American Popular Music Before 1900


One of the really neat things about music, and there are many, is that it reflects the times. Lyrics tell how people feel and describe events. Through music we can celebrate, lament, or send messages. In many ways, music can offer a more accurate picture of people and events than any other method available. Once you visit the music collected here, you will be amazed at how musicendures throughout the centuries.

This chronologically arranged page is intended as an overview of American History through its music. Please write us if you have information or links which would supplement this information. Later, visit our 19th Century Popular Culture pages for backgroun on the century by decade.

19th century Sheet Music Links and music of the 19th century - from UNC at Chapel Hill.
Sheet Music - Historic American From the library of Congress American Memory collection.
Folk Music of America and the British Isles Beautifully site arranged chronologically. Arranged also by country. Information about the origin of the songs is included. Thanks!

Scouting Songs Collected song lyrics for scout troups. Great collections of old songs. Many from early American History.

A-Z Lyrics Universe Very neat site - wiki - Hit or miss on early music, but right on with today's lyrics. Some midis. Search by performer or lyrics.
Hymn Search New Song's Old Songs has a nice long list of midi soundbytes for hymns.
American Religious Music Links to American gospel music sites from U of Indiana.
A Chronological History of American Music to 1900
Religious music was the first music of early colonists. Traditional English hymns were brought to America. Singing the Psalms was an early form for hymns. Pilgrims from Southhampton and Plymouth brought with them the Ainsworth Psalter imprinted in 1612 in Amsterdam. Music of the war was popular. It was used until 1667 when The Bay Psalter was adopted (Wikipedia says 1840.) . Benjamin Franklin wrote and published a book of Ballads. Operas appeared. A Mighty Fortress is Our God, The Eighth of January and Yankee Doodle are good examples of this period. The Trinity Psalter has examples of early singing of the Psalms.Early Music of America and The Music of Early America offer links to early music and essays in Early American Music Journal.InfoPlease - InfoPlease's American Music Timeline. Mappamundi's Colonial American Music Performing group. Interesting site.
Religious Music
The Bay Psalm Book Cambridge 1640 The first book published in British Colonial America.Hymn Search Listed above, use here for the Old Methodist Hymnal. Lyrics and music. Sacred Harp Singing Information regarding shape note singing, a style that began in early 1800s. Various other links to other music sources here as well. Early hymnals were printed in 4 shape notion system. At least 38 were published before 1856.
Nursery Rhymes

Rhymes and Nonsense Rhymes, wonderful illustrations, a little history and dates. Delightful - don't miss Three Little Mice. Links to other pages.
Nursery Rhymes Many Nursery Rhymes were set to music and sang to the children during this period. A huge listing of rhymes from all periods. Historical notes are being added.

Ballads and Political Songs

Popular Songs in American History Great site with songs, lyrics and a little history. Arranged chronologically. Political Sheet Music Early 1800s brought about political music. Usually sung to familiar music.

The printing of individual items of music began in North America only after the Revolution. Music still closelylinked to England. The Star Spangled Banner was written in 1814. Other songs of this period include Rock of Ages, America, Oh Shenandoah!, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes and Johnny's Gone For a Soldier . Folk music and ballads were the rage. Negro spirituals and slave music came from the African slaves. Revolutionary War
Loyalists Songs Songs and lyrics to songs the British loyalists sang. Loyalist and British Songs of the American Revolution a .pdf file with lyrics. Fiddle Tunes from the American Revolution From minuets to airs.

Negro Spirituals and Slave Songs

History of Slave Spirituals An article by Radno in Critical Inquiry Journal.
Origin of Black Spirituals From Info, Please: Black Spirituals: A History.
Lift Every Voice - University of Virginia Library - broader than spirituals, excellent history. Don't miss the Lift Every Voice midi.
Negro Spirituals Lyrics of many of the negro spirituals of the 19th century.
Essay - Negro Spirituals Essay by Thomas Wentworth Higginson from the Atlantic Monthly, June 1867. Includes lyrics of several songs of the time. Very good.
Georgia Sea Island Singers - St. Simons Island Gullah African American Music Performing group relate the history of the natives of the Georgia Sea Island through their music. See Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands on the American Music Path finder. Gullah Network Enjoy this fun site which tells about the African slaves in South Carolina. Fun and the music will wake you up.

