur Country Girls


Words and Music by: Auguste Mignon
Cover art: unattributed Litho.


If the art and design of the cover seems familiar it is because it was produced by the the same lithographers, Sarony, who designed the cover for Willie We Have Missed You. It is also printed by the same publisher, Firth, Pond & Company. Clearly, both Sarony and Firth, Pond had high standards and produced a high quality and attractive product all for the handsome price of 30 cents. As for the song, if this song were to be written today, the songwriter would be drawn, quartered and disemboweled by any number of women's groups for his obviously sexist approach. However, at the time, it was not sexist, it was just the accepted way the world worked. Women did the housework, men did other things. The lyrics outline a long list of drudgery, especially done by country girls such as dusting, breakfast, milking the cows, sweeping floors, making the beds, churning cream etc, etc. So much is listed that one can get tired just reading or hearing the list! Women of that period in history (especially country "girls") seemed much stronger and held their own with any man when it comes to manual labor. The final line is the payoff so watch this song using the Scorch player and read the final lyrics to see the whole point.

The melody is absolutely delightful and one of those "ear bug" kinds of ditties that stays with you. Written in the older verse, 4 part chorus form and still with a pretty simple accompaniment, the song is exceptional in my opinion and is my pick for one of this month's "discoveries of the month." You'll be humming this one later and perhaps cursing us for publishing it!

Auguste Mignon is such a familiar name in music (Mignon was the title of an opera comique by Ambroise Thomas, published in 1866) so I was a little surprised that this composer was not mentioned in any of my references. I did discover at least one other song by him; Willie's Song published in 1862. Otherwise he is a bit of a ghost for us.

Listen to this domestic ditty (Scorch plug-in, be patient, long load due to graphics)

Listen to MIDI version


 sheet music coverTrojan Polka


Music by: Henry G. Ovington
Cover art: Litho. unknown


The Polka was yet another favorite dance imported from Europe and along with the quadrille, appeared in quantity during this decade and beyond, even to today. The polka is a high energy dance, frolicking and fun so it is no wonder it was so popular. I suppose it was the jitterbug of the times and was probably cursed as immoral and lewd. The polka is a lively Central European dance and also a genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in the Czech lands and is still a common genre in Swedish, Lithuanian, Czech, Polish, German, Hungarian, Austrian, Russian, Slovenian and Slovakian folk music. It also continues to be a very current and popular form in areas of America where many peoples from those countries settled. In light classical music, many polkas were composed by both Johann Strauss I and his son Johann Strauss II; a couple of well-known ones were composed by Bedřich Smetana, and Jaromír Vejvoda, the author of "Škoda lásky" ("Roll Out the Barrel"). The name comes from the Czech word půlka—literally, little half—a reference to the short half-steps featuring in the dance.

This particular work is a locally (Troy, NY) written and published work dedicated to the "Trojan" Hook and Ladder company number three in Troy New York. The Trojan Hook and Ladder Company No. 3, was organized February 5th, 1835. The truck-house was at No. 14 Federal Street in Troy. It burned down (where were the firemen?) May 10th, 1862. Subsequently housed at Cozzens' Northern Hotel, and afterward at a brick engine-house on State Street in Troy.

This composition is a delightful joyous melody and is a fitting tribute to the hard working firemen of the Troy Fire Department.

I've found no biographical information but one of our sharp eyed readers did. Many thanks to Elsa for doing the research and providing this information:

Henry G. Ovington is listed in the 1880 U.S. Census as a resident of Tottenville, Richmond County (i.e. Staten Island) in New York City.  He lived with his father-in-law William Weir; his wife Emma E. Ovington, age 34; and his daughter Eva Ovington, age 14.  In 1880 Henry was 53 years old.  His occupation is not listed.  According to the census, he was born in New York and so were both of his parents.  I could not find Henry in any other census.  However, Emma is listed in both 1910 and 1920 as a widow.  She was 65 in 1910 and 75 in 1920. (Ovington) wrote three other polkas besides SWEET THOUGHTS and the TROJAN POLKA 3. In 1867 he was the organist at the Twenty-Eighth Street Baptist Church in Manhattan and he was also a pianist who performed as an accompanist.

