August, 2000 Edition
In Search of American Popular Song;
"Vanity Music", Music as
One thing America and the capitalist society has not been
short of is advertising and marketing. From earliest times, American
business has used every possible opportunity to advertise and drub us
with "buy, buy, buy" messages. Of course, for advertising
to work, it has to reach a wide audience. Today, we have mass media
that makes it easy for advertisers to reach a wide audience.
In the past though, such media were not available so the
advertisers had to use other methods. The music publishing industry
provided one of the best mediums of the times during the late 19th century
and early 20th century. Americans had a voracious appetite for music
and with some songs selling in the millions, music became a powerful
option to spread the word. We see this most evident on the backs of
music (we will explore this next month as a continuation of this subject).
Beyond that, the music itself often became the commercial message. Sometimes
overtly, sometimes more subtly.
This month we will share some of the songs that were written
exclusively as plugs for organizations or companies and how they fit
into the scheme of marketing and advertising during the period. Our
essay, Advertising in Music, provides more in depth information about
this interesting aspect of American popular music.
This month we are also very excited to introduce our new
format for the presentation of our music, SCORCH. Scorch is a
plug in for your browser that will allow you to not only listen to our
songs but to view the playing, real time on sheet music WITH LYRICS!
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For the next couple of months we will continue to provide
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The player is available for Mac and PC so all of you can enjoy the experience,
regardless of platform! The player is free and only takes a minute to
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MAC user alert!
If you are running a G3 - G4 - or an iMac you must have the most recent (1.31 build 11) of the plug in or your browser may freeze up. Go get it now!
SONGS! Oh, and don't forget to read this month's installment
of "In Search of American Popular Music", Advertising
In Music. The subject is obviously advertising and music and as
usual, there are more songs for your enjoyment.
Music by: Neil Moret
Lyrics by: Jas. O'Dea
Cover artist: Unknown
all cover image links now require the "SCORCH" player)
This first song is an example of a common practice during the period;
take an existing popular song, buy the rights and publish it as a "giveaway"
with prominent credits to the company "sponsoring" the song.
In this case, we have the Mendelssohn Piano Company. I have been hard
pressed to find any information about this Canadian piano manufacturer.
Postings on bulletin boards and e-mail's to various piano groups have
gone unanswered. A search of the net reveals nothing except one cryptic
entry giving an 1895 date. With showrooms in Toronto at 188 Yonge Street,
surely this company was an important piano manufacturer yet they seem
to have disappeared without a trace, at least in the cyber world. See
another great example from the Sterling Piano company in this month's
about Advertising In Music.
The song, "Hiawatha" was published in 1903
and obviously issued by Mendelssohn sometime thereafter. The giveaway
copy has no publication or copyright date nor does it list the original
copyright holder, Charles N. Daniels. The song was originally written
around 1900 by Moret as an instrumental work as a tribute to a town
in Kansas (Hiawatha, Kansas) where his sweetheart lived. John Philip
Sousa's band introduced the work in 1901. In 1903, O'Dea wrote lyrics
to the work and at that point it became a hit song.
Trust In You
Music by: Albert H. Houghton
Lyrics by: Frederick M. Dean
Cover artist: unknown
Here we have yet another song borrowed as a marketing
giveaway. This time, the promotion is for a motion picture theater.
I believe this song is a "theme song" from a movie that was
playing at the time. The cover art has a photo-realistic quality that
lends itself to looking like a scene from a movie.
Wait, you say. Movies had no music in 1919. True, soundtracks
were not to come for a few more years. However, music was written to
accompany silent films. As we all have seen, silent films were accompanied
by either organ or piano music. In order to ensure the "right"
moods, many films came with a suggested score for use in the theater.
From these scores, hit songs often emerged. Though I have not been able
to find a movie of the exact title, I still suspect that this song came
out of a movie. That makes the Waldorf Theater's use of it a sensible
promotion. There was a film titles "A Maiden's Trust" with
Alice Fay and Ford Sterling, perhaps it is from that? Maybe one of our
alert visitors can solve the mystery for us?
Regardless of origins, the song is a wonderfully touching
Music and Lyrics by: Wm. M. Hutchison
Cover artist: unknown
From subtle we move to overt. There is absolutely no doubt that this
is advertising; in your face, all over you advertising. The Emerson
Drug Company, maker of Bromo Seltzer was formed by Capt. Isaac Emerson,
the inventor of Bromo-Seltzer and was quite successful. A factory was
built in Baltimore and the company headquarters in Baltimore, The Emerson
Bromo-Seltzer Tower at 312-318 West Lombard St. and South Paca St. is
a National Registry of historical places Landmark site. Old Bromo Seltzer
bottles are a sought after collectible and I can remember the item as
an ubiquitous nostrum on the shelves of drug stores in my hometown.
Emerson Drug created an edition of 171 popular songs and used them
as a marketing promotional item. Of course, the cover art ensured that
a reminder of Bromo Seltzer was always prominent in many a home. In
this case, compared to many of our other examples this month, the music
seems to take a back seat to the advertising message. Many of the songs
in the collection were old standards such as Ben Bolt, Hail Columbia,
Home Sweet Home and Listen To The Mocking Bird. Other songs were more
contemporary favorites such as the present song. The collection also
included instrumental works.
Not only could you pick these up at the "music department"
of your drug store but the Emerson Drug store would send you free copies.
