This blog post is by Lee Ann Potter of the Library of Congress.
In the September 2023 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our “Sources and Strategies” article featured a four-page piece of sheet music composed by Fred T. Baker and published by F.A. North of Philadelphia in 1887. Titled “Constitutional Centennial March,” it commemorated the one-hundredth anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, and its cover included images of eight individuals.
We suggested that student analysis of the sheet music and its cover may prompt a number of questions and encourage interest in original research.
Some students may wish to find out more about the individuals whose faces appear on the sheet music. Three—George Washington, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton—were instrumental in the drafting of the Constitution. Three—John A. Kasson, Hampton L. Carson, and Amos R. Little—were leaders of the Constitutional Centennial Commission. One—Col. A. Louden Snowden—was the Marshal of the Industrial Parade in Philadelphia scheduled to take place September 15, 1887. And the last was Grover Cleveland, President of the United States in 1887.
Some students may wish to learn about the Constitutional Centennial Commission. Others may want to know more about the Industrial Parade in Philadelphia. Still others might want to find out more about the composer or publisher. And some might notice that the dates “Sept. 15th, 16th, & 17th,” are included on the cover and may wonder about other the events that were scheduled to take place.
We shared that the following collections from the Library of Congress may be useful as students conduct their research:
- The Papers of George Washington
- The Papers of James Madison
- The Papers of Alexander Hamilton
- The Papers of Grover Cleveland
- Chronicling America (historic newspapers) If you are using Chronicling America try searching on “Industrial Parade” in Pennsylvania newspapers in 1887; or on the names of the members of the Constitutional Centennial Commission in 1887.
- Congress.gov When searching congress.gov try searching on “Constitutional Centennial Commission” within the 49th Congress (1885-87).
Finally, among the general collections of the Library of Congress we highlighted a six-page booklet containing the opening address that John K. Kasson, President of the Constitutional Centennial Commission, delivered in Independence Square, Philadelphia, on September 17, 1887, at the “Celebration of the One-hundredth Anniversary of the Framing and Promulgation of the Constitution of the United States of America.”
If the sheet music did pique student curiosity and lead to research, we would love to hear what information or related materials your students found!
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