Listen to this historic "fiery" dance ( Printable using the Scorch plug-in)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this work.)

 sheet music coverThe Palace Garden Polka


Music by: Thomas Baker
Cover art: Litho. by Sarony, Major & Knapp


The cover of this piece is among a select few of the most beautiful covers from the collection. Rivaling the best of lithography from the period, the art could easily be framed and placed on a wall as a standalone work of art rather than a sheet music cover. The detail is marvelous and the colors are still vibrant after 151 years. One thing that has preserved these sheets so well compared to later mass produced sheet music is the exceptional quality of the paper. It is heavy weight, high rag content and obviously low acid paper and as such, most of the sheets are as strong and robust as the day they were printed. By the year of publication for this work, Sarony had merged with another lithographer and they continued to produce the very best sheet music covers of the times. We have included the cover with the scorch version and as the featured cover at the top of this article so you can see much more detail. The attention to detail in this cover is nothing short of exquisite. From the band in the bandstand to the groups gathered on the grounds to the people in the foreground, in this one sheet you get a snapshot of social activities and fashions of the times.

The cover states, "Performed at the Promenade Concerts with the greatest success. Dedicated to the Lady Patrons." The music is a typical upbeat polka but a cut above and with much more complexity than the previous one. The main point of interest for this work is the subtitle; "With accompaniment of Singing Bird." Soon after the introduction, in the second measure the passage is marked "Bird sings" and the music is intended to replicate the singing of a bird which it actually does fairly well. The instructions on the first page about the availability of a "little instrument that imitates the singing of the bird" that can be had from the publisher for 10 cents and which is "easily played by a Lady" is a unique offer, rarely seen on sheet music. I presume it is perhaps a penny whistle or sopraninino recorder or flute of some sort. I'd love to have one to see for sure what it was. This work is a clear winner and another of my discoveries of the month.

Despite being a relatively prolific composer (I've found 36 titles by him published from 1853 to 1875) I've been unable to find any information about the composer Thomas Baker..

Listen to and watch the music play (Scorch format, allow time for download)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for this piece)

sheet music coverShe Was a Beauteous Flower


Words and Music by J. R. Thomas
Cover art: Litho. Wakelam & Bros.


Dedicated to Mrs. Anne Seguin of New York, this ballad is one of the finest of its kind from this period. It tells a sad story of a young beauty who is stricken by illness and taken away from those who loved her far too soon. It is a tender song and unlike many of the songs we've seen. For one, it has a really beautiful melody. The accompaniment is unique in that it is composed of flowing triplets throughout which adds to the harmony and the feeling of beauty the song conveys. This melody is my favorite from this month and it strikes me as Anne Seguinthe best song of the group.This song seems to step away from some of the stale conventions of the past few decades and points the way ahead to the development of American popular song. Though we can never be sure of such things, I believe that the dedicatee was the Mrs. Edward (Anne) Seguin born Anne Childs (c.1809-1888) an English soprano who was trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She and her husband Edward were recruited by Lester Wallack to join his troupe in New York. She made her U.S. debut in 1839. The couple became extremely popular. When her husband died in 1852, Seguin retired to teach voice in New York.


J.(John) R. Thomas (1829 - 1896) Born in South Wales, Thomas was a celebrated baritone and composer. He first came to America with the Sequin English Opera Company and became interested in the music of America that was developing. He sang with Bryant's Minstrels and settled in New York. He composed a great many songs including; She was a Beauteous Flower (1858), Annie of the Vale (1852), Goodbye, Farewell (1853), Beautiful Isle of the Sea (1860), The Patriot Flag (1861), Rose of Killarney (1876) and Golden Hours (1875). Thomas died in 1896 in his adopted New York City. Thel collection contains quite a few songs by Thomas, a testament to his popularity.