Folk Music

Stephen C. Foster (1813-1893) Camptown Races, Old Folks at Home, Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, and My Old Kentucky Home are songs by Foster during his short life.
Folk Music and 19th Century Folk Music Many lyrics to folk music of the period and a bit later. Mid-Century folk music here - browse further on the 19th Century page.
American Folklife Center Photographs and annotations from American Folklife, Library of Congress. Includes 18 hrs. of audio recording, graphics, texts. Wonderful archives.
The Yellow Rose of Texas AND the Yellow Rose of Texas written in 1858. Since we are Texans, we can't miss this one!


Popular music just before and during the Civil War concerned itself with political and military events. Songs included Amazing Grace , Battle Hymn of the Republic , Dixie, I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen, When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, Old Black Joe, Carry me Back to Old Virginny, and Marching Through Georgia. Religious songs were popular including He Leadeth Me , Go Tell it on the Mountain, and My Faith Looks Up to Thee . Folklore music started during this period and included the music of the Indians, negroes, mountainneers, cowboys, lumberjacks, sailors and others. How about listening to Oh My Darling, Clementine!

Civil War

Civil War Poems and Songs - a small collection of each. Links back to a hodgepodge of Civil War links. Civil War Music Good site
Civil War Poetry and Music Information regarding the purpose of poetry and song in war. Also contains list of Union and Confederate song lyrics. Poetry's music too...


Gospel Music Midis, information
Gospel and History of Gospel
An essays about gospel . There is controversy about the early history - but its all good.
Gospel music - history and links

Mother Goose - Sarah Josepha Hale

Mary Had a Little Lamb
Lyrics and midi
The Lyrics for ...
First Mother Goose. Written by Sara Josepha Hale. Follow the lamb to school.

Work Songs - Railroad and Westward Expansion

She'll be Coming Round the Mountain An old-time Negro spiritual. The Railroad work gangs in the west sang it. Casey Jones Home Page We've broken our own rule. This research done by a first grade class: The story of Casey Jones. I Been Wukkin' on de Railroad This old song originated in a tramp minstrel show. Westward Movement - music This neat school site teaches history through music.


Scott Joplin Don't miss listening to some of the ragtime of Scott Joplin. Maple Leaf Rag was his most famous. Ragtime Home Page
The "Big Three" Fathers of Ragtime and more. (Scott Joplin, James Scott and Joseph Lamb)
Ragtime Story Essay about Ragtime and information about the influence of Ragtimeon other music. Ragtime Music Midis available.

Broadway Musical

American Variety Stage Vaudeville & Popular music 1870-1920. This is a Library of Congress Memory Project.
Gilbert and Sullivan Archive This is a terrific page - information, midis, lyrics, plot summaries..and more.
The Pirates of Penzance The web opera by Gilbert & Sullivan. With music and Lyrics.
John Philip Sousa The March King and sound for downloading of all his works.
Bab Ballads from W.S. Sullivan W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) wrote a large number of "ballads" for the magazine Fun using his pen-name "Bab." These Bab Ballads became famous on their own, as well as being a source for plots and songs for the G&S operas. Lyrics and information at this site.

Texas Music of the 19th Century Music published in Texas during this period. Some midis and lyrics.. Handbook of Texas Wonderful source for the history of Texas music. Use search word music or gospel music or blues. Completely searchable and hyperlinked. You'll never leave this site.

Old Time Music

The Southern Folklife Collection
The Southern Folklife Collection on the fourth floor of Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill houses one of the world's largest collections of Southeastern-tradition derived music. This page has information about early country, old-time string bands, gospel and spirituals, and southeastern blues.
Old Time Music Home Page Old Time Music is a collection of great websites you can browse. Includes newsgroups, instruments, vendors, personalites, and links to magazines. Very good.
Old Time Music Another website filled with links to browse for Anglo-American ("old-time") music.


Al Jolson Award Winning Page
Take a look at this great page. Take the Al Jolson Journey. Toot, toot, Tootsie, Goo'Bye!
Al Jolson - Wikipedia Contains biographical information and more


Jazz Roots Great site - take a look at the time line and all of the great information there. History of New Orleans Jazz where jazz roots really reside.


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