At the bottom of the front page is found this statement; "Will
send any two of the above pieces or any two of our entire selection
upon receipt of a two-cent stamp and Bromo Seltzer wrapper." I
think this edition marks one of the first "redeem for a prize"
marketing campaigns. Quite cagey and quite successful.
The song is a remarkably fine example of ballads of the times.
Thico Two Step
Music by: Facunda Marquez
Cover artist: Gene Buck
Now we see an example of "vanity" music; a
song written specifically for a company and named after them. The Home
Insurance Company was domiciled in New York as evidenced by the photo
of their office and the caption on the cover. Like many things associated
with our music from the past, The Home Insurance Company seems to have
faded into the sunset. I have searched but can find no reference to
them. Perhaps they were absorbed by another company, perhaps they changed
their name, perhaps the depression did them in. If anyone knows, let
In the meanwhile, we have a piece composed and dedicated
to "The Officers of The Home Insurance Company" (I'll bet
there is a story there too, can you imaging writing a song to your boss?).
The work is a delightful period piece for violin & piano and I have
voiced it for same. It is a raggy piece, really upbeat and fun. The
composer, Facunda Marquez has also faded into obscurity.
From an advertising point of view, many companies commissioned
songs for their own aggrandizement during this period. Just as with
the Bromo Seltzer series, having these works in circulation not only
placed the company's name in front of the consumer but also caused a
positive association through a fine piece of music.
American Beauty March & Two Step
Music by: Harry H. Zickel
Cover artist: unknown
Here we have another vanity song with a quite beautiful, noncommercial
cover. The American Beauty March & Two Step was published in 1908
by the Kalamazoo Corset Company. The song enjoyed a long popularity
and was reissued a number of times. The Kalamazoo Corset Co., like THICO
has long since disappeared but thanks to Paula Metzler, Collections
Manager at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Kalamazoo, Michigan, we can
know the history of this company.
The company made its mark by introducing the "featherbone corset".
Prior to 1883, corsets were ribbed with whalebone. The bone (actually
baleen) grew brittle and broke with age. Worse yet, on warm days, baleen
actually exuded an unpleasant fishy odor, ewwww! In 1883, Edward K.
Warren patented a corset ribbed with cut up splints of turkey feathers
bound in thread. He named his brainstorm featherbone and with it, was
on his way to success. Started first as the Featherbone Corset Company
in Three Oaks, Michigan, his rapidly expanding business moved to Kalamazoo
in 1893. By 1895, the company offered 20 different styles and by 1914
grew to become the largest corset factory in the world employing over
800 workers. By then, they had introduced a new line, the "Madame Grace"
corsets and were advertising in a number of popular magazines such as
Vogue and Ladies' Home Journal. After the war, the country
entered an era where corsets were not in fashion. As a result, the company
moved into other foundation items that would help women seek the look
that was popular at the time. Girdles, brassieres and reducing garments
were their new stock in trade. In 1922, they changed their name to the
Grace Corset Company to emphasize their new image. Having successfully
adapted, Grace continued operations and moved to New Jersey in 1950..and
there the trail is lost.
Well, all that said, lets march on over to the next tune!
Saw It On The B.R.T.
Music by: Justin Clarice
Cover artist: Le Rice
Now we are going to get to some serious product mentions.
This song mentions no fewer than 47 products not to mention about 20
plugs for the B.R.T. (Brooklyn Rapid Transit). The BRT sponsored a songwriting
contest in 1917 and according to the cover, this song was the grand
prize winner. Published by the Broadway Subway and Home Borough Car
Advertising Company, this song must have made the company managers very
happy. Now they not only had the car advertising going for them but
had a great song that would make sure that their client's products were
being mentioned through song in thousands of homes. What a marketing
The song really is a good one, with a nice tune and
advertising notwithstanding, the lyrics are pretty cute too. You will
be able to read (and sing if you are so inclined) the first verse through
our incredible new SCORCH viewer so be sure to get it, otherwise you
will miss a great experience. There are actually five verses to the
song. I have only included the first but if anyone is interested in
the remaining verses, e-mail
me and I'll send them to you.
Fiftieth Anniversary Odd Ladies March
Music by: Nellie Miles
Lyrics by: Fritz Rotter
Cover artist: unknown
Our last featured song (there are more songs in our article about Advertising
In Music ) is an example of a vanity work written not for a commercial
enterprise but for an organization. The Odd Ladies. Today, this organization
is known as the Rebekah Degree. Thanks to Mary Lou Lang, we know something
of the organization's origins.
"The Rebekah Degree (originally the Odd
Ladies, ed.) was established in 1851 after much debate against
it by the men. Largely responsible for its existence is Schuyler Colfax.
50 years would be just about right for the anniversary of one of these
groups that met before 1851. Women's groups made up of wives, daughters
and sisters of Odd Fellows, were meeting without the sanction of the
Odd Fellows Sovereign Grand Lodge. That would make 1845 for the Odd
Ladies in the right time frame but there is very little on record
of these groups. A march would be very appropriate to accompany our
Nellie Miles cut quite a figure for the 1800's and was apparently an
accomplished cornetist and bandleader as well as composer. I assume
she was a member of the Odd Ladies and wrote this work on their behalf.
The reverse of this work has a "programme" from one of Ms.
Miles' concerts and of course, advertises her "Amusement Enterprises"
are more songs to be heard! If you have not already visited our essay
on advertising in music, now is a great time to do so. In it you will
learn much more about the development of advertising in American music influenced
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