The following is a guest post from Archivist Janet McKinney.
Before becoming an archivist I had the privilege of working as a Junior Fellow contributing records to It’s Showtime! Sheet Music from Stage and Screen, our database of excerpts from operas, musicals, revues, and films. As part of the Junior Fellow program, we were able to display some of the treasures we unearthed in a one-day exhibit. The treasure I chose to display is this week’s featured sheet music.
Thomas H. Shaw and James Meakins, composer and “poet” respectively, must have written “Love’s Lane” (1891) in response to the overwhelming popularity of bicycle racing. Bicycles were invented very early in the 19th century, but did not come to take the shape that we are familiar with today until 1885. At this time, the “Rover Safety” bicycle was introduced, which truly was safer than any bicycle that had been invented before. It featured two wheels of equal size, which also allowed for a much faster speed. This new element elevated the popularity of the sport of bicycle racing. Rather than defining races by a set distance, races were held where contestants would cycle as far as they could within a fixed amount of time.
The first six-day race to be held in the United States was conducted at the newly constructed Madison Square Garden in 1891. The back cover of “Love’s Lane” features the original record documenting the distance cycled for each competitor and is adorned with interesting and humorous caricatures depicting the day’s events. W.S. Maltby and Dan Canary were both “fancy riders,” cyclists who performed stunts during off hours of the race. Albert Schock, a famous distance rider from Germany who set many racing records, actually fell asleep on his bicycle during the race and had a fall.
The piece itself is a whimsical love song about two witches who are being wed on their bicycles, a “cyclewitch elopement.” At the beginning, the performers are given the option to sing “with or without wheels.” However, there is an interlude where the witches are expected to “cycle waltz on wheels.” It would certainly make for interesting choreography!
The sheet music in our collection is a copyright renewal dated December 23, 1895; a mere two weeks before the first ever six-day cycle race for women took place in New York City. Mr. Shaw and Mr. Meakins were surely looking to profit once again from the event.
This Thursday, February 23, 2012, Senior Cataloging Specialist Sharon McKinley will present a noontime lecture recital along with guests Doug Bowles, Alex Hassan, and Karin Paludan. Please join me in learning about some of the lost songs from our vast collection and hear them come to life!
“Cue: If the world is a cycle? We are on it enchantedly engaged!”