Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

A dynamic America was frenetically modernizing and vigorously expand­ing during the historic decades before and following the open­ing of the twentieth century. While the West, or open land, was essentially closed with the 1889 admission of four new states, and two more the fol­lowing year, the country gen­erated a diverse output of agricultural and basic indus­trial goods. National produc­tion and average annual gain in output would soon exceed the performance of such for­eign industrial giants as Ger­many, England and France. By the end of the century, United States farm and manufactured exports were reaching markets everywhere. Population, swelled by an average more than one million immigrants each year between 1903 and 1914, reached one hundred million by 1915, second only to Russia among the great powers.

Accompanying such a flex­ing of economic muscle was a burgeoning of fervent patriot­ism. In an early manifestation in 1895, the nation struck a determined, flag-waving pose during a sudden series of external challenges to vital interests in Venezuela by Eng­land; by Japan in China and Korea; and by Spain in Cuba. Americans – or so it seemed­ – awoke to a global age of na­tionalism and multifaceted foreign risks.

The election of Pres. Wil­liam McKinley and his mildly internationalist platform in 1896 further confirmed that a so-called “large” or outward­-looking policy for America would continue to evolve. With more battleships joining the American fleet in 1897 and spirited debate opening in the United States Senate concern­ing the ratification of the treaty to annex Hawaii, it was clear to many that a new era was at hand. And, by the end of the Spanish-American War, which provided both overseas pos­sessions and the occasion for full blown national pride, a large majority of Americans had completely abandoned the isolationism and had wel­comed the nation’s move onto the world stage.

Little known about this historic transformation was that a virtually new business succinctly captured, for poster­ity, both the inception and the flourishing of such exuberant American patriotism. That business was the creation and marketing of popular music. By the second half of the Gay Nineties, the composition of songs simply for entertain­ment would no longer be the exclusive labor of major pub­lishers of serious music. In­stead, an aggressive group of young entrepreneurs, centered first in New York’s Union Square and then moving up­town to and around Tin Pan Alley, would focus on a very profitable new activity. There, and in a handful of important regional centers outside New York, publishers would de­velop music solely for popular taste and market their output aggressively to appease an insatiable audience throughout the country.

In the aggressive and com­petitive music business, new publishers tapped every prom­ising source for their lyrics and melodies. Common techniques included taking headlines from the newspaper, manufac­turing a song to commemorate a historic or forthcoming event, borrowing from a Civil War or foreign tune and even plagiarizing the competition’s work. Integral to selling the final product to a national audience was the replacement of black and white line draw­ings on lackluster sheet music covers with eye-catching multi­colored illustrations, often of inspired imagination. With virtually every headlined event at home and abroad a potential topic for exploitation, the nation’s unabashed patriotism of the period between 1895 and 1919 was featured brilliantly on more than a thousand works purchased by households from sea to shining sea. And Penn­sylvania played an important part.

Pennsylvania’s musical publishers’ output of patriotic genre significantly comple­mented that of New York’s Tin Pan Alley and rivaled the two next largest centers, the Mid­west and New England. In their striking and creative renderings of song titles and illustrations of such key sym­bols as the flag, Uncle Sam, the eagle, soldiers, sailors and Lady Liberty, publishers in Williamsport, Bethlehem, Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Harrisburg, Allen­town, Reading, Erie and Phila­delphia exhibited an imagination second to none. Pennsylvania’s many pub­lishers, along with their com­petitors throughout the nation, made important contri­butions to, and reflected popu­lar perceptions about, the nation’s broadening destiny during that flag-waving era. Pennsylvania’s lyricists, musi­cians and publishers banded together to launch the success­ful marketing of American patriotism.

Several popular subjects dominated the many depic­tions of the Spanish-American War by Pennsylvania’s music industry. Among the favored subjects were the nation’s military force at the ready and a national adoration of the victors. At the same time, the year 1898 hallmarked the dom­inance of Tin Pan Alley’s mar­keting approach and the decline of the earlier, more conservative style favored by publishers of serious music. The new sheet music, embla­zoned with inspiring patriotic illustrations, suddenly com­manded considerable popular attention around the state and nation.

