A Century of
African American Music

A Slideshow

This series of images, drawn from the African American Sheet Music Collection at the John Hay Library, illustrates the ways in which African Americans were depicted on sheet music from the 1820s up to the 1920s. Sheet music, which can be quickly produced in response to an event or a trend, is a excellent window into the popular attitudes of the day.

The images begin with those from the start of blackface minstrelsy in the 1820s, in which individual white performers sang and danced in purported imitation of the music and dances of African Americans. In the 1840s, larger-scale minstrel troupes (again, almost always of white performers) were beginning to be organized, and the ways in which they depicted African Americans - usually either as urban dandies or rural plantation hands - can be clearly seen. The antebellum era also affords images from the abolitionist tradition, including those related to the greatly influential Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The period of the Civil War shows African Americans depicted as soldiers or as displaced persons, while the sheet music from the period of Reconstruction frequently places them in a white fantasy of nostalgia for antebellum life on the plantation. The sheet music covers from the late 1870s and 1880s show a great mix of styles, evidence of the societal complexities that characterized the post-Reconstruction era. Here, portraits drawn from photographs of African American composers and performers begin to appear, often on the same sheet with highly stereotyped minstrel images and scenes.

The late 19th century and the early 20th century sheet music continues this trend, adding actual photographs of performers and multi-colored covers, as techniques of printing become more advanced. The very lively African American musical theatre of the first decade of the 20th century is well represented, and the struggles of African American performers to escape the stereotypes of minstrelsy are clearly depicted. The series of images closes with those that reflect the emerging influence of ragtime, blues and jazz, both in African American life and in American society in general.

The Loghouse (1826)

This early example of African-American related sheet music in many ways encapsulates the next 175 years of American popular music: a white composer taking his inspiration from the black folk tradition.

This cover is essentially the story of the life of the composer A. P. Heinrich. The composer is seated outside his rustic frontier cabin, and strewn about him are songs he has been writing. Looking around the corner is a ragged black figure, holding his banjo, representing the source of inspiration. At the composer's feet are two pages of music, labeled "Barbecue Divertimento, or Banjo Quick Step." Here can be clearly seen the westernized forms superimposed on folk traditions; the history of American popular music appears in this piece in microcosm.

This is also the first example of American sheet music to have a full lithographed title page. The artist is David Claypoole Johnson, 1799-1865, who was the first major illustrator of American music, and who became known as the "American Cruikshank" for his satiric prints. The lithograph was made by Pendleton's, the first important lithographic house in this country.

The Coal Black Rose (1827)

This is the first of a group of images representing the pre-minstrelsy period, that is, the time up until about 1843. At this time there were a good number of individual blackface performers, who sang, danced, and played the banjo in ostensible imitation of actual black folk music. In fact, the music was virtually always based on English or Irish sources.

This song was published in several different illustrated versions between 1827 and 1832. It was said to have been introduced by George Washington Dixon, a popular performer of black-related songs. It is also said to be the first song that introduced the stereotyped comic black love triangle.

Note that the characters are dancing as well as playing the banjo; and note the stance of the man in the picture. Several years before the song "Jim Crow" appears, he displays the characteristic outthrust right hip and asymmetrical posture that would long be associated with the "Jim Crow" musical tradition.

Zip Coon (1834)

The depiction of "Zip Coon" on the cover of this piece established a stereotype that would have a long history in black-related music in the 19th century: the dandy. He would come to be associated with northern states, with urban rather than rural populations, with malapropisms of speech, with a boastful and often violent disposition. All these attributes contributed toward the stereotyping of African-American men not only on the stage, but in actual life, so they have a pervasive perniciousness.

Once again, George Washington Dixon is said to have introduced this song, in about 1829. The cover illustration is an Endicott lithograph; the artist's name is unknown. Parenthetically, the tune to this piece is probably known to everyone over a certain age: it is still familiar as the fiddle tune known as "Turkey in the Straw".

Jim Crow (1831)

This song established in the public mind a second important stereotype of black men, in contrast to the dandy: the poor, shabby, rural, "plantation darky" figure. This figure is often depicted as stupid, ignorant, lazy, and cowardly.

The supposed origins of this song are ironic, when one considers its ultimate negative impact on blacks: Around 1828, a blackface performer named Thomas Dartmouth Rice is said to have overheard an elderly crippled black stable hand singing a tune and doing a funny little jumping dance step as he went about his work. Dartmouth appropriated this man's music and dance and made it into an enormous hit. The song's popularity created a demand for blackface performances that would lead, in the next decade, to the development of minstrelsy. This illustration depicts Dartmouth in his character of Jim Crow.

