The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum Music Collection

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The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum Music Collection was organized and cataloged through a grant provided by Colonel Lee B. Ledford Research Grant. The Music Collection was accumulated over the past century by Lincoln Memorial University. The collection focuses on the Civil War, minstrel songs, Lincoln and his legacy.

The music collection consists of approximately 2012 pieces of middle 19th and early 20th century sheet music published between 1826 and 1940. The collection consists of 1355 sheets of music and orchestration, 238 pieces of Stephen Foster music , 369 related broadsides, 3 bound volumes, 29 songsters, 1 manuscript of lyrics, 6 pamphlets, printing plates with the unknown author and 4 reference books. The Forsythe Collection includes 2 manuscript music,  2 volume dairy and 2 tuning forks. Some genres represented in the Music Collection are dance music, marches, minstrels and war songs. For a complete list of the genres of music click here genre of music. Some composers in the Music Collection are George Root, Henry Clay Work, Sep. Winner, W.R. Dempster, E.W. Locke, Franz Abt, William Dressler, Henry Tucker, J.W. Turner, Francies H. Brown, Daniel D. Emmett, I.B. Woodbury and many others.

Within the museum sheet music collection is the Stephen Collins Foster collection which includes there 238 facsimile and 26 number of originals. According to Finn’s Find Books a facsimile is a faithful re-creation of the original to the extent that it is virtually indistinguishable from the original copy.  In “Music and Politics” Matthew Shaftel  states,

“Stephen Foster’s music become the backbone of the American minstrel show in the 1840s, A period of critical change for    blackface minstrelsy as it grew from its countercultural class-conscious roots into an industry of racially charged entertainment. Stephen Foster’s first minstrel song lyrics ridiculed slaves and slave life, propagating the racial stereotypes that were embraced and financially supported by the successful minstrel groups of the time. Towards the end of the decade, however, many of his minstrel songs contain glimmers of a changing perception of slave life. When his parlor ballads could no longer sustain him financially he merged the two styles into a new hybrid genre, ‘the plantation melody.’ The songs published under this rubric use musical strategies found in the ballads and focus on nostalgic themes. Attempting to humanize the importance in disseminating a revised view of the African American slave merits new examination. The text/music relationship explores the change in Foster’s minstrel style as a reflection of his evolving perception of slave life.”  

The Broadside Collection is one of the finest collections available today, there are all originals for the most part in beautiful mellow colors. The scenes all have to do with the Civil War. There are battle scenes, naval engagements scenes, sentimental scenes of soldiers and their wives and sweethearts. There are also several old ballads with sentimental scenes in color; other are patriotic with colored State Seal. One of the main publishers for the broadside collection was Charles Magnus, they were published between the years 1850 and 1866. He was one the inventor of a new lithography process for the processing for the finishing of the picture.

According to the Oxford Music Online a songster is

“An anthology of secular song lyrics, popular, traditional or topical (occasionally with melody lines), designed to fit in the pocket. Songsters were aimed at either genteel or vular audiences, and appeared in many hundreds of printings in the USA between the mid-18th century and the end of the 19th. Adapted from English models, they ranged from eight to several hundred pages in length…Topical songsters devoted to a single cause such as temperance, abolition, or labor became common after 1840. Presidential campaign songsters, mostly made up of parodies, proliferated in the 1840s, but their importance gradually declined until they were supplanted by professionally composed sheet music around 1900.”


For more information there are several ways to contact the archivist at special collection:

By Mail at:
Lincoln Memorial University
6965 Cumberland Gap Parkway
Harrogate, TN 37752

By phone at: (423) 869-6304

By email at:

The Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum    Carnegie-Vincent Library