Even before “the splendid little war” of 1898, as it has been called, Americans were concerned about the Cuban War for independence. Two years before, Robert F. Parks of Philadelphia published a musi­cal offering entitled The Cuban Hero. Clearly, this nation as a whole – and adventurous young men in particular­ – worried about the potential Spanish obstacle to the na­tion’s eventual securing of the Caribbean entrance for a pro­jected isthmian canal.

With the dramatic sinking of the Maine in Havana’s har­bor on February 15, 1898, mu­sic publishers everywhere fed the national chorus of outrage. Many pictured the ill-fated ship, its captain and its crew. By quickly capturing the rising war fever, the country’s pub­lishers summarized, in one broad sweep, the citizens’ belligerent demands to Wash­ington that it respond to that unprecedented challenge. In Williamsport, the D.S. Andrus Company offered The Nation’s Honor to help fuel the fervor.

War was declared. In a decisive series of sea and land battles, the superiority of American forces justified the confident public’s opinion. Not surprisingly, national adoration of the victorious forces provided a grand occa­sion for the new style pub­lishers, which immediately produced an outpouring of music honoring popular com­manders.

The American fleet in the Far East represented a truly decisive cutting edge of the victory margin in that brief war. The naval fighting power and the heroic Asiatic com­mander proved especially appropriate joint subjects for the A. Liberati Military Band of Philadelphia to glorify for an enthusiastic public in 1898 with the Admiral Dewey March. Entrepreneurship went so far as to combine a portrait of Admiral Dewey with an adver­tising message and picture of an A. B. Chase upright piano on the peculiar cover of Manila offered by Philadelphia’s Po­welton Music Company in 1899.

Throughout the nation’s victory party, patriotism com­manded center stage, and the resulting euphoria provided magnificent opportunities for musical publishers. Pennsylva­nia’s output took a backseat to none. The Theodore Presser Company, an established pub­lisher known throughout the country, celebrated the victory with a piece entitled Our Glori­ous Union Forever.

During the years between 1900 and 1913, America en­joyed its status as a great power. Among the subjects that occupied the American public – and so the individuals who directed the music indus­try in the new century – were the country’s obvious pride in its accomplishments and a growing confidence in its future. This celebration of the nation’s sudden ascension to great power status was color­fully expressed in many ways following the turn of the cen­tury. The most popular themes pictured were a continuation of the exuberant patriotism, a view of the homeland after the Spanish-American War, an active posture of military and diplomatic strength and a growing popularity of Uncle Sam as a key symbol of America.

Patriotic symbols were especially popular musical subjects, carried over from the Spanish-American War. Amer­ica was proud, glorious, per­haps even flamboyant, and depictions of its power and confidence illustrated Spirit of Freedom, published by the Vandersloot Music Company of Williamsport in 1905; the American Grand Triumphal March released in Harrisburg by Drumheller Brothers Pub­lishers in 1907; and M.D. Swisher’s American Victory March published in Philadel­phia in 1908. Never had Penn­sylvania displayed fiercer eagles or more brilliant flags!

In the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, espe­cially as the nation learned of the bloody fighting required to crush the Philippine guerrilla forces on the islands, the pub­lishers’ somber side emerged. In 1902, Joseph Monnis, Phila­delphia, offered A Soldier Who Wears No Uniform, dramatizing the support given to soldiers by the sad and loving mothers who waited patiently at home. Sacrifices were truly a corol­lary to the waging of modern warfare.

As the Philippine experi­ence dissolved from public memory by the middle of the great power era, musical pub­lishers discovered a far more comfortable marriage of patri­otism and profitability. Why not portray a romantic view of America’s soldiers and sailors? Among the many songs of this new lighter genre were Light Cavalry by the Eclipse Publish­ing Company and The Sailor Boy Glide by Weymann and Son, both Philadelphia con­cerns. A powerful unifying national theme during this confident era was the figure of Uncle Sam. Whether in time of external challenge or in time of domestic tranquility and pros­perity, he provided a bold and colorful illustration of patriot­ism and continuity. Among the many interesting examples of this symbol of nationhood, none captured the spirit of confidence and contentment more vividly than a North­ampton County firm, the Unitus Coffee Company of Bethlehem, which marketed Unitus in 1913. But this peace and prosperity did not last long.