The term "Jim Crow", of course, entered the language, becoming synonymous with the system of segregation and laws aimed at oppressing African-Americans throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

My Long Tail Blue (1827)

This song established in the public mind a second important stereotype of black men, in contrast to the dandy: the poor, shabby, rural, "plantation darky" figure. This figure is often depicted as stupid, ignorant, lazy, and cowardly.

The supposed origins of this song are ironic, when one considers its ultimate negative impact on blacks: Around 1828, a blackface performer named Thomas Dartmouth Rice is said to have overheard an elderly crippled black stable hand singing a tune and doing a funny little jumping dance step as he went about his work. Dartmouth appropriated this man's music and dance and made it into an enormous hit. The song's popularity created a demand for blackface performances that would lead, in the next decade, to the development of minstrelsy. This illustration depicts Dartmouth in his character of Jim Crow.

The term "Jim Crow", of course, entered the language, becoming synonymous with the system of segregation and laws aimed at oppressing African-Americans throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Long Time Ago (1836)

This is a song and illustration in the "plantation" manner, unusual for the gun that the character is holding. In the text, the character essentially kills a man as part of a love triangle. The illustration is an Endicott lithograph; the artist is "Obi". Note the similarity in this slide to the character of the woman in the next illustration, in which the artist is the elusive "Spoodlyks."

Jim brown (1836)

This is an Endicott lithograph, signed by the illustrator known as "Spoodlyks." It is fairly clear that this is the same person as as "Obi." The addresses of the Endicott shop at these dates make it more than likely that this artist may well be George Endicott, as many scholars have hypothesized.

There are several versions of "Jim Brown", but this one is noteworthy for the aspects of daily life depicted in the background. It has been suggested that "Jim Brown" was patterned after Francis Johnson, a black bandleader of considerable renown at this period. The character is depicted in a quasi-military, gaudy costume; this variant on the dandy would become another way of depicting blacks in the 19th century. The song itself cruelly satirizes Francis Johnson's very real accomplishments.

Sich a Gitting Up Stairs (1837)

Sich a Gettign up Stairs

This is a Willig lithograph, depicting a fight. The performer, Bob Farrel, is billed as "The original Zip Coon"; several performers claim this. This is another example of the black dandy, the jealous lover, the man of violence, all important and pervasive stereotypes of African-American men.

Alabama Joe (1840)

Sich a Gettign up Stairs

A Benjamin W. Thayer lithograph, including a fine illustration of the performer, A.L. Thayer in character, playing a long handled banjo.

The date on this piece is 1840, which may provide further evidence that troupe minstrelsy, in this case the "Guinea Minstrels", pre-dated the 1843 date conventionally used.

Dandy Jim from Carolina (1843)

Dandy Jim from Carolina

This is also a "Spoodlyks" illustration; the signature appears on some issues of this title, but has been eradicated from others. This is another example of the black as dandy. This issue associates the song with Barney Williams, an Irish blackface performer from Cork. He later abandoned blackface, and became successful portraying Irish characters.

Cudjos Wild Hunt "Boston Minstrels" (1843)

Cudjos Wild Hunt 'Boston Minstrels'

This is an early example, and a great one, of what minstrelsy was all about in its early years. The characters in the top row illustrate the "dandyism of the Northern states" and those in the lower row are the "Ethiopians of the southern states,"another example of the two most important stereotypes associated with minstrelsy.

This cover is intended to be used for a series of songs; this became quite a commonplace, and has been used consistently into the 20th century, particularly for show music.

This song is by Anthony Winnemore, who is advertized as "the original "Dandy Jim from Carolina", another claimant. He is the fellow playing the banjo, second from the left in both rows.

This is another Endicott lithograph, by "Spoodlyks." Compare the figures in the bottom row, particularly the two on the right, with the characters in the next example.

Old King Crow "Virginia Minstrels" (1843)

Old King Crow

These characters have been said to have been the first actual minstrel group, as opposed to individual blackface performers. They are, left to right, Dick Pelham (tambourine), Dan Emmett (violin), Billy Whitlock (banjo), and Frank Brower (castanets).

