Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wallace McKenzie


Songsters, collections of song texts usually containing no music, proliferated in the nineteenth century for various purposes. They provided a quick and inexpensive means of disseminating popular song texts, not only for pure musical entertainment, but also for political purposes, such as temperance, abolition, and campaigns for national office. This study explores how texts contained in 1860 presidential campaign songsters were used as a means of getting political messages across, the popular tunes of the time that were used as vehicles for the lyrics, and the role of songsters in the activities leading up to the election. Songsters were produced for three of the four candidates for president in 1860 (Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and John Bell). The texts contained within these songsters presented most of the volatile and complex issues of the time, such as slavery and popular sovereignty, in a way more easily understood by the public at large. In addition to addressing issues such as these, texts often contained political rhetoric upholding one candidate while maligning opponents. Songsters were disseminated in a number of ways. Campaign groups such as the Wide-Awakes (Lincoln) and the Bell-Ringers (Douglas) were responsible for providing songsters and music at political gatherings such as campaign rallies and ratification conventions. Advertisements for songsters appeared in newspapers such as the New York Times and the Campaign Plain Dealer and Popular Sovereignty Advocate, published for the Douglas campaign. Most songsters did not contain music, but names of tunes were given or implied by the meter of the text. Much of the music was from minstrelsy, Irish/Scottish balladry, or patriotic music of the time. Dan Emmett and Stephen Collins Foster contributed the majority of the minstrel music, while such compilers as Robert Burns (Scots Musical Museum) provided Scottish tunes such as "Auld Lang Syne." Groups such as the Hutchinson Family Singers provided a means of making songs familiar to the populace through their performances. Patriotic tunes named included "Yankee Doodle," "America", and the "Star-Spangled Banner.".