Celebrating Yiddish American Popular Song

“Bist Mein Kroin Mein Welt” from the Library’s Yiddish American Popular Sheet Music Collection. Published in 1911 by Hebrew Publishing Company, New York.

The Library’s collection of Yiddish American sheet music is an unusual one for the Library of Congress, mostly because of the way it came together: It started not with acquisition of materials that were then cataloged, but with a catalog.

Lawrence Marwick retired as head of the Library’s Hebraic Section in 1980. Soon afterward, he set out to compile a list of Yiddish American plays and music the Library of Congress had acquired as deposits with copyright registrations. Because the deposits had not been cataloged, these works were virtually unknown to scholars at the time, and Marwick wanted to rectify that. He started by recording information on some 5,000 index cards.

“A Boychik Up-to-Date,” published in 1904 by Theodore Lohr, New York.

While doing so, he read a story in the New York Times about music historian Irene Heskes and her project to organize a collection of sheet music owned by the Hebrew Publishing Company of New York City. The collection included many Yiddish popular songs performed by stars of the Jewish stage. Marwick wrote to Heskes, and she agreed to meet him in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, in October 1981, before Heskes could come, Marwick fell ill and died.

But his vision for Yiddish American sheet music acquired through copyright endured thanks to Heskes. She began in 1984 to revise and expand Marwick’s unfinished work, adding composers, arrangers, publishers and other information. Her efforts culminated in Yiddish American Popular Songs, 1895 to 1950: A Catalog Based on the Lawrence Marwick Roster of Copyright Entries, published by the Library of Congress in 1992. Heskes donated sheet music from her Hebrew Publishing Company research to the Library after the book’s publication.

Much of the Library’s Yiddish American Popular Sheet Music Collection has roots in the Yiddish theater. It thrived in the Bowery area of New York City’s Lower East Side from the 1880s into the mid-20th century and expanded into a network of theaters in Jewish communities around the country. The collection also features popular arrangements of folk songs and sacred songs as well as instrumental numbers. Some compositions, most notably those of composer and violinist Abe Schwartz, became standards in the field of klezmer music.

“Uptown and Downtown,” published in 1906 by Theodore Lohr, New York.

Most items in the online presentation of the collection—which includes more than 1,300 items—were scanned from printed copies of sheet music published by companies that specialized in Jewish music. But many are copyright deposits that were submitted to the Library as unpublished manuscripts. These unique items are in many ways the jewels of this collection. Some also exist in published form, but many were never published and appeared publicly for the first time in the online presentation.

The online presentation stops at 1922, because many works published after that year remain under copyright protection in the United States. Researchers can access post-1922 items from the Yiddish American Popular Sheet Music Collection in the Library’s Performing Arts Reading Room.

Lawrence Marwick’s bibliography of more than 1,000 copyrighted Yiddish plays was published separately. A finding aid to the plays is available in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Reading Room. In addition, 77 unpublished playscripts are available online.

 

Recognizing the Service of Asian-Pacific-American Veterans

The following is a republication of a post by Andrew Huber, liaison specialist for the Veterans History Project. It was first published on the Library’s “Folklife Today” blog. Throughout the month of May, we celebrate Asian-American and Pacific-Islander heritage and remember the contributions made by people of Asian-Pacific descent. Those contributions are numerous, from Duke […]

Free to Use and Reuse: Gorgeous Gardens, Breakthrough Buildings and Notable Designs

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864–1952) loved beautiful gardens. From 1915 through the 1930s, she shared her enthusiasm in lectures to garden club members, museum groups and horticultural societies. No doubt her listeners valued her knowledge of gardens—but they may have enjoyed her visual examples even more. Johnston—one of the first women to achieve international prominence as […]

Brigadier General Franklin Pierce

This is a guest post by Peter A. Wallner, author of a two-volume biography of President Franklin Pierce consisting of “Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire’s Favorite Son” (2004) and “Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union” (2007). It is often forgotten that Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States, was also a brigadier general in the […]

Story of the Century: My Afternoon with a Jewish American World War II Veteran

The following is a guest post by Owen Rogers, liaison specialist for the Veterans History Project. An extended version of the post appeared on the Library’s “Folklife Today” blog. When Burton “Burt” Schuman greeted me at the door with a handshake and an offer of a home tour, he shared his framed Bronze Star Medal and […]

From High Style to Humble: Surveying America’s Built Environment

Settlers’ cabins, high-style mansions, jails, barns and churches. These are just a few of the properties the Historic American Buildings Survey has painstakingly documented over the past 80 plus years. The Library started digitizing the survey’s records—many of them stunning and unique—20 years ago, providing public access on its website. Known as HABS for short, […]

My Job at the Library: Building the Architecture, Design and Engineering Collection

(The following is an article from the November/December 2016 issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine, in which Mari Nakahara, curator of architecture, design and engineering in the Prints and Photographs Division, discusses her job. The issue can be read in its entirety here.) How would you describe your work at the Library? Like […]

Inquiring Minds: Researching Jewish Cuisine at the Library of Congress

Joan Nathan is the author of 11 cookbooks, including “King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World,” published in April. Her previous cookbook, “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” was named one of the 10 best cookbooks of 2010 by National Public Radio and Food […]

Defiant Loyalty: Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers

This is a guest post by Malea Walker, a reference specialist in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room, about a collection of newspapers published by Japanese-Americans held in U.S. internment camps during World War II. The Library placed the newspapers online on May 5.   O, what is loyalty If it be something That can bend With every wind? […]