Antebellum America, 1784-1865
>Antebellum and Civil War America
Events1797: Henry & Steinway piano company begun
1800: Antes invents mechanical page-turner
1803: Grehorne makes first authentic American piano
1837: Dwight founds Harvard Musical Association
1838: Boston Musical Gazette appears
1845: first American composes Italian-style opera
1849: first important string chamber music group established in America
MusicBy Jason Ivey, Annette Johnson, Marvin Kelly, and Laura Smith
Students, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
American music during the antebellum period flourished
due to a variety of cultural developments. During this period the
number of professional musicians in America increased significantly.
In 1793, Philip Roth and Philip Phile, both Americans, wrote several patriotic
songs, including "The President's March." Born in 1819, Samuel Parkman
became a noted composer as well as choral conductor and organist for a
church in Boston. Included in Parkman's published works were cantatas,
part-songs, and anthems. In 1859, George Frederick Root, a composer
from Chicago, wrote national songs, including "The Battle Cry" and "Tramp,
Tramp, Tramp." Writing cantatas was another of Root's accomplishments.
Stephen Collins Foster emerged in the latter part of the period in Pennsylvania.
He did a great deal of study at Jefferson College and the Academy at Athens.
"Swanee Riber" was only one of the 175 songs that he composed. Two the
most famous composers of minstrel-show songs were Foster and Daniel Decatur
Emmett, best known for his song "Dixie." Composing patriotic and religious
music, foreign opera, compositions, and folk music allowed these composers
to conform to popular forms of the antebellum period. Background patriotic
music was one of the most popular musical forms during the antebellum and
Civil War years. This type of music inspired and motivated hundreds
of soldiers along their hard long journey to war. Tunes such as “Chester,”
written by William Billings, "The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis
Scott Key, and “Yankee Doodle,” attributed to Dr. Richard Schuckburg, were
among the favorites. Religious music also inspired many townspeople.
Most of the tunes came from the Book of Psalms in the Bible. Also,
Catholic hymns sung in the church were a major type within the religious
form. Foreign opera and composition were also popular in America.
This type of music exhibited elegance, superiority, and a high-class taste
that could only feed the very best of Americans. During the antebellum
era people came to appreciate fine music even though Americans did not
compose it. Folk music, used to entertain people and to lift their
spirits, emerged at this time. This type of music inspired lively participation;
listeners sometimes shook, clapped their hands, and stomped their feet.
Another popular style throughout the 19th century was blackface minstrelsy,
also known as "burnt-cork" minstresly. Blackface minstresly was performed
by white entertainers who masqueraded as black people and played bogus
"Negro" songs that were influenced mainly by the banjo tunes of blacks
on southern plantations. Along with written music, musical instruments
played a major role in antebellum America. Among the most common
instruments were brass. Civil War brass horn instruments were
classified into four categories. The shape of the instruments and
the direction of the bell generally determined these categories.
The four general categories were bell front, upright, circular, and the
over-the-shoulder. The brass instruments were further classified
by the type of valve mechanism used. The two most common sub-classifications
were the “American string linkage rotary valve,” which consisted of the
top and side action, and the “berliner piston valve." The berliner
piston valve was the most frequently used because it was inexpensive to
produce and less likely to be damaged. The material used to make
these Civil War horns mainly consisted of brass and German silver.
As a whole, music in the antebellum period contributed a great deal to
cultural landmarks in society. Established in 1842, the New York
Philharmonic Society was the first permanent symphony orchestra. The first
Italian style grand opera with English lyrics was composed by William Henry
Fry in 1845. Furthermore, Amy Marcy Beach was the first American
female to write a symphony. Other noted events during this time period
included the publication of several hundred "tune-books" in New England.
Each contained a variety of different types of music, including evangelical
hymns, spiritual songs, anthems, paraphrases of the psalms of David, and
some patriotic songs. Music truly was an intregal part of the
culture in antebellum and Civil War America.
BibliographyDetheridge, Joseph. Chronology of Music Composers. 2 volumes. St. Clair Shores, Mich.: Scholarly Press, 1937.
Detheridge's Music Composers presents a timeline of composers from A.D. 1000 through 1900, along with information about several composers' lives and works. Detheridge has researched many deceased composers as well as gathering information from living composers themselves.Morris, Richard B. “Music in Antebellum period and Civil War.” Encyclopedia of American History. 6th edition. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.
The Encyclopedia of American History features information about antebellum music, discussing a variety of types, including religious music, opera, symphonic music, and patriotic music.Garofalo, Robert, and Mark Elrod. Civl War Musical Instruments and Military Bands. Charleston, West Virginia: Pictorial Histories, 1985. ML1311.4.G33.
This secondary source places emphasis on music instruments and military bands used during the era of the Civil War. It specifically concentrates on the origin of these instruments and their different category groupings. Although this book was written in 1985, it provides relevant information pertaining to the history of music during the Civil War era. Because the Civil War ended more than a century ago, the book is sufficiently timely. Garofalo is a professor of music and conductor of wind ensembles at the School of Music, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He has a master’s degree and a doctorate in musicology from Catholic University. He is the author of several books, articles, and publications in the field of instrumental music performance, pedagogy, and history. He has also recorded two albums of Civil War military brass band music. Mark Elrod is a graduate of Valley Forge Military Academy and Salem College. He is a Vietnam veteran and is an authority on American bands, instruments, and music of the nineteenth century. He collects Civil War era band music and musical instruments and isconsidered to have one of the largest collections of its type in the United States.