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Collection Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885

Friends from the Stephen Foster Era

Some of Foster's fellow songwriters of the Civil War period were still active: Henry Clay Work (1832-1884), Will S. Hays (1837-1907), and George Frederick Root (1820-1895). Work, with his "Grandfather's Clock,"(audio clip) and Hays, with "The Little Old Cabin in the Lane" (parodied as the cowboy song "The Little Old Sod Shanty on My Claim"), each had one of his most enduring hits in the 1870s.

"Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming"
Composer: Stephen C. Foster
Published: 1883
(Music Division, Library of Congress)

Another stalwart from the Stephen Foster days was Septimus Winner (1827-1902), who, under his pseudonym Alice Hawthorne, had published "Listen to the Mocking Bird" in 1854. Most of Winner's publications during the 1870s were arrangements of the music of others, but he did publish occasional new music of his own, sometimes in "collaboration" with his alter ego Alice Hawthorne.

"Oh Boys Carry Me Long"
Composer: Stephen C. Foster
Published: 1879
(Music Division, Library of Congress)

Another songwriter from the Foster years who wrote prolifically and successfully through this period was Harrison Millard (1830-1895). Millard, a singer-songwriter who pursued a career that covered a range between popular song and art song, wrote no songs that are still well known; but in the 1870s he had considerable success with such songs as "A Mother's Dream." "Waiting," his major hit of 1867, was reprinted continually through this period.

The figure from the Stephen Foster era who is most frequently represented in this online collection is a lyricist, not a writer of music. George Cooper (1840-1927) had written lyrics for Foster ("If You've Only Got a Moustache," "Katy Bell," "Mr. and Mrs. Brown," "Willie Has Gone to the War"). It was Cooper who found the dying Foster and took him to a hospital. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s Cooper was a prolific lyricist, having major hits with "Rose of Killarney" and "Strolling on the Brooklyn Bridge." His one lasting song, "Sweet Genevieve," written in 1869, appears in this collection in an arrangement for voice and guitar. Cooper is perhaps the American name that occurs most often in this online collection: he worked with many of the composers of the period, transmitting a little of the magic of Foster to the songwriters of a new age.

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