This is a Thayer, not an Endicott lithograph. Note the similarity to the previous image, in the depictions of the characters on either end. They appear, only slightly differently, at bottom right on the previous image. In addition, the banjo player is a slightly title="Click to open in new window" altered mirror image of the character second from left, bottom row, of the previous image. This illustration is not as finely drawn as the previous.

De Skeeters Do Bite "Harmoneons" (1846)

De Skeeters Do Bite

This piece is very unusual in that it is a color lithograph. Very few minstrel pieces printed in America before the 1890s are in colors. The illustration is signed by William Sharp, who was an early experimenter in color lithography, working in London as early as 1832.

In this piece, too, the performers were named. The middle character, L.V.H. Crosby, organized the troupe, and is said to have been the first interlocutor. The lady in the picture is in fact Marshall S. Pike, one of the earliest female impersonators in minstrelsy.

One curious fact about this troupe is that they started out in whiteface as the Albino Family. It does suggest a rather quirky sense of humor.

Oh! Wake up in de Morning (1846)

Oh! Wake up in de Morning

This striking piece is a lithograph of Eliphalet Brown, jr. It depicts William "Billy" Whitlock of the Virginia Minstrels as the banjo player, and either Frank or John (most probably John) Diamond at the Bowery Theatre in New York. It was often issued with a tint, usually seen in a light peach or beige color.

It gives a very real sense of what the audiences of early blackface minstrelsy might have seen when they attended a performance.

The Gum Tree Canoe "Virginia Serenaders" (1847)

The Gum Tree Canoe

This is a beautifully detailed lithograph from John H. Bufford in Boston. Note that there is a little book of "Plantation Melodies" depicted. This is a very early use of the term; it predates E.P. Christy's publication of the songbook "Plantation Melodies" by at least two years.

Note the instruments depicted: in addition to the expected banjo and tambourine there is a "cane fife," an authentic southern black musical instrument seldom seen in minstrel illustrations. The bandage or wrapping on the fife player's finger indicates that he will be switching off to playing the banjo.

This piece is arranged by Winnemore, who appears on the earlier Boston Minstrels image; these performers, composers, and arrangers frequently changed troups and reconstituted their organizations.

Color'd Fancy Ball "Ethiopian Serenaders" (1848)

Color'd Fancy Ball

This group attempted to "gentrify" the minstrels; note the decorous evening dress and the less contorted postures. In 1844 they appeared at the White House, and later they tried to seek the respectability of "high" culture by giving "blackface concerts."

The troupe members have signed the piece (reinforcing that they are literate white performers); Germon and Stanwood are from the Boston Minstrels, (see earlier image); the others are George A. Harrington, Gilbert Pell (brother of Dick Pelham of the Virginia Minstrels), and one of the Whites (many performers by that name are associated with early minstrelsy).

Little Eva Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)

Little Eva

This is not a minstrel song, and it is not from the play of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is an example of the moralistic, sentimental, religious, and abolitionist strain in American life that coexisted with the minstrel tradition, and shared some of its conventions.

The lyrics are poetry by John Greenleaf Whittier, and unlike every other piece of music shown so far, they are not in dialect. The illustration is taken from the first edition of the novel. Note the halo around Uncle Tom's head. He is the "plantation darky" Christianized, and even canonized. It is impossible to overstress the importance of Uncle Tom's Cabin, both as a novel and as a play, in the social and politic dynamic surrounding the slavery issue in the 1850s.

Oh! I'se So Wicked Uncle Tom's Cabin (1854)

Oh! I'se So Wicked

This, too, is not from the minstrel stage. It is a song from George Aiken's play of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which opened at the Troy Museum in 1852. The words and music are by George C. Howard, and this piece features a portrait of Mrs. Howard as Topsy, a role for which she was famous for many years.

Beneath the figure are the words "Little Cordelia Howard has an interest in the sale of this song,"referring to the young daughter of the Howards who played Little Eva. This copy is autographed by Cordelia Howard.

This is a Sarony lithograph; it is unsigned, but it may well have been by Napoleon Sarony, who executed many hundreds of portraits of theatrical personalities.

The Yellow Rose of Texas(1858)

Yellow Roses of Texas

This copy is a later issue of the first edition; the indication for this is that the cover reads "piano" and 'guitar", which the real first issue does not.

It is not known who the composer "J.K." really is. This piece is unusual for the period in that it is not (primarily) in dialect, but it is most definitely a black-related song. This is clear because the lyrics refer to "dearest Mae" and "Rosa Lee", the titles of two songs of the period well-known to refer to black women, and because the term "rose of color" is used. "Yellow" rose meant a light-skinned black woman, or a woman of mixed race. In modern editions, this identification is not at all clear.

