Souvenir Music from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893

Souvenir Music Album: MP3s and Liner Notes

The following musical selections come from the 2018 album Souvenir Music from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, a release from Lake Forest College Press and distributed by Northwestern University Press.  The album is also available on iTunesAmazon, and CDBaby

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1. The Streets of Cairo; or, The Poor Little Country Maid

Composed by James Thornton 

James Thornton was an Irish-born comedian and songwriter who achieved moderate success on the vaudeville stage around the turn of the century. This song makes significant use of the “hoochie koochie” melody (here called “kutchy-kutchy”), and is credited with bringing the tune into popular currency. It was supposedly written by the entrepreneur Sol Bloom, who was the chief organizer of the Midway, but he borrowed the famous melody from a French song from the 1700s, which in turn can be traced to an earlier Algerian tune. 

More information | Lyrics and MP3 | Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Brad Jungwirth, vocals.

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2. Chicago Day Waltz

Composed by Giuseppe Valisi

“Chicago Day” at the Fair celebrated the Exposition’s host city, and took place on October 9, 1893, the anniversary of the Great Fire and near the end of the Fair’s run. This piece was composed in honor of that day, and to capitalize on it. Giuseppe Valisi wrote a number of souvenir pieces surrounding the Fair, and promoted them through the publishing house that he owned with his brother. Born around 1863 in Italy, Valisi immigrated to the U.S. in 1885 and quickly set up shop in Chicago as a musician and teacher. A couple of decades later, he would go on to write another souvenir piece, this one for the San Francisco World’s Fair.

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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3. The Viking March

Composed by H.C. Verner

Hans Christian Verner was a Norwegian-born Chicago composer of pop songs and piano pieces. Even though he arrived in the U.S. at the age of three, Verner strongly identified with Norway throughout his life, and thus it stands to reason that he would compose a piece in commemoration of the arrival of a replica Viking ship at the Fair.

The question of who “discovered” America—Christopher Columbus or Leif Erikson—was on the minds of many Nordic Americans in the nineteenth century. Stories of Viking contact with North America had been passed down in sagas for generations. In 1880, archeologists in Norway uncovered the ruins of the Gokstad ship, almost perfectly intact. Norwegians decided to construct an exact replica of this vessel and sail it to Chicago for the World’s Fair, proving that Vikings had the capability to make such a voyage. Scandinavian-Americans swelled the population of the Fair for the arrival of the ship on July 12, 1893. This replica survives, and is currently on display in Galena, Illinois. Replicas of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria were also sailed from Spain to the Fair.

MP3 information |  Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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4. Reja Dorada, or The Golden Gate Polka

Composed by I.E. Hernandez

We include this charming piece as evidence of the Columbian Exposition’s widespread popularity: it was composed by a Mexican composer and published in Saltillo, Mexico.

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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5. Finiculi-Finicula

Composed by Luigi Denza, arr. G. Valisi

Giuseppe Valisi, referenced above, also assembled the next three pieces into a set, which he called a “Souvenir of the World’s Fair.” All three melodies are from Naples, a popular resort city in Italy, and were widely known in the late nineteenth century. For these recordings, we arranged them for violin and piano. Many people think “Finiculi-Finicula” is a traditional folk song, but it was actually composed in 1880 to commemorate the opening of the funicular railway up the side of Mt. Vesuvius. It was published that year and immediately sold more than a million copies. Since then, it has appeared in dozens of TV shows, commercials, movies, and has been referenced in songs by bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Decembrists.

MP3 information |  Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Kate Carter, violin.

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6. L’Addio a Napoli (Farewell to Naples)

Composed by Teodoro Cottrau, arr. G. Valisi

 Very little is known about the composer of this popular sentimental song (and in fact his name is incorrect on the sheet music). Although published without a vocal line, lyrics are included with the music: “Far distant climes now call to me/Adieu to thee, adieu to thee/But though I yield to Fate’s decree/My heart for ever thine must be!”

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Kate Carter, violin.

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7. Santa Lucia

Traditional Neapolitan, arr. G. Valisi

“Santa Lucia” dates from at least the early 19th century. Its original lyrics refer to the Santa Lucia waterfront district of Naples, a languid boat ride there in a cool evening. One of the popular attractions at the Fair was the gondola rides in the main lagoon, and these songs perhaps reminded visitors of this.

MP3 information |  Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Kate Carter, violin.

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8. The Ferris Wheel March and Two-Step

Composed by Samuel Lapin

This piece was published somewhat later than the rest of the songs on this album; it did not appear until 1899. Little is known about Lapin, except that he became a second-tier composer of piano rags, some with questionable titles (“The Darkies Delight,” for example). We include this as part of a trilogy of tunes celebrating the most iconic structure of the Fair.

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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9.  The Ferris Wheel Souvenir Waltz-Polka

Composed by G. Valisi

The Ferris Wheel made a profound impression on the Fair-goers. Many had never experienced this degree of elevation before, and even though the wheel moved slowly, the ride proved terrifying for some. This song provides a very faint whiff of the erotic, as our narrator takes advantage of the ride to initiate physical contact with his sweetheart. The piano interludes between verses are meant to illustrate the ride. 

MP3 and lyrics |  Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Brad Jungwirth, vocals.

