"Make Believe"

"Make Believe"

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Description (Brief)

This sheet music is for the song for “Make Believe,” with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein 2nd and music by Jerome Kern. It was published by T. B. Harms Company in 1927. This song was featured in 1927 Broadway musical Show Boat, one of the masterpieces of American theater.

Show Boat is regarded as the first American musical to depart from the genre’s traditional light comedy by featuring serious dramatic complexities, notably race relations among people along the Mississippi River. Show Boat was adapted by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern from the 1926 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edna Ferber. Both the book and the musical mix humor with nostalgia as they recall the disappearing culture of the show boat. A novelty form of performance in the 1800s, a show boat was a floating theater that featured melodramas, musical acts, dancing, and vaudeville as it traveled along American waterways such as the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Ohio Rivers. The popularity of showboats declined in the 20th century as the country moved from the rivers to the roads and motion pictures replaced the stage as the main form of entertainment. The musical Show Boat recalls this era, as it follows the Cotton Blossom and the people the boat affects while traveling up and down the Mississippi.

Sheet music was a popular means of dispersing songs throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the widespread availability of phonographs and radio shifted the music industry’s focus to recorded songs. With sheet music such as this, people would typically gather around a piano and sing, bringing the stories and sounds of the theater into parlors across the country.

Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
Sheet Music
Object Type
Sheet Music
date made
1927
maker
T. B. Harms Company
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall pattern)
ink (overall pattern)
Measurements
overall: 11 3/4 in x 9 in; 29.845 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
1983.0691.11
accession number
1983.0691
catalog number
1983.0691.11
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Music & Musical Instruments
Popular Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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