Broadside Song Sheet Collection

This collection showcases musical broadside printed song sheets, a type of temporary memorabilia popular during the Civil War era. Broadsides, or song sheets, are printed leaflets displaying "new" lyrics meant to be sung to already familiar tunes and did not require that the reader be able to understand musical notation. The sheets were often illustrated with portraits of important figures or symbols, landscapes, or locations that were important to the war. Meant to be used and discarded, the sheets were given out at events to those at home as a means of entertainment or to soldiers as a way to pass the time.

The broadsides in this collection were published as part of Charles Magnus' 500 Illustrated Ballads series and showcase the range of images and colors used to illustrate the text. As they require only the ability sing along, song sheet broadsheets were a more accessible form of musical entertainment than those with more formal musical notation. As a medium made for the masses, song sheets provide commentary about the impact of music on patriotism as seen and felt by the common man. Variations in the pictures displayed in this collection illustrate the collectable value of the song sheets, as the illustrations could be mixed and matched with many different sets of lyrics.

The song featured on the home page, Yankee Volunteer, details a young man's desire to join the fight for the Union and his eagerness to take his place on the battlefield. The cadence of the lyrics and the title suggest that the song is a play on Yankee Doodle, and is meant to be sung to this familiar tune. The lyrics thinly veil the speaker's antagonism towards the South through the use of allegory comparing "hunting geese" to fighting against Confederate soldiers. It is a perfect example of how both sides of the war twisted popular music to fit the needs of each side's political agenda. The text of Yankee Volunteer was published in the Massachusetts newspaper The Lowell Daily Citizen and News on September 2nd, 1861, with no author listed.

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Broadside Song Sheet Collection