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10. The Song of the “Ferris Wheel”

Composed by George Schleiffarth

Schleiffarth (who also wrote under the name “George Maywood,” 1849–1921) was a respected composer of light works at the end of the century. His most famous song was “Sweet Bye and Bye,” written in 1882. This song expresses the wonderment many felt at the juxtaposition of so many cultures along the Midway.

Lyrics and MP3 |  Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Brad Jungwirth, vocals. 

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11. Midway Plaisance

Words and music by Dennis Mackin and W.T. Jefferson

Not much is known about this song or its composers. The cover of the sheet music claims it was made famous by a Mr. Henry Norman in the musical Ali Baba. W.T. Jefferson went on to achieve some minor success with “ragtime” songs, but nothing is known about Mackin. The narrator’s bemused reaction to the sights and sounds—and expense—of the Midway was probably typical.

Lyrics and MP3 | Sheet music

Performers: Chris White, piano; Brad Jungwirth, vocals.

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12. Columbian Polka

Composed by Lillian Mathewson

One of the most striking aspects of the Columbian Exposition was the role played by women. Led by society matron Bertha Honoré Palmer, the Fair emphasized the achievements of women more than did many of the World Fairs both before and after 1893, including even the Chicago fair of 1933. The 1893 fair included a prominent Women’s Building, and for the building’s dedication ceremony, a concert featured music entirely written by women composers. The Canadian composer Lillian Beatrice Mathewson (1874–1958) dedicated this piece to Mrs. Palmer.

MP3 information |  Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano.

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13. Chicago World’s Exposition Grand March

Composed by Victor Vogel, arr. J.E. Hartel

Victor Vogel (1842–1928) was born in Germany, emigrated to the United States at age 13, and served in the Civil War. Settling in Chicago, he formed his own orchestra and led it for more than forty years. This march was presumably written for his orchestra and then arranged for piano by Hartel.

Of interest in this piece is the way it anticipates the advent of Ragtime, just a few years later (Maple Leaf Rag would be published in 1899). Rags are built on a march format, and the harmony in this piece is essentially the same as in ragtime (including some particularly favored chord motions, such as the flat-VI to V heard in the first strain). Simply syncopate the right hand, and you would have something virtually indistinguishable from early Ragtime.

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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14. Columbus; or, The World’s Fair Grand March

Composed by Frank Drayton

Very little is known about Frank Drayton—so much so that some believe that “Frank Drayton” was actually a pseudonym of the composer and publisher James Beckel (1811–1905) (no relation to the contemporary American composer Jim Beckel). The use of pseudonyms was very common in this period, for a variety of reasons; perhaps Beckel, who published this piece, did not want to appear to be a vanity press outfit.

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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15. The World’s Fair, Or, Chicago Dudes’ Grand March

Composed by Adam Geibel

Adam Geibel (1855–1933) was born in Hesse, Germany. He went blind at the age of eight due to an eye infection, and soon after this his family emigrated to Philadelphia where he attended a school for the blind. He became an organist, wrote several hymns and gospel numbers, conducted choruses, and started a successful publishing company. Later in his career he was awarded an honorary music degree from Temple University.

MP3 information | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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16. An Afternoon in Midway Plaisance

Composed by Gustav Luders

Gustav Luders (sometimes spelled “Lueders”, 1865–1913) was a minor composer of operettas in the late nineteenth century. Born and trained in Germany, he immigrated first to Milwaukee in 1888 and then became a musical theater director and composer in Chicago the following year. At the time of the Fair, his star was on the rise, and he a number of his operettas appeared on Broadway in the early 1900s before his popularity waned. While this piece was clearly written for piano, the music’s cover announces it was played with “phenomenal success” by the Schiller Theater Orchestra, indicating that this is most likely an arrangement. The music describes a typical journey through the Midway and in some ways anticipates the character of silent movie music written in the 19-teens and 1920s.

More informationMP3 | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

The sections in the piece include: 1) Going to the Fair by Train, 2) The Chinese Temple, 3) In Old Vienna, 4) The Persian Dancers, 5) The German Village, 6) The Irish Village, 7) In the Streets of Cairo, 8) At Hagenbecks. 

The music heard in part 4 provides another hint of the most famous music from the Fair, the “Hoochie Koochie” music.

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17. Echoes from the White City - Waltz

Composed by Edward Holst

 Edward Holst (1843–1899) was a Danish-born, prolific composer of light opera works and military marches. No relation to Gustav Holst, he immigrated to New York around 1874 and became active in the Broadway theater scene as a musician, playwright, and dancer. His total output of compositions numbers more than 2,000.

Most of the buildings of the fair were temporary, hastily built with a façade of plaster, cement, and staff. But in the central part of the fairgrounds, the buildings were all painted a vivid white color, which stood in stark contrast with the sooty tenements of downtown Chicago and other urban areas. The fair was also illuminated brightly with electric lights, another novelty for the time. All these things combined gave the fairgrounds the nickname “The White City,” and this is credited with ushering the “City Beautiful” movement and modern city planning.

MP3 | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano. 

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18. The Last Day of the Fair

Composed by Frank Swain

No information can be found about this composer, which makes one wonder if this is another pseudonym. Only a couple of pieces exist with his name listed as composer. Still, this charming waltz seems like a fitting end to our collection.

MP3 | Sheet music

Performer: Chris White, piano.