With the outbreak of gen­eral European hostilities in August 1914, a new series of political stresses and unsettle­ments confronted a neutral America. Musical publishers responded, including Volkwein Brothers of Pitts­burgh with its 1914 Emblem of Peace, just one of many songs demonstrating hopes for an early armistice. While advo­cates of aggressive military preparedness gained impor­tant adherents by 1915, President Wilson continued to steer the United States on a tortuous – and teetering­ – course of rigid non­intervention. A man could be “too proud to fight” he be­lieved, and the country ar­dently backed him.

There is no doubt that Wilson won the close presi­dential election of 1916 largely because of his steady, non­belligerent stance, confirmed by a number of selections, including The Hero of the European War issued by Emmett J. Welch, Philadelphia, that year. During this era, German sub­marine and British surface forces routinely interfered with the United States’ seaborne commerce, and uncertainty around the Caribbean and in Mexico necessitated several interventions by American forces, fueling unbridled con­cern for national safety and economic security. In turn, military defenders were de­picted by the music industry during those three years of heightened vigilance as a reas­suring force. In Scranton, the James F. Langan Company reiterated these concerns with its 1914 publication of Her Yankee Doodle Boy. A second popular issue surfacing during that tense time was vigilant patriotism, a period during which Old Glory flew with great prominence, evidenced by Freedom’s Glorious Songs, published in 1916 by the March Music Company of Philadelphia.

During that dangerous period, the music industry was not content to ignore those left behind, whether sweethearts or families facing separation. Typical of the depiction of such themes of steadfastness and bravery was the Frank Music Publishing Company’s young woman saying farewell in My Sweetheart Went Away to be a Soldier, published in Allen­town. More shocking for an uneasy homefront was The Soldier’s Last Request, produced in Erie in 1914.

Overall, music publishers depicted a patriotic people apparently prepared for any eventuality in a dangerous war-torn world. While it still seemed to most here that America would escape the bloodshed of European battle­fields, that was not to be the case.

In an ill-fated strategic gam­ble taken in Berlin on January 9, 1917, and announced three weeks later, the German high command decided to resume submarine warfare against the United States shipping around the British Isles. That message to Washington made hostilities probable. The torpedoing of three merchantmen by March made American entry inevita­ble. From the moment in early April when Pres. Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress, which made it official, musical publishers chronicled every phase of the national mobiliza­tion and eventual battle on the Western Front.

Uncle Sam ls Calling, by Joseph D. Nirella, director of the school of music of the Westinghouse Air Brake Com­pany in Pittsburgh, helped recruit nearly ten million young men who registered for the draft in June 1917. More than a half million reported to thirty-two army camps and cantonments following their selection in the July 1917 lot­tery. All told, more than two million were readied, and eventually sent to France for service with the American Expeditionary Force. This massive and successful call-up of young Americans and their subsequent training were the subjects of many colorful offer­ings throughout the nation and in Pennsylvania. The Whitmore Music Publishing Company of Scranton depicted the soldiers’ departure with a sheet music cover entitled Good-bye My Hero. Many oth­ers followed. The boldly patri­otic national wartime spirit was being signaled in a variety of musical offerings, including Harry Wolfe of Harrisburg’s 1917 Sure, We Are Some Big America or The Spirit of the U.S.A. by the Monarch Music Company of Reading the fol­lowing year.

American forces in action against the enemy inspired some of the most popular patriotic themes ever for the industry. Our Sammies Will Hold Their Own by the Whitmore Music Publishing Com­pany and the Vandersloot Music Publishing Company’s The Fight Is On attempted to keep American patriotism fueled. Even temporary set­backs and shocks, such as the February 1918 loss to a subma­rine of the Tuscania, with one hundred and sixteen young engineers of the American Expeditionary Force aboard, was commemorated with Now’s the Time To Wake Up America, released by the Melody Shop in Williamsport in 1918.

