James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection, 1836-1986
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Brief Description:

Consists of published sheet music documenting American culture through popular music and cover art imagery. The collection is organized in two series: Series 1, General and Country Music, 1862-1986 and Series 2, Military Music, 1836-1975. Early pre-1920 songs contain themes that focus primarily on life on the farm, while many post-1920 titles feature the "gayer" night-life of city dwellers. Love is the most popular theme encountered throughout the collection. Early traditional values of courtship represented in the music and lyrics of early 1900s become the swinging attitudes of the 1940s and 50s. The cover art also dramatically changes from hand drawn pictures to photographs.

The music and cover art within this collection reflects the changing culture and social attitudes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American. Of particular interest are songs by such composers as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, and John Philip Sousa. Cover art of interest includes Irving Berlin's Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep, Cole Porter's I've got you under my skin, and Sousa's In Flanders fields the poppies grow, Solid men to the front, and We are coming.

The World War I music contained in the James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection digital image repository was derived from the Myers collection and can be accessed through the website [https://digital.library.illinois.edu/collections/692ae4c0-c09b-0134-2371-0050569601ca-6]. This digital content documents not only what was produced by Midwestern music publishers but also offers a compelling cross-section of popular musical practices and tastes across the Midwest during the War.

Held at:
The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
236 Harding Band Building
1103 South 6th Street
Champaign, IL 61820 6223
Phone: 217-244-93093
Fax: 217-244-8695
Email: schwrtzs [at] illinois.edu
Record Series Number: 12/9/96
Created by: Myers, James Edward (1913-2001)
Volume: 8.2 cubic feet
Acquired: January 5, 2005. A second set of materials, now series 3, was donated on April 2, 2014 by Jamie Myers. Third and fourth sets of materials were donated on July 9, 2015 and July 28, 2015, by Jamie Myers. The majority of materials in the third set of donations have been added to Series 1. Materials in the fourth set of donations have been added to Series 1, 2, or 3 - based on their subject.
Arrangement: Alphabetical by song title
Biographical Note for Myers, James Edward (1913-2001) :

James Edward Myers (November 9, 1913 - December 7, 2001), a lifelong resident of Springfield, Illinois, graduated from the University of Illinois in 1936 with a degree in history and a fondness for the university bands, in which he played oboe and drums. The son of Albert Myers, a founder of the Myers Brothers department stores, James joined the US army in 1939 and served in Cuba and India during World War II.  Upon discharge, he married his wife, Edith, and returned to the University of Illinois to study agriculture. He farmed a 350-acre farm in Central Illinois from 1947 to 1953 that was noted for its agricultural innovations.  An injury forced retirement from farming; and in 1953 he returned to the family business, where he served as vice-president, remaining with the firm until 1968. He was extremely active in his community and was president or on the board of many civic organizations.

Myers was something of a Renaissance man and was a collector throughout his life. In the 1930s he journeyed to Guatemala, where he amassed an extensive collection of handcrafted fabrics and clothes of the Guatemalan natives, which he donated to the Illinois State Museum. After he retired, he bought the Lincoln-Herndon law offices building and, with two partners, restored it and opened it to the public. It was later sold to the state of Illinois. At the time of its opening, he also opened Prairie House, a pioneering showcase of US crafts, which remained in existence until 2010, exhibiting comporary art and ceramics, woodwork, glass, and jewelry. Myers also began collecting American books of humor, and his collection now forms part of the "wit and humor" holdings of the University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library. In his later years he established Lincoln-Herndon Press, which published books of humor compiled by himself and others. His books Jones, a novel, and The Bridge of Time, a nonfiction book about Israel, were published by A. S. Barnes.  A further novel, The Stones of Summerville, remains unpublished.  His extensive collection of American sheet music was built late in life. Myers specialized in music about and during wartime, and his single largest sub-collection consists of songs related to World War I. An amateur pianist, he was especially interested in the covers in his collection, which he regarded as underappreciated instances of a kind of folk art.

Access Restrictions: None.
Subject Index
Military Music
Music
Music - United States
Musical Repertoires
Women
Genres/Forms of Material
Papers
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
French [fre]
German [ger]
Acquisition Notes:   The James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection was donated to the University of Illinois on January 5, 2005
Related Materials: World War I music contained in the James Edward Myers Sheet Music Collection digital repository documents not only what was produced by Midwestern music publishers but also offers a compelling cross-section of popular musical practices and tastes across the Midwest during the War. For more information please see https://digital.library.illinois.edu/collections/692ae4c0-c09b-0134-2371-0050569601ca-6.