Trending: A White Christmas

(The following is an article in the November/December 2014 issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. The issue can be read in its entirety here.)

As the holidays approach, the dream of a white Christmas is on many minds.

The cast of “White Christmas” poses on this 1954 movie poster. Paramount Pictures Corporation, Prints and Photographs Division.

A white Christmas is the stuff that dreams are made of, at least according to composer and lyricist Irving Berlin (1888-1989).

Berlin’s “White Christmas” was written for the movie musical “Holiday Inn,” starring  Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The first public performance of the song was by Crosby, on his NBC radio show “The Kraft Music Hall” on Christmas Day 1941. The song rapidly became a wartime tune for those fighting abroad and for those on the home front. By the time the film debuted in the summer of 1942, the song was on its way to becoming the best-selling single of all time. It garnered the Academy Award for Best Original Song of 1942.

The Irving Berlin Collection in the Library of Congress–750,000 items–documents all aspects of his life and career. The collection contains music scores, Berlin’s handwritten and typewritten lyric sheets, publicity and promotional materials, personal and professional correspondence, photographs, business papers, legal and financial records, scrapbooks filled with press clippings, awards and honors and artwork. Among these items is the lead sheet sketch of “White Christmas,” dated Jan. 8, 1940–though not in Berlin’s own hand since he didn’t write musical notation.

The popular song also became the inspiration for the 1954 movie musical, “White Christmas.” With a similar plot involving a country inn, “White Christmas” paired Crosby with Danny Kaye. Still images from the film came to the Library as part of the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection.

The collection of more than 1,000 boxes of materials (sheet music, scripts, business papers, correspondence, photographs, recordings and videos) came to the Library in 1992. The Library’s 2013 exhibition “Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn” featured items from the collection.

Score and cover for “White Christmas,” Irving Berlin Music Corporation, 1940. Music Division.

The original 1942 Bing Crosby recording of “White Christmas” was added to theNational Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in its inaugural year, 2002.

The opening verse, dropped from the original version, may prove that the song was written in California.

“The sun is shining, the grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day

in Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it’s December the twenty-fourth,–

And I am longing to be up North–“

A Prize for the Piano Man

Last Wednesday, the Library of Congress celebrated the music and career of singer-songwriter Billy Joel, awarding him the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. A star-studded cast walked a packed house at the DAR Constitution Hall through Joel’s own songbook during a tribute concert. I myself had the honor and privilege to also take the stage as a […]

David Seymour (CHIM), Photographer of the Spanish Civil War

The following is a guest post by Beverly Brannan, Curator of Photography, Prints and Photographs Division, and first appeared on the Library’s “Picture This” blog. Photographer David Seymour (CHIM), with three Leica cameras around his neck. Photographer unknown, ca. 1950. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppbd.00599 When I read For Whom the Bell Tolls in my junior year of high […]

Chasing Sadie

My remembrances of Sadie Hawkins Day don’t stem from reading the well-known “Li’l Abner” comic strip by Al Capp, although it was his imagination that created the pseudo-holiday. Growing up in the early 90s, participating was a sort of rite of passage for the girls at my school, both junior high and high school. The […]

Pic of the Week: Princess Anne Opens Magna Carta Exhibition

Last Thursday, the Library of Congress opened a new exhibition, “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor,” which marks two special occasions: Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and the return of the Lincoln Magna Carta to the Library after 75 years, where it was sent for safekeeping during World War II. Guest of honor for the festivities, which also included […]

Veterans History Project in the News

As has been the case every year since its inception, the Veterans History Project receives an increased amount of media coverage during the Veterans Day season, both prior to and after the holiday. This year’s coverage included a segment on Washington’s NBC affiliate, NBC4, which aired on Nov. 8. The segment featured VHP Director Bob […]

LC in the News: October 2014 Edition

Just as the Washington Nationals were closing out a winning baseball season, the Library of Congress discovered rare footage of the Washington Senators’ 1924 World Series victory over the New York Giants. “Finding footage that has probably not been seen since its last theatrical run 90 years ago is usually a moment for celebration for […]

Celebrating Native American Heritage: Whispering Giants

November is Native American Heritage Month and a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. When looking through the Library’s collections to find blog post ideas, I came across this picture of a carved statue of Cherokee leader Sequoyah taken by photographer Carol […]