Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bicycle Sheet Music From the 1890s

The Music Division folks at the Library of Congress have a blog with a new blog post about an 1895 musical composition (sheet music) called "The Bloomer March."

Bloomer Bicycle Sheetmusic
"To the Cycling Women of America" from one M. Florence in 1895

As is often the case for someone who can't read music and hum the tune, the cover art is more interesting than the music. So while this two-step march may evoke the spirit of women riding in bloomers, it has no words. Trying to locate other songs in the collection that are cycling-related is difficult because the records do not have subject headings connected to what the songs are about, leaving only keyword searching of the titles. (The words of those with lyrics are also not searchable.)

But a simple search of "bicycle" did turn up another song, The Bicycle Race", from the same year - and it turns out to focus also on women in bloomers. This time there is no cover art, but there are lyrics.

Bicycle Race Sheetmusic
"The Bicycle Race" (1895) - a PDF of the full song with lyrics is here

Some of the lyrics:
The Bicycle girls, they had a great race.
They went out on Clannigan Street, They dressed in their blue and grey bloomer suits.
Oh my but where they a sight.
The people were saying, which one will win, the blue or the grey bloomer girls.
The blue or the grey, the blue or the grey, the blue or the grey bloomer girls.

The song does not have a happy outcome:
'Tis sad to relate, the end of the race.
Those jolly bicycle girls, they ran in the fence and things got dense.
The blue and the grey got mixed.
So they never could tell which one won the race, the blue or the grey bloomer girls.
The blue or the grey, the blue or the grey, the blue or the grey bloomer girls.

This is the only song online available from the woman who wrote the music and lyrics, Ella Herman (and who also published it).

Trying to think of a modern song related to cycling reveals mostly that I am not familiar with modern songs, because the song that eventually comes to mind is 35 years old.

OK, here is a song only a year old that is not only about bicycles, but bicycle commuting! Good . . .

1 comment:

  1. Hi there--

    Just wanted to let you know that there was another blog post involving bicycles that was posted a few weeks before, with both art and lyrics!

    Concerning the lack of ability to search what a song is about, I can tell you from personal knowledge that that's something the Library of Congress has been working on for years. I hope to see this type of searching become publicly available a few years down the line-- we'll have to see how it develops.

    I enjoy your blog-- thanks for posting great stuff about bicycle history.