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Hugo Keesing collection on music and World War I

 Collection 0331-SCPA

Contemporaneously referred to as "the war to end all wars," the First World War officially began in July 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918, when Germany, the last of the Central Powers still standing, signed an armstice. This was one of the largest and deadliest wars in the history of the world, involving over 70 million military troops, not to mention the millions of civilians that were affected and lost their lives. Hundreds of songs were written in the United States during and about the war, pertaining to themes such as patriotic duty, separation from loved ones, and the noble bravery of the troops, and more - all of which provided valuable insight into the culture and mindset of Americans during the War. The Hugo Keesing collection on music and World War I consists of sheet music and newspaper publications from the United States published contemporaneously with, or pertaining to, World War I. The bulk of the materials cover the period 1917–1919, from the onset of American involvement to the years immediately following the war. The collection is organized into two series. A single publication from the year 1818 is also contained within this collection in Series 2: Newspapers.

Please note: There may also be audio recordings of select pieces of sheet music available in this collection. Please contact the curator for more information.


  • Copyright: Majority of material found within 1917-1919
  • Copyright: 1818-1933

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment:

Duplication and Copyright Information

Copyright was not transferred with the donation of the materials; all rights remain with the creators and rights holders.


1.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The Hugo Keesing collection on music and World War I includes 440 pieces of sheet music published contemporaneously with, or pertaining to, World War I. Subject matter includes patriotism, wartime propaganda, love, and homesickness. It also contains newspapers published in the United States and Europe during World War I. These publications include the newspaper published in France by the American Expeditionary Forces, titled The Stars and Stripes, as well as publications from London, New York, Kansas City, and more. Headlines focus especially on the ending of the war. The bulk of the materials cover the period 1917–1919.

Historical Note

[See finding aid for the Hugo Keesing collection on popular music and culture for information on Hugo Keesing]

World War I was an international conflict fought between 1914 and 1918. One of the largest wars in history, it was fought by two opposing alliances: the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire), and the Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan, and the United States). The war was initiated in 1914 with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Austria-Hungary presented an ultimatum to Serbia, triggering a series of diplomatic conflicts that resulted in the major powers declaring war on one another within a month.

The United States was not initially involved in the conflict; President Woodrow Wilson maintained a policy of neutrality, while continuing trade relations with European countries on both sides. But American neutrality was challenged in 1915 when Germany, in an act of unrestricted submarine warfare, sunk the British cruise liner Lusitania, killing hundreds of American passengers. This incident swayed American public opinion against Germany, and after the sinking of three more U.S. merchant ships in 1917, President Wilson declared war. The military and economic support that the United States provided to the Allied Powers facilitated Germany’s defeat in 1918.

On the home front, every aspect of American life was mobilized toward producing soldiers, supplies, food, and ammunitions for the war effort. A draft was issued to ensure sufficient manpower in the Armed Forces. Public forms of expression were closely monitored by way of the Sedition Act, which criminalized speech or writing that was considered disloyal or unpatriotic. New jobs were created in munitions factories, filled mostly by women. Propaganda campaigns were launched encouraging citizens to buy Liberty bonds, or war bonds to support the Allies.

World War I coincided with the peak of the United States sheet music publishing industry. Centralized in New York on a street commonly known as “Tin Pan Alley,” the sheet music industry published vaudeville tunes, pop songs, dance numbers, and jazz and blues ballads. The sheet music in this collection, most of which was produced in New York, express various aspects of wartime sentiment: war bond propaganda, exultation of American values such as liberty and democracy, soldiers’ longing to return home, and sweetheart songs dedicated to enlisted men. This music, collected by popular culture scholar and former American Studies professor Hugo Keesing, provides insight into both musical and wartime life in the early-twentieth-century United States.


This collection is organized into two series. The sheet music in Series 1 is arranged in alphabetical order by song title. The newspaper is arranged in the order in which it was received.

  1. World War I Sheet Music, 1898–1933 (355 items)
  2. World War I Newspapers, 1818, 1918-1919

Custodial History

Gift of Hugo Keesing received in multiple shipments between 2004 and 2019.

Related Materials

In addition to this collection, the other Keesing materials at Special Collections in the Performing Arts (SCPA) are separated into eleven other collections (see the list below). Also available for access are thousands of LP singles and pieces of sheet music pertaining to popular music in the twentieth century. More sheet music from the World War I time period can be found in Series 6 of The Hugo Keesing collection on popular music and culture (listed below).

An additional finding aid exists to further describe the memorabilia contained within several of the Keesing collections.

The Keesing collection also contains thousands of catalogued books, available for use in the Lowens room. To view the available titles, visit the Libraries' catalog. Using the "type of search" drop-down menu, select "call number" and type "MKEESING" into the word search box. This brings up a multi-page, browse-able list of Keesing Collection books.

Additionally, the following books and CD collections by Dr. Keesing are available for use at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library:

Keesing, Hugo A. Battleground Korea: Songs and Sounds of America's Forgotten War. Bear Family Productions, 2018. 4-CD boxed set and accompanying 159-page book. Call number: Paged Collections, MCD 19705.

Keesing, Hugo A. Next Stop is Vietnam: The War on Record. Bear Family Records, 2010. 13-CD boxed set and accompanying 304-page book. Call number: Paged Collections, MCD 12460.

Keesing, Hugo A. Incomplete Bibliography of Pop/Rock Music: Key Word Version. Call number: Reference, ML128.R6 K43 1989.

Keesing, Hugo A. "Semper Fi": An Annotated Index of World War II Era Songs about the United States Marine Corps. 1997. Call number: Paged Collections, ML128.W2 K43 1997.

Keesing, Hugo A. Victory Girls: An Incomplete, Annotated Index of World War II Sheet Music Depicting Women in Non-Military Work. 1997. Call number: Reference, ML128.W2 K44 1997.

Keesing, Hugo A. "Youth in Transition: A Content Analysis of Two Decades of Popular Music." 1972. Call number: Lowens Special Collections Room, ML3477 .K44 1972.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Notes about Processing

All items in this collection have been processed and described at item level. The first shipment of sheet music was processed by James Ace in Spring 2017. Since then, four additional shipments of sheet music have been received, all of which were processed and integrated by Meghan Creek in 2019. Each newly acquired piece of sheet music has been integrated into Series 1 in alphabetical order by song title. The newspapers in Series 2 have been kept in original order.

Hugo Keesing collection on music and World War I
James Ace, Spring 2017, Meghan Creek, 2019, Updated by Amanda Henderson, September 2022.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States