In the years following the Civil War, sheet music was published in America in record volumes. Though sheet music was commonly published in the U.S. throughout the 1800s, improved printing technology in the post-war years allowed the industry to blossom.
In this 1880 piece, The Jolly Thresherman, the music represents a commercial for the Aultman & Taylor Machinery Company of Mansfield, Ohio. Commercial interests were frequently represented in sheet music of that era, but generally in the form of advertising printed on otherwise blank pages. Published in 1864, American Petroleum was among the earliest pieces written to promote a specific company. The Emerson Drug Company’s approach was more typical of promotional sheet music: The company promoted its product, Bromo-Seltzer, on sheet music cover pages, and even left space for participating merchants’ advertisements.
Sheet music may have been the first real entertainment medium to enter the American household, speculates Rick Reublin in an essay on www.parlorsongs.com, noting that in the 1800s, neither radio nor television existed. The commercial opportunity was huge: Millions of pieces were printed, each piece was kept and reused multiple times, and various pieces were commonly displayed almost as home décor.
Today, vintage sheet music is a collectible category unto itself. Although classified as printed ephemera, many pieces dating to the 19th century often survive in surprisingly good condition: Those that were printed from engraved plates were printed on paper often made from rags rather than wood pulp, and paper used in that process tended to be thicker than ordinary. With the exception of rare pieces, collectible sheet music is typically available for under $5 per piece. FC
They call me a thresherman, happy young thresherman, and of the title I’m proud.
For we are so famous, the champions they name us, the chiefs of a jolly good crowd.
Our triumphs are legion in whatever region the glorious fellows are seen.
Our conquests are many; our failures not any; our work is all perfect and clean.
There’s none will deny it, of thousands who buy it, our thresher’s an article prime,
You’ll tire of it never, ‘twill serve you forever, and doubly repay you in time …
~ Refrain ~
Then here’s to the thresherman! Happy young thresherman, jolliest ever was seen, who runs ev’ry season with very good reason, an AULTMAN & TAYLOR machine.
The farmers compete for us, ladies look sweet for us, “When will they come?” is the cry;
For light is the brewing, the baking and stewing when AULTMAN & TAYLORS are by.
No snail’s pack we carry, nor Tom, Dick or Harry, but worthy of service and hire.
All welcome our faces, they save us good places: We save them food, labor and fire.
You’ll never see chickens grow fat on the pickings that drop from this thresher of ours.
And no one decries it, for ev’ryone buys it, because of its wonderful powers …
~ Refrain ~
Then moving so readily, swiftly and steadily, never a hitch or a break,
The way lies before us, in one jolly chorus, whatever the route we may take.
The richer the farmer, our greeting the warmer, for thrift goes with wealth hand in hand.
Good fellows together, in foul and fair weather, we live on the fat of the land.
The larger the measure the greater the pleasure, the better our grub and our pay.
Through all the long summer a welcome newcomer; our band is not idle a day …
~ Refrain ~
All you who raise clover, when summer is over, be sure that a profit is made.
Now our clover huller is cleaner and fuller, and cheaper than all in the trade;
Our engines are famous, you need but to name us, and hundreds rise up to proclaim
What knowledge has taught them, since wisely they bought them, the threshers that merit their fame.
Our smokestack’s perfection, and after reflection, although our machines may cost more,
You’ll find they are stronger, and last you much longer than any e’er purchased before …
To learn more about the history of American sheet music, visit http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/about.html
Farm Collector periodically reproduces some of the most spectacular advertisements used to promote farm equipment and farm products in days gone by. To submit a vintage advertisement for possible publication, send it to: Iron Age Ads, Farm Collector, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; or submit high-quality digital images by e-mail: email@example.com.