American Sheet Music: ca. 1820-1860
Table of Contents
Music Copyrighted in Federal District Courts, ca. 1820-1860:
Composers of Popular Song


image: caption following
Come, let us go a-maying
by E. Norman Jr.

American composers during this period sometimes turned to important poets, both American and otherwise, for the words to their songs. Thomas Moore is probably the most famous poet widely represented in this collection, although there are also many pieces set to the poetry of Robert Burns, Lord Byron , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. There also are a few pieces set to texts by William Cullen Bryant, John Bunyan, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Robert Herrick, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Hood, Lucy Larcom, John Milton, the fictitious bard Ossian (James Macpherson), Sir Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley (listed as "Shelby" on the cover of the music), James Shirley (listed as "Shelly"), John Greenleaf Whittier, and William Wordsworth. Charles Dickens is mainly represented by songs and pieces based on the poem "The Ivy Green" from The Pickwick Papers. There is a single song with words by Lorenzo Da Ponte. In the 1780s, Da Ponte wrote the words to Mozart's operas The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte. In the 1820s, he taught at Columbia College in New York.

A far larger number of texts were contributed by a set of versifiers now known, if at all, for one or two lines in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. Perhaps the most popular lyricist of the period was George P. Morris, writer of "Woodman! Spare that Tree!" and "Near the Lake Where Droop'd the Willow." Others whose work was often used include Felicia Hemans ("The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck," "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers"), Sidney Dyer, and Thomas Dunn English, whose poem "Ben Bolt" produced many answer songs.

American Sheet Music: ca. 1820-1860