The Bernard S. Parker World War One Sheet Music Collection consists of 753 pieces of sheet music (most are the larger format 11x14 inch size with a small assortment of 7x10 inch "War Editions"). The sheet music is organized alphabetically by title. Most were published betweeen 1914 and 1920, but a few date back to the late 19th Century.
In his two-volume WORLD WAR I SHEET MUSIC (McFarland and Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina - 2007), Dr. Parker addresses the history of Tin Pan Alley, the founding of ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and the overall business of sheet music publishing in the early years of the 20th Century. He describes the songs of the First World War as "...highly structured and usually popular for a very short time if at all. The style format was inflexible and involved two verses and a chorus. Since the range of the subject matter was also quite narrow there were many duplicate titles and overused words and phrases..."
Along with the the overall patriotic theme ("I Love My U.S.A.," "Let's All Be Americans Now," "Our Country," The Statue of Liberty is Smiling," "The Flag That Never Retreated," etc.), the collection researcher will discover multiple pieces of sheet music dealing with separation emphasing mothers and sons, sweethearts, wives and husbands and babys and fathers ("Goodbye Mother Machree," "Rocked in the Cradle of Liberty," "Break the News to Mother," "I'm Going to Follow the Boys," "Just A Baby's Prayer at Twilight," "Please Bring My Daddy Back," etc.). The subject of life on the homefront is also generously represented with titles such as "Over Here," "The Service Flag," "We're With You Boys," "We'll Do Our Share," "When It Comes to a Lovingless Day," "The Man Behind the Hammer and Plow," etc. The war-torn map of Europe is depicted by songs spotlighting many countries involved in "The War to end all wars" ("Goodbye Broadway, Hello France," "Belgain Rose," "They're On their Way to Germany," "China We Owe A Lot To You," etc.)
Other subjects, musically rendered, include socialism ("Song of Freedon"), U.S. neutrality ("America First," The Neutrality March," etc.), Uncle Sam as a symbol ("My Life Belongs to Uncle Sam," "We're Uncle Sammy's Little Nephews," etc.), the American South ("For Dixie and Uncle Sam," "Dixie Volunteers," "Everything is Peaches Down in Georgia," etc.), tributes (and criticism) of various military leaders and statesmen ("When the Kaiser Does the Goose-Step to a Good Old American Rag," "Hello General Pershing," "Be Good to California Mr. Wilson," etc.), the battlefield ("Over the Top," "Keep the Trench Fires Going for the Boys Out There," "Rose of No-Man's Land," etc.) and the post-war period ("Homeword Bound," "I've Got My Captain Working for Me Now," "Tell Mother the World War is Won," etc.).
Popular performers of the period who introduced or promoted a song are included as full-cover models or in inset photographs on the sheet music covers (Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Irene Castle, Eva Tanguay, Blanche Ring Nora Bayes, etc.) as are many of the more well-known songwriters whose image would possibly increase sheet music sales (John Philip Sousa, George M. Cohan, Iriving Berlin, Joseph Howard, the Von Tilzer Brothers, etc.).
Graphic artists who sketched or painted the colorful scenes on each piece of sheet music were often unidentified, but a handful of image creators did sign their work and are well-represented throughout the collection (Norman Rockwell, Edward H. Pfeiffer, the Starmer Brothers, Albert Wilfred Barbelle, Andrea de Takacs, etc.).
The collection represents a country and culture at a crossroads and offers a myriad of research options. As Dr. Parker writes: "....The United States was rather naive as it entered World War I. There had been no great mobilization since the Civil War and the skirmishes in Cuba and Mexico were hardly on a par with the Great War. America learned how to do war as it happened, and popular songs appear to have had a significant impact ans served a useful purpose in bringing the nation together both before and after the war..."