In 1917-1918, Pennsylvania’s musical publishers also fo­cused on the personal life of soldiers at war, including lighter moments at sea and on shore. Shipboard sailors, still caught up in the era’s ragtime craze, were illustrated in That Lovin’ Johnson Rag, an offering by Hall and Kleinkauf of Wilkes-Barre in 1917. And no American family at home or soldier in France could ignore the unprecedented contribu­tion being made to the war effort by young women, hon­ored by many publishers, including several in William­sport and Philadelphia. In the struggle against Germany and its allies, America supported France’s claim to regain those eastern provinces lost in 1870. To honor the European allies in the global fight, America gave special tribute to its old­est friend. The Vandersloot Music Publishing Company’s Commander-in-Chief links famil­iar and historic symbols of France and America while specifically honoring Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the supreme commander on the Western Front. He was to be the soldier who finally brought about Germany’s surrender after more than four years of whole­sale slaughter.

Following implementation of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, and one of the fastest disembarkations from Europe and demobilizations in history, the nation’s openly patriotic era ended rather abruptly. Nonetheless, there was time for the nation to lavish praise on its returning heroes, high­lighted by the ticker tape out­pouring of acclaim given to the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, General Pershing. For others, there was a more somber homecoming. It was one that was to reunite draftees who had fought in France and visited Paris with those left behind in a now more cosmopolitan America. In the same 1919 that The Ma­rines’ Hymn was published in Philadelphia – with its proud litany of battles from 1776 to 1918 – a new mood was re­flected by Let’s Forgive, Let Us Love and Forget released in Scranton.

In Pennsylvania, there was a special reason for conform­ing to an emerging national disillusionment about the victory on the European battle­field and perhaps even about the accompanying patriotic upsurge. In one of the most bitter stories about the Ameri­can experience in the war, it was told how French forces, on July 15, 1918, had precipi­tously retreated on the Marne without informing their flank­ing American allies. The un­protected troops were four green companies of the Twenty-Eighth Division, Penn­sylvania National Guard.

Despite various pleas by veterans not to forget the men who had served, including such offerings as At the Front of the Battles You Found Us, by Charles Thomas of Philadelphia, the American public of 1919 determinedly sought a period of normalcy and isola­tionism. True to the buying public’s desires, music pub­lishers on Tin Pan Alley and in all regional centers, responded by halting production of patri­otic music virtually overnight.

But for twenty-five years, musical publishers in Pennsylvania – from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and from Scranton to Reading – helped inspire unbridled patriotism, even through the most difficult of times. The brilliantly col­ored sheet music, em­blazoned with fervent messages, helped kindle the ardent fervor that saw America – and Pennsylvania­ – through trial and tribulation.


For Further Reading

Diamond, Sigmund. The Nation Transformed: The Creation of an Industrial Society. New York: George Braziller, 1963.

Dobson, John M. America’s Ascent: The United States Becomes a Great Power, 1890-1920. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 1978.

Ewen, David. All the Years of American Popular Music. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1977.

Goldberg, Isaac. Tin Pan Alley: A Chronicle of American Popu­lar Music. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1961.

Hacker, Louis M. The Shaping of American Tradition. New York: Columbia University, 1947.

Hitchcock, Wiley H. and Sadie, Stanley, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. London: MacMillian Press, 1986.

Holden, Alfred C. “Tin Pan Alley Markets America’s ‘New’ Navy: Viewing Naval Ships, Naval Heroes and Bluejackets of 1898-1918 on Sheet Music Covers.” Naval History (forthcoming).

Levy, Lester S. Give Me Yester­day: American History in Song, 1890-1920. Norman: Uni­versity of Oklahoma, 1975.

Sullivan, Mark. Our Times: The United States. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926.


Alfred C. Holden is professor of marketing at St. John’s Univer­sity, Queens, New York, and president of his own economic and marketing consulting Jinn. He received a bachelor of science degree from the U.S. Naval Acad­emy and his doctorate from Syra­cuse University. He is an active author, with more than two hun­dred articles about contemporary international marketing, finance and trade relations in various professional journals, business magazines and books. The major­ity of these articles have been prepared in his capacity as special or contributing editor during the last decade to such publications as World Traders, Global Trade Executive, World Marketing and Asian Finance. He has recently widened his interest to include study of marketing activ­ity in the Victorian era, especially the successful efforts of Tin Pan Alley.