Scope and Contents note
The Armed Forces series contains circa 3,400 pieces of sheet music and song folios documenting the military history of the United States; there are only a handful of foreign imprints. The World War I subseries (2.4) is particularly impressive with circa 1,150 items. The Post-World War II subseries (2.6) is very small. Some additional military items can be found in the DeVincent file for Presidents of the United States.
The illustrated covers offer the military historian fine portraits of well-known officers, visual evidence about uniforms and other military regalia, and dramatic portrayals of battle scenes. The series also contains material of interest to the social and cultural historian as well as the musicologist. The changing character of the songs indicates something about the accepted public face of different eras--from the Civil War's anguished songs of youthful death to the World War II songs of near denial of the possibility of death; from the Civil War's primary relationship of the soldier boy to his mother to a World War II emphasis upon the relationship of the young service man to his girlfriend.
The material dates from circa 1810 to 1983. Many early imprints are in the armed forces series, subseries 2.1--Pre-Civil War. Most pre-1840 imprints are not dated. Estimates have been made for the dates of many early imprints by checking publisher and address of the publisher in the "Index of Publishers, Engravers and Printers" in volume III of Richard Wolfe's Secular Music in America 1801-1825: A Bibliography and in Oscar Sonneck's A Bibliography of Early Secular American Music. Several sheets that appear to be very old could not be dated by this method.
The Ephemera file, arranged in the same subseries as the sheet music, is described after the subseries. The armed forces ephemera file is placed in two document boxes numbered with the same series and subseries numbers as the sheet music.
The seven subseries in the armed forces series are arranged chronologically except for the last subseries, Naval History. These subseries includes: 2.1 Pre-Civil War; 2.2 Civil War; 2.3 Pre-World War I; 2.4 World War I; 2.5 World War II; 2.6 Post-World War II; 2.7 Naval History; 2.8 Marine Corps.