First published jazz composition

Sheet music cover for The "Jelly Roll" BluesHappy Birthday, Jelly Roll! September 20th was the birthday of Jelly Roll Morton, American composer, arranger, ragtime and early jazz pianist, and bandleader. He was born in New Orleans in 1885. While some dispute his contention that he invented jazz in 1902, among the many accomplishments that are credited to him is the first jazz composition to be published. The “Jelly Roll” Blues was published in 1915 by the Chicago publisher Will Rossiter. The composer’s name is presented on the piece as Ferd. Morton. The New Grove dictionary of American music gives his birth name as Ferdinard Joseph LaMothe or Lemott. The Lilly Library has a copy in its Sam DeVincent Collection of American Sheet Music, and it is one of thousands of pieces of sheet music from the Lilly Library’s collection that have been digitized and are available on the website IN Harmony.

—Elizabeth Johnson, Head of Technical Services, Lilly Library

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A Song of National Thanksgiving

Give Thanks All  ye People

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November that year, November 26th. Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States since 1863. The hymn Give Thanks All Ye People (music by Joseph W. Turner and words by William Augustus Muhlenberg) was published as a contribution to the 1863 observance. Taking place in the midst of civil war, the publication of this hymn was also a fund-raising effort to benefit St. Luke’s Hospital, New York. Funds collected were used for the relief of discharged and disabled soldiers and their sick wives and children, a population described in the appeal circular printed on the last page of the music as “a class of sufferers eminently deserving of consideration on an occasion of National Gratitude.”

This example is one of thousands of pieces of sheet music from the Lilly Library’s collection of sheet music that have been digitized and are available on the website InHarmony The Lilly Library’s collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, and newspapers relating to the life of Abraham Lincoln is also quite extensive. Some of the Lincoln materials will be displayed next Spring to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth (more details to follow).

– Elizabeth Johnson, Head of Technical Services

View the full digitized copy of Give Thanks All Ye People.

Bound for the bottom of the sea

Signals to be used by the squadron,.. (binding)

One of the books in this summer’s exhibition in the Lilly Library Main Gallery, Blue at the Mizzen: Patrick O’Brian and the 19th Century Naval World, was a slim, but heavy volume entitled: Signals to be used by the squadron under command of [blank space]. This book, printed in Brooklyn by Thomas Kirk for use by Commander John Rodgers’ flotilla during the War of 1812, has a very unusual binding – it’s encased in lead. The heavy lead binding insured rapid disposal in the event of an emergency. By throwing the book overboard, the Captain could make sure that the signal book didn’t fall into enemy hands. The first page of the book contains hand-drawn colored signal flags, and the key or indicator to each of the signals is added in manuscript. Commander Rodgers was clear in his orders concerning the signal book. “It is directed, that the commanding officers of the flotilla will never suffer their signal books to be exposed either to the possibility of being lost, or to the inspection of any persons who duty does not require that they should be made acquainted with the signals. On the receipt of this signal book, the officer to whom it is delivered is desired to furnish me with all signals appertaining in any degree to these. Signed, John Rodgers.”

— Elizabeth Johnson, Head of Technical Services

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