Politics in California Sheet Music

Sheet music can convey nationalistic fervor, campaign propaganda, political messages, and commemorations for events and institutions. The stirring fervor of the instrumental march was often declared a political message by its title or cover illustration. Occasionally religion and politics are mixed. The composed concert song or vaudeville tune can tell of social conflict in unique ways.

Civil War "United Forever!" (1861) and "Yes! I Would the War Were Over" (1863) must have proclaimed popular sentiments from the stage. "Jeff Davis' Dream" from the production of the "Gigantic Polyorama of the War" in 1863 tells the story of how Davis sold his soul to the devil. "We're Freemen Now" celebrates the emancipation of slaves following the Civil War. The plight of the southerner in the west after the Civil War is eloquently told in "My Native South" (1867) ("but do not bid me hate the South"). "Yankee Doodle" is a long-lasting patriotic war song. While the piano piece "Marching Through Georgia" has no words, it must have evoked images in the minds of listeners. A somber portrait of Gen. E. S. Canby is on the cover of Wilder's "Funeral March" (1873).

Anti-Railroad An anonymous "Anti-Monopoly War Song" for the Anti-Monopoly Party of California (1882) has several verses opposing the "railroad robbers" who made of citizens "victims of vile subsidies."

Spanish-American War "The Song of the American Volunteer" celebrated the soldiers. A. Nelson Adams, the band director of the Eighth Army Corps Band, used his tenure to compose "Camp Dewey March" and "Eighth Army Corps March" which were published in Manila and San Francisco with covers containing photographs of the army camps. "On the Day that Dewey Comes Home" probably proclaimed on the stage sentiments popular at the time. "Comrades" by Felix McGlennon celebrates America's soldiers; two editions appeared in San Francisco in 1899.

Campaign Songs "Garfield Our Best Man" (1878), "Hurrah for Grover Cleveland" (188?),

Commemorations The "G. A. R. Grand March" celebrated the 20th National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic at San Francisco in 1886. Another commemoration for visiting veterans was "Old Comrades of the War," a song by H. B. Pasmore, words by Sam Booth. "Himno a Mexico" by local composer Domenico Speranza celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Mexican Independence and included a portrait of Mexican President Don Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada. The "Battle of Prague" uses the piano to narrate the stages of the battle between Prussians and Imperialists, as did the "Battle of Waterloo" for another set of combatants.

Nationalism Many of the immigrants were able to buy sheet music in California that proclaimed their love of their homeland. "Fair Land of Poland," several editions of "Wearing of the Green" decorated with the national emblem of Ireland, German songs such as "My Native Land" and "Heimweh" were published in San Francisco. "La Force et le courage: Scene dramatique" portrayed revolutionary times in France. "Blue Alsatian Mountains" recalls a geographical area with both German and French roots.

Marches "Marching Through Georgia" (1865), "Light Infantry March" (1874), "Grant Military March" with a portrait of Grant upon his horse upon his visit to San Francisco in 1879, "Freedom Forever, A New National March,"

Religion and Politics "The Battle Prayer" by Himmel was reprinted by Gray in San Francisco. California is described in "The Promised Land," an "evangel song," that tells how "along the mighty coast we will man the picket line."

Social Conflict The full force of prejudice and strife against and between two underclasses, African Americans and Irish, is described in the verses of "Nigger, Nigger." The story of the struggle of the Native American against the paleface is told in "La Indita." The working girl tells her story in "The Tough Girl" (1894) and in "Clementina Moore the Girl in the Dollar Store" (1869).

Materialism The materialism of society is bemoaned in "The Merry Chink, Chink, Chink" [of money] by A. M. Gretchen. A parody of "Champagne Charlie" is Alfred Lee's "Coal Oil Tommie" from Pennsylvania, as sung in "The Lottery of Life."