Non-Music Classroom use of Sheet Music

IN Harmony Instructional Guidelines: Indiana History & Folklore

Because it captures the interests and reactions of earlier societies, popular sheet music makes an excellent vehicle for learning in the non-musical classroom at the primary, secondary, and college levels. In particular, courses on Indiana history, geography, or folklore may find the IN Harmony collection useful for demonstrating the significance of places, events, or people in American culture of earlier times, as well as illustrating broader attitudes and values. While playing or singing these pieces can enliven the classroom, an instructor need not have specialized musical knowledge to incorporate examples of sheet music into a non-musical discussion. The song lyrics and cover illustrations offer ample material for analysis and discussion of how events and figures are portrayed in popular memory.

Suggested activity: Have each student pick a song about an event, place, or person, and research the history behind it. How does the song tell the story of that person, place, or event? Is the song contemporary to the topic, or later, and why might that be important? Who is the song meant to appeal to?

Indiana State Symbols

State song: "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" by Paul Dresser.

State tree: Tulip tree - mentioned in "In Our Own Little Heaven, Down Below" by Harry Von Tilzer.

Indiana History

Popular songs have often been written to recall historical events or people. Many of the items in IN Harmony reflect Indiana history, or a Hoosier's-eye view of national or international events.

Civil War

Paul Dresser, "The Blue and the Gray, or, A Mother's Gift to Her Country" (1900)

Hubert J. Schonacker, "Quickstep of the Eleventh Indiana Volunteers" (1863)

World War I

Carroll Ragan, "Wabash War Song" (1919)

Dave Dreyer, "When You Get Back to Illinois" (1918)

Harry Von Tilzer, "Batter Up, Uncle Sam Is at the Plate" (1918)

Harry Von Tilzer, "And Then She'd Knit, Knit, Knit" (1917)

World War II [these are still under copyright, so only the cover images are available]

Hoagy Carmichael, "Cranky Old Yank (In a Clanky Old Tank)" (1942)

Sammy Kaye and Don Reid, "Remember Pearl Harbor" (1941)

Harry E. Elyea, "There's a Fortress in the Sky" (1944)


Sylvester Gorbett, "Where Did Catherine Winters Go?" (1914)

J.W. Turner, "A Nation Weeps: Or, The Death of President Lincoln" (1865)

Paul Dresser, "Give Us Just Another Lincoln" (1900)

Henry Dielman, "President Harrison's Grand Inauguration March" (1841)

Henry Dielman, "President Harrison's Funeral March" (1841)

Roy L. Burtch, "We Want a Man Like You, Taggart" (1920)

Indiana Geography

Popular songs often portrayed nostalgic and romantic depictions of places, as well as commemorating historical events and people. Songs were often commissioned for municipal events, tourism, and to evoke pride in a place or institution.


Billy & Eddie Gorman, "Anna in Indiana" (1921)

Egbert Van Alstyne, "Back Back Back to Indiana" (1914)

Charles F. Roberts, "Back to Indiana for Mine" (1915)

Giuseppe Marone, "The Governors of Indiana Waltz" (1904)

Colleges & Universities

J.T. Giles, "Hail to Old I.U." (1908)

Charlotte Shaffer Cresswell, "Hail! To the Farmer Boy" (1910)

F.E. Grafft, "University of Indianapolis Two Step" (1899)

Cities & Towns

Edwin S. East, "Hello Hoosier Town: The Indiana Centennial Song" (1916)


Henry Hart, "Evansville Favorite Waltz" (1874)

Henry S. Cutler, "Dear Old Evansville (A Community Song)" (1919)

Fort Wayne:

Erich J. Gawehn, "We're Proud of Fort Wayne" (n.d.)

John L. Verweire, "Fort Wayne Carnival March" (1898)

George Jacobs, "Fort Wayne Centennial March" (1895)


Stella Hall Millikan, "Indianapolis: A Booster Song for the Capital of Indiana" (1916)

Isaac Doles, "Indianapolis Centennial March" (1920)

Charles Francis Roberts, "Indianapolis: My Home Town" (1921)

W.H. Woodward, "Meet Me at White City" (1907)


Clarence Allen Johnson, "Back to Kokomo" (1908)

New Castle:

Sylvester Gorbett, "Where Did Catherine Winters Go?" (1914)

Z.F. Gorbett, "In the Beautiful City of New Castle" (1917)


E. Clinton Keithley, "Alice of Old Vincennes (I Love You)" (1914)

Chas. H. Roth & M.M. Redding, "The Hoosier Girl I Loved in Old Vincennes" (1910)


P.J. Breinig, "Where the Grand Old Wabash River Slowly Flows" (1904)

Barclay Walker, "Moonlight on the Wabash" (1919)


Will L. Thompson, "My Home on the Old Ohio" (1877)

Henry Phillips, "Song of the Ohio" (1845)


William M. Schmitt, "Where the Old Miami River is Flowing" (1916)

Industry & Agriculture

Z.F. Gorbett, "In the Beautiful City of New Castle" (1917)

Raymond A. Browne, "The Man in the Overalls" (1903)


Billee Taylor, "I Guess I'll Take the Train Back Home" (1906)

Marguerite Kendall, "On the Eight O'Clock Train" (1912)

Harry Von Tilzer, "The Train Rolled On" (1902)


Joe Young, Jean Schwartz, & Milton Ager, "In a Little Red Barn (On a Farm Down In Indiana)" (1934)

George W. Meyer, "Way Down in Iowa I'm Going to Hide Away" (1916)

Harry Von Tilzer, "Down on the Farm" (1902)

Race and Ethnicity

Popular music of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals the values and cultural norms of American culture, including attitudes towards other races and ethnicities that may seem shocking or even offensive in today's society. These include "coon songs," which purport to depict African American characters and lifestyles, but which were typically performed by white performers wearing blackface in minstrel shows; songs representing stereotypical portrayals of the different national and ethnic groups immigrating to America; and "characteristic songs," providing exaggerated depictions of exotic, faraway cultures with which most Americans did not have direct contact. Studying sheet music in these genres - including musical cues of ethnicity, descriptions in song lyrics, and visual representations in cover art - can open up productive discussions of racism, xenophobia, and Orientalism as channeled through popular culture, how and why white artists could perform/portray other races for a popular audience, and invite students to consider which of these musical cues and references are still acceptable (or at least recognizeable) in today's culture.

Coon Songs and Minstrelsy

Roy L. Burtch, "I Wonder Who It Was Invented Work" (1903)

Charles Hunter, "Possum and Taters" (1900)

Immigrants and Ethnicity

Ernest R. Ball, "McCarty (What Else Could You Expect, From a Man Named McCarty or Any Other Loyal Irishman!)" (n.d.)

Harry Carroll, "At the Yiddisha Wedding Dance" (1911)

Harry Von Tilzer, "Cedro! My Italian Romeo" (1913)

Will Marion Cook, "Little Gypsy Maid" (1902)


Leo E. Berliner, "Africana: A Ragtime Classic" (1903)

Alfred J. Doyle, "Zuleika: An Arabian Serenade & March" (1903)

Egbert Van Alstyne, "My Dreamy China Lady" (1916)

Albert Von Tilzer, "Big Chief Wally Ho Woo (He'd Wiggle His Way to Her Wigwam)" (1921)

Popular Song: Music to Play at Home

Since the nineteenth century, popular sheet music has been marketed to amateur musicians, to be played at home. Before the advent of radio, this was the main way that people could buy or hear popular music. What makes this music suitable for playing at home? What themes or topics are frequently incorporated? What new themes appear at different times in history? What were some of the ways that publishers tried to create interest and sell songs?