National Endowment for the Humanities Lloyd Lewis Fellow in American History

Prize: Fellowship awarded competitively

William Brooks (Recipient)

Project: Singing for Sammy Land: World War I sheet music and American culture. American music during World War I offers a window into the country’s aspirations and anxieties that cannot be opened by any other means. Music was written and performed nationwide by uncounted citizens; it was not produced solely by the New York music industry. Through music the ordinary people expressed their doubts and hopes; through it they “did their bit” for the war effort. Over 7,000 items of sheet music were published pertaining to the war; the Driscoll Collection at the Newberry contains about thirty percent of these—one of the richest archives in the country. This project will interrogate these holdings, develop rich metadata for the individual items, coordinate these data with a similar project at the University of Illinois, and assemble materials for a through study of music during the War. The findings will be disseminated: (a) through integration of the data with a website under development for the Myers collection at Illinois (the Myers collection is smaller, but it complements the Driscoll holdings); (b) through entries on composers, publishers, lyricists, illustrators, and other topics, written for Wikipedia (this is conceived as a public project, not an academic one); and (c) by means of a single-authored book on the subject (currently under discussion with the University of Illinois Press). In the short term the public will gain access to archival holdings that will be greatly enriched by extensive metadata; in the medium term the project will contribute to the ongoing observation of the centenary of the War; and in the long term scholars and the interested public will gain a new understanding of the cultural context and historical implications of the music created at the time.
Awarded dateDec 2015
Granting OrganisationsNewberry Library


  • World War I, sheet music, digital archive, American history, cultural history, National Endowment for the Humanities, Newberry Library

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