Music of the Great War


Music of the Great War


Sheet music


When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, nearly three years after the war had begun, the nation was shocked. Woodrow Wilson had clung to an isolationist campaign during the 1916 presidential election, but once he was inaugurated he asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Central Powers. Both the men who were drafted and the families who awaited them at home needed some sense of patriotism and community to help them through the war. One way the U.S. did this was through the distribution of music: both in the military camps and as popular songs released to the general public. The following selection shows some examples of the music published during this time.




Sheet Music Collection, The Filson Historical Society


ca. 1917-1920


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Sheet music


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Collection Items

War Camp Community Service
This song sheet provides soldiers with lyrics to many patriotic and popular songs from the time period. It was provided by the Louisville War Camp Community Service and given to the soldiers of Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville.

"A Soldier's Goodbye," 1917
This song by Kate Ellis describes a soldier's pride in serving his country and his hopes that his sweetheart at home remains true to him.

"Dear Old Pal of Mine," 1918
This piece tells of a soldier writing home to his "Dear Old Pal" and wishing to come home. The cover notes that the composer, Gitz Rice, was inspired to write this piece while on sentry duty in Ypres.

"When You Look in the Heart of a Rose," 1918
A piece from the Edwardian musical comedy The Better 'Ole or The Romance of "Old Bill." Based on the cartoon character "Old Bill," the musical depicts him intercepting a spy's plan and saving the men in danger. His actions are briefly misunderstood,…

"The Rose of No Man's Land," 1918
A Leo Feist song by Jack Caddigan and James A. Brennan supporting Red Cross nurses during World War I.

"There'll Never Be a Stain on Old Glory," 1917
A patriotic song composed by J. Edward Woolley about American pride and military might during the First World War.

"Sweet Little Buttercup," 1917
A song by Bryan and Paley about a soldier going off to war and leaving his "Sweet Little Buttercup" at home.

"Goodbye Broadway, Hello France," 1917
A piece composed by Billy Baskette with lyrics by C. Francis Reisner and Benny Davis. It was written in order to lift the nation's spirits and help calm worries as soldiers shipped off to war.

"I Hear America Singing - 55 Community Songs," 1917
This pamphlet of 100 "Community Songs" was published in the hopes of forming more "Liberty Choruses" to boost the morale of American citizens at home during the war.

Service Club
Construction of Camp Zachary Taylor, possibly the Service Club.
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