The Raw Recruits (1862)

Raw Recruits

This is one of the few depictions on sheet music of blacks during the Civil War. These men are shown in parodies of military costumes; the bell-shaped hats of three of the characters, in particular, are about twenty years out of date, being more appropriate to the period of the war with Mexico. The song was used in a minstrel piece presented by Dan Bryant's troupe in New York in 1862.

Note that the two characters on either end are shown as happy and pleased with their situations; they are a drummer and a standard bearer. The three characters in the middle, bearing arms, are depicted as bewildered incompetents. This is a combination of the stereotype of the black as dandy (delighting in gaudy military finery) and as plantation darky (ignorant and cowardly). It is a highly charged piece politically, given the debate during the Civil War about the use of African-Americans as soldiers.

This is an unsigned lithograph of Sarony, Major, and Knapp.

The Old Contraband (1865)

The Old Contraband

This is a song about a freed slave; the term "contraband" was used to signify a slave who had escaped to or was otherwise within Union lines during the Civil War, as in the term "contraband of war".

It also clearly points to the vast numbers of displaced former slaves who were on the road at the close of the Civil War. Note that the man's trousers are plaid, recalling those on the dandy of the 1843 "Dandy Jim from Carolina"; it may be that the former dandy has come on hard times.

The Dear Old Home We Loved So Well (1874)

The Dear Old Home We Loved So Well

This is a John H. Bufford lithograph, done in the latter years of that Boston company's existence. It is a compendium of images, stereotypes, and fantasies that would become prevalent after the Civil War in the public imagination. There arose a category of song in which the slave days on the old plantation were supposedly looked back on fondly by the aged former slave. At lower right is an "Uncle Tom" figure - at this date simply meaning an elderly, morally upright, black man.

This piece is noteworthy in that it is dedicated to Charles B. Hicks, a black minstrel who had organized the Georgia Minstrels. After the Civil War, minstrel troupes composed of African-Americans began to appear; economic need, greater mobility, and, perhaps, previously thwarted theatrical ambition, combined to produce numerous black troupes in the 1860s and 1870s.

Close dem Windows (1879)

Close dem Windows

This illustration is made up of three vignettes and a portrait of African-American composer James A. Bland. It is characteristic of the type in that Bland is presented perfectly straightforwardly, but the vignettes depict stereotypical and familiar themes. In particular, the little boy dancing on the wharf recalls the famous images of Catherine Market in New York in the earlier days of the century.

Bland toured with black minstrel troupes in the late 1870s; his songs, some of which, such as "Oh Dem Golden Slippers" and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (minus the dialect lyrics) are still known today, were popular at the time with both the black and the white minstrel troupes. This is a lithograph of F.M. Haskell, of Boston.

Moses Cart dem Melon Down (1880)

Moses Cart dem Melon Down

Similarly, this illustration of the black composer Dan Lewis' songs shows vignettes depicting the subjects of the songs in the series, and a perfectly straightforward, non-stereotyped portrait of the composer.

Note the watermelon cart; watermelon will appear over and over again in the later 19th century pantheon of black-related icons. This is a lithograph of Charles H. Crosby, Boston.

De Camp Meetin' Fire Bell (1880)

De Camp Meetin' Fire Bell

This is an example of the many songs and illustrations throughout the 19th century that mock black religious traditions; the text exemplifies the "pseudo-spiritual".

It also shows the growing tendency in the post-Civil War era to stereotype and caricature the black in a noticeably much harsher way, perhaps reflecting the tensions and fears of the white populace in the post-Reconstruction era. This is a lithograph of Connoly and Co. in Boston.

De Coon Dat Had de Razor (1885)

De Coon Dat Had de Razor

In the late 19th century, there developed a type of song that became known as the "coon song", of which this is an example. It also exemplifies the "bully song," of which there were vast quantities produced. It is the pernicious culmination of a number of trends that have been illustrated dating from the pre-minstrel period, yet in its depiction of black male violence it is quite different, and more ominous than the exaggerated, blustering fights in the songs of the 1830s.

This illustration is full of the stereotypical artifacts of the period: the bully's dandified dress, the chicken, the omnipresent razor. One other curious inclusion is the figure of the fleeing policeman; as depicted, his facial structures indicate that he is meant for a stereotyped Irishman - another ethnic group that did not escape caricaturing at this period.