Listen to and watch the music play ( Scorch version, be patient for graphics to load)

Listen to MIDI version


sheet music coverLes Caledonians Quadrilles


Music by: Un attributed, Scottish folk songs
Cover art: Litho. Sarony, Major & Knapp


This quadrille set is another of the many unique sheets in the collection. The cover of course is yet another of the most striking color lithographs, this one also by the Sarony company and published by Wm A. Pond.. The cover, as with all the others this month can be best seen using the Scorch player but I remind you, due to the size of the image files, be patient in waiting for the file to download to your player. The music inside is based on a similar idea as the Julius Quadrilles but in this case, each section is based on a traditional Scottish tune. The cover is another outstanding work of art with vivid colors and detail that rivals the best of this collection (or any other collection for that matter.) The individual songs are un attributed as is the arrangement itself which is very unusual. However, being "traditional" folk tunes, as with most folk tunes, composers are often lost to history. All we know is the what the footer on the cover tells us; "With the original figures as produced at Paris now danced at the Academies of De Garno Brookes." There is obvious significance to the scene on the cover depicting military men and a large cannon and the slogan "Din Na Ye Hear The Slogan." Perhaps some of our readers from Scotland can enlighten us as to the historical depiction on the cover.

The music is wonderful, based on a number of Scotch folk songs, most unfamiliar to us in America perhaps with the exception of The Campbell's are Coming. The music throughout has specific dance instructions for the dancers which were undoubtedly called out by the person playing the piece. The Quadrille is a forerunner of the American Square dance and you can clearly see that connection in the dance moves and "calls.

I wish we could give credit to the arranger and even the writers of the original works but the publisher chose to ignore credits for this fabulous historical document.

Listen to and watch the music play ( Scorch version, be patient for graphics to load)

Listen to MIDI version

Lyrics (There are no lyrics for these dances)

sheet music coverThe Captain


Words and Music by Mrs. W. J. Florence
Cover art: Litho. J. H. Bufford


This interesting sheet music cover features cameos of the Florences, a very popular musical couple in America for several decades during the mid to late 19th century.The cover includes a facsimile signature of W. J. Florence, a sheet music flourish that adds to the esthetic attraction of the sheet. These printed signatures are often so realistic that they are often mistaken for an actual autograph. In fact, I often get inquiries as to the value of "signed" music and have to inform the hopeful collectors that the "signature" appears on every copy as a part of the cover art. In this case, it was so clear and realistic I had to study it with magnification before assuring myself it was indeed printed. The addition of the signature as well as the depiction of the performers themselves are very early examples of sheet music marketing strategies that only much later would be regular features on American sheet music. Interestingly, the title of this song appears no-where on the cover, the song being sold mostly on the reputation of the performers.

The music shows a great deal of humor and tells a cute story of a demure young lady whose interest is piqued by the sight of a passing soldier. The melody reflects the good humor of the song's story and one can imagine it being performed on stage and captivating the audience. When you listen to this one using the Scorch player, be sure to page forward one more page after the music ends to see the text of the third and fourth verses. Aside from being an entertaining song, this one is one of the first songs from the mid 19th century to have been laid out in the strophic format (verse-chorus- repeat chorus with second ending- Da Capo for the next verse, etc.) that would later become the standard form for popular song. By the end of this decade, we can see the way ahead for major changes and the development of American popular songs.


Mrs. W. J. Florence, dates unknown. The Florences were a performing couple who were popular from the 1850's into the 1880's but little can be found about them in my references or on the net. Mr. Florence (William Jermyn) and his wife were often mentioned in the New York Times as exemplified by this December 6, 1881 announcement of their performance at Booth's Theater.

Mr. and Mrs. Florence are always sure of a warm welcome in this City, and it was not at all in the line of the unexpected that Booth's Theatre was last night crowded with their friends and admirers--a small fraction, however, of that wide circle of people who prefer to go to the theatre to be entertained rather than preached at."

Mr & Mrs. Florence starred in several stage musicals most written and staged by her husband including The Field of the Cloth of Gold (1869), Fra Diavolo/Thrice Married (1864) and Lalla Rookh or, The Fire Worshippers (1859).

Listen to and watch the music play ( Scorch version, be patient for graphics to load)

Listen to MIDI version


This article published June, 2009 and is Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Academy Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or an officer of the corporation. Though the songs published on this site are often in the Public Domain, MIDI renditions are protected by copyright as recorded performances.


Thanks for visiting us and be sure to come back again later to see our fifth and final feature in this series, songs of the 1860's decade or just to read some or all of our over 130 articles about America's music. See our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this and other articles in our series.


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