Clio, the muse of history, and Calliope, the muse of the beautiful voice, have marched side by side, marking events and trends in the United States. This exhibit focuses on a few milestones in the course of this country’s early development and the musical compositions that were written for special occasions or as musical interpretation of events. Because of the number of pieces included, there are three pages.
|When George Washington died in December, 1789, the nation was plunged into grief. One of the immediate results was the composition of a number of sorrowful musical works eulogizing the father of our country. An example of this genre is Funeral Dirge on the Death of General Washington, composed by Peter A. von Hagen, organist at the Stone Chapel in Boston.||During the Battle of Baltimore, the British attacked star-shaped Fort McHenry on September 13-14, 1814. The valiant defense of the fort by 1,000 dedicated Americans inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to the Star Spangled Banner, which subsequently became our national anthem. The melody, “Anacreon in Heaven” had been popular in this country for 20 years before.||DeWitt Clinton, mayor of New York City and later state governor, was the father of the Erie Canal, the waterway traversing the state. For the 1825 celebration marking the flow of water from Lake Erie into the canal, Samuel Woodworth wrote a dramatic song called The Meeting of the Waters of Hudson and Erie, dedicated to Governor Clinton.|
|During the Mexican War in the 1840s, one of the major war heros was Major Samuel Ringgold of Baltimore, who fell on the field of battle at Palo Alto, and in whose memory several compositions were written, including The Death of Major Ringgold.||Shortly after the Mexican War, gold was discovered in California. The first song written and published in California about this new land was The California Pioneers, written in 1852 by Dr. M.A. Richter||The naval frigate Constitution, or "Old Ironsides," was constructed in a Boston shipyard and launched in 1797. In 1851, when she had returned from the Mediterranean and was lying idle in New York, two songs appeared about her, both with the same title page engraving: The Old Constitution, The Gem of the Ocean and The Old Constitution, The Pride of our Navy.|
|Women’s fashions evoked a plethora of entertaining songs throughout history. Frequently the clothing was ridiculed but occasionally admired too. The songs described such fashion trends as bloomers and Dolly Varden dresses.||In 1855 several far-sighted industrialists made specific plans for a railroad system that would span the breadth of the country. The idea of transcontinental rail travel inspired a San Francisco composer named Stephen C. Massett to write the music for a poem by Charles Mackay, called Clear the Way.|
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