All eyes in the United States over the next couple of weeks will be on the current presidential campaign.
Here at the Library of Congress, we’re taking a bit of a look back — and a musical one, at that.
A few days ago, we opened an exhibition called “Voices, Votes, Victory: Presidential Campaign Songs,” which runs through March 7, 2009:
The exhibit presents a sampling of campaign songs found in the rich collection of sheet music housed in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. The earliest items are rare melodies that honored America’s first presidents for winning and maintaining the young nation’s liberty. Some of the most potent political rhetoric of the 19th century is found in “songsters,” pocket-sized books of lyrics that allowed passionate voters to be ever-ready for an impromptu “sing” to stump for their party’s candidates. Yet other examples show that friends and families joined to campaign around parlor pianos, a trend that continued well into the 20th century.
Even the covers of early campaign-song sheet music were an attempt at spin, featuring elegantly engraved portraits of candidates, sometimes in uniform.
I wonder what a 2008 “songster” might look like?
You can check out the exhibit in the Music Division, which is on the first floor of the Library’s James Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.