The composer is Sam Lucas, a favorite black minstrel performer of the period; he is noted for having been the first African-American to play Uncle Tom in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Not infrequently, black composers wrote "coon songs," which seems incongruous to modern eyes.

May Irwin's Bully Song (1896)

May Irwin's Bully Song

This is a nother example of the bully; note the similarity to the previous image, particularly in the dandified dress and the presence of the razor.

It was a curious feature of the period that heavy-set women such as May Irwin, called "coon shouters," were popular singers of these violent, male persona songs in the late 19th century. May Irwin may be remembered by devotees of silent film for sharing the first "on screen" kiss with her co-star in The Widow Jones, John Rice, filmed by Thomas Edison. Perhaps the best know performer who for a time was a "coon shouter" is Sophie Tucker.

This illustration represents a departure from the black-and-white lithographed illustration seen to date, which had quite clearly deteriorated in quality in the 1870s and 1880s. In the 1890s, color returned to the sheet music cover, and along with it came the inclusion of photographs of performers. These portraits, termed "cuts" were often changed, and it is not unknown for there to be over a dozen different printings of a piece of music, each featuring a "cut" of a different performer.

All Coons Look Alike to Me (1896)

All Coons Look Alike to Me

This is perhaps the most famous and infamous of all the coon songs, and the one that has become the archetype of them all. It was composed by Ernest Hogan, himself African-American; such was the song's notoriety that in later years he bitterly regretted composing it. The interesting thing about this song is that the text is fairly innocuous, as these things go. It concerns a young woman who already has a boyfriend, and so is uninterested in any other men: they "all look alike" to her. The cover illustration, most unfortunately unsigned, takes this notion and extends and amplifies it. The individuals portrayed, while wildly caricatured, are nevertheless quite clearly physically differentiated.

The title phrase entered the language, having as its subtext the unwillingness of society to perceive the African-American as an individual. It is the culmination of sixty years of stereotyping and caricaturing of blacks in musical theatre; it is a very important piece both socially and culturally.

The Coon's Trade Mark (1898)

The Coon's Trade Mark

This is another "coon song" in which the staple elements of the type are laid out. Note at the top the photographs of two of the best known African-American performers of the period, Bert Williams and George Walker. The composer, Tom Logan, was a black minstrel who performed in the company of Ernest Hogan many many other famous performers of the period.

Bit by bit, African-American performers and composers such as Williams, Walker, Hogan, and Logan, were beginning to transform the minstrel into the black musical theatre, title="Click to open in new window" although for far too long they were marooned in the stereotypes and caricatures demanded by the late 19th century minstrel stage and "coon song" mania.

Hello Ma Baby (1899)

Hello Ma Baby

One of the most interesting things about sheet music is the way it can provide an immediate response to every new invention, fad, or preoccupation. The cover illustration for the still well-known "Hello Ma Baby" shows a (dandified) couple talking on a telephone of the period, with a telephone pole and overhead wires in the upper right.

This song, by the white ragtime composer Joe Howard, is still performed, title="Click to open in new window" although of course the dialect is removed. It might be said that it is an early comment on the effects of new technology on human relationships.

Returned (1902)

Returned

This piece is unusual in that it was issued as a supplement to the New York American and Journal newspaper, and is printed on a now-fragile newsprint-like material. These Sunday Supplements are a very curious sub-set of sheet music publishing; frequently, titles published in this format appear never to have been published elsewhere.

It displays a wild conjunction of styles: the song is a conventional "longing for the old plantation" song; the illustrations depicting the young banjo player and his elderly incarnation, returning to a ruined plantation; the performer is Abbie Mitchell, one of the stars of the black musical theatre of the period, and the composer is her then husband Will Marion Cook; capping all this is the information that the music was performed at "Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt's Newport Theatre Party."

In Dahomey (1902)

In Dahomey

This is a wonderful example of a piece of music from the black music theatre, which, for African-American performers and composers, supplanted the minstrel as an outlet for their art.

Fine photographs of Bert Williams and George Walker are surrounded by the art nouveau style illustration that enlivened sheet music of the period. The music and libretto for In Dahomey has recently been reissued in a scholarly edition.

Your Face Looks Familiar to Me (1902)

Your Face Looks Familiar To Me

The photo of "The Washingtons" is most probably of Dan Washington, a famous cake-walk dancer of the period, and his partner Maude Johnson. The illustration is by Fisher, a prolific illustrator of the pre-World War I period.

The song itself is very violent, involving gang fights and razors, and seems quite incongruous as a vehicle for the very elegant couple in the photograph.

Just the Same Bandanna Land (1907)

Just the same

More photos of Williams and Walker, reinforcing their status as the great stars of the period. This cover illustration is by Andre De Takacs, another very prolific and influential sheet music illustrator from the early years of the century up to the 1930s.

The woman in the picture is very different from the women we have seen portrayed in the black sheet music of the past; she looks more like a Ziegfeld girl, and that is very likely precisely the impression intended. Bandanna Land was one of the hits of the black musical theatre of the period.

Just the Same Bandanna Land (1907)

Just the same

More photos of Williams and Walker, reinforcing their status as the great stars of the period. This cover illustration is by Andre De Takacs, another very prolific and influential sheet music illustrator from the early years of the century up to the 1930s.

The woman in the picture is very different from the women we have seen portrayed in the black sheet music of the past; she looks more like a Ziegfeld girl, and that is very likely precisely the impression intended. Bandanna Land was one of the hits of the black musical theatre of the period.

Go Way, Jimmie Simpson (1909)

Go Way, Jimmie Simpson

A similar, if more dressed up, young lady is on the cover of this piece, which is a true oddity. There is some caricaturing (faces, and whiteface around the mouth, primarily), but for the period it is negligible.

It is a most unusual song. The young lady will have nothing to do with poor Jimmie, because he is not a union member. The publisher is the Boston Union Music Publishing Company; the composer is George W. Williams. It is unknown if the use of black characters is done merely as a convention of the period, or if there is some deeper connection.

His Honor the Barber (1910)

His Honor the Barbor

This is a wonderful Gene Buck art nouveau cover. Buck was an illustrator and composer, who from the late 1890s to just before World War I was largely instrumental in revitalizing colorful sheet music illustration.

The piece includes a "cut" of a very modern looking Aida Overton Walker, wife of George Walker and one of the great stars of the African-American musical stage. She also appeared in Bandanna Land. The lyricist, Cecil Mack, was also the publisher, having founded the Gotham-Attucks Music Company, an important publisher of black music of the period.

The Darktown Strutters Ball (1917)

The Darktown Strutters Ball

The name of the illustrator of this lively piece is most unfortunately unknown; it is signed with a stylized rose, faintly visible in the lower left. Sometimes the initials "R.S." (which may be for Rosenbaum Studios) accompany this artist's work.

This piece combines modern jazz style with the extreme caricaturing of the "coon song" period." Another version exists in which the features of the the characters have been blanked out and the caricaturing removed.

Jazzin the Cotton Town Blues (1917)

Jazzin' the Cotton Town Blues

Music by Harry Olsen; words by Roger Lewis, author of "Down by the Winegar Woiks." The cover is by Starmer, who did many blues and jazz covers of the period. This cover is artistically quite peculiar; the woman's dress seems to have been plastered on at the end. This cover still shows the remains of caricaturing and stereotyping.

Baltimore Blues (1919)

Baltimore Blues

Music by Eubie Blake; words by Noble Sissle. The song is about a Baltimore piano player named "Piano Joe"; the text may have been drawn from some of Blake's putative early experiences as a piano player in less than reputable Baltimore establishments. Blake began working with Sissle in 1915. This is another wonderful Starmer cover.

I'm Just Wild About Harry (1921)

I'm Just Wild About Harry

Another Sissle and Blake song, from the hit black musical Shuffle Along, which also included "Love will find a way." This is a later issue; the earlier issue was a "series" cover for all the songs from the show, and simply showed lots of feet.

This is an unsigned illustration, but it has a "Starmer" look; one clue to this is that, similar to thee the two previous Starmer covers shown, the song is issued by Witmark. Illustrators of the period typically worked for only one or two music publishers.

The song is of course best known these days as Harry Truman's 1948 presidental campaign song. And it is noteworthy that it can be played as a lively tune, or as a waltz. Try it.

The Original Charleston (1923)

The Original Charleston

Wonderful, poster-like cover for the song that started a dance craze. The words and music are by the black composers Jimmy (James P.) Johnson and Cecil Mack, and the song was from the popular black musical "Running Wild." The show also included "If I could be with you.

On the back of the sheet music are the dance steps; it is unclear if they will help anyone in future generations figure out how to do the dance.