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Polly H. Carder Collection on George F. Root

 Collection 0095-SCPA
George Frederick Root (1820-1895) was an American songwriter and music educator. He is perhaps best known for his song "The Battle Cry of Freedom," which was written and rose to popularity during the U.S. Civil War. The Polly H. Carder Collection on George F. Root contains original published scores and songbooks from the period 1852-1907 and photocopied scores collected by Polly H. Carder, author of the book George F. Root, Civil War Songwriter: A Biography. The collection also contains a short article, "The Last Days of George F. Root," written by Root's daughter, Clara Louise Burnham.


  • 1852-1907
  • Majority of material found within 1852-1907

Use and Access to Collection

There are no restricted files in this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment:


8 Linear Feet

258 items


George Frederick Root (August 30, 1820 - August 6, 1895) was an American songwriter and music educator perhaps best known for his song "The Battle Cry of Freedom." Root, born in Sheffield, Massachusetts and named after George Frederick Handel, began his music training at home with his father. He did not begin formal music training until he moved to Boston at the age of 18. While in Boston, Root taught voice and music education under the tutelage of Lowell Mason and was the choir director at the Mercer Street Church. Also during this time, Root began publishing collections of choral songs and teaching methods, such as The Young Ladies' Choir (1846).

In 1853, after returning from a few years of voice lessons in France, Root helped Mason organize the first Normal Musical Institute in New York City for training music teachers. Root composed some of the earliest examples of secular cantatas in American music, including the "The Flower Queen" (1852) and "The Haymakers" (1857). Root also began publishing parlor songs in the 1850s, at first under the pseudonym G. Friedrich Wurzel. Early popular songs include "The Hazel Dell" (1852), "There's Music in the Air" (1854), and "Rosalie, the Prairie Flower" (1855). In 1861, three days after the outbreak of the Civil War, Root composed "The First Gun is Fired! May God Protect the Right!" Of Root's more than two hundred songs, approximately thirty of them were written during and about the war, including "The Battle Cry of Freedom" (1862), "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Prisoner's Hope)" (1864), and "Just Before the Battle, Mother" (1864).

In 1860, Root became a partner in the publishing company Root andamp; Cady, which was founded in Chicago by his brother, Ebenezer Root, and C. M. Cady. After the war, Root continued writing songs and compiling songbooks, many of which were first published by Root andamp; Cady. Root continued to support various social causes with his music, such as the temperance movement and the organized labor movement. When Root andamp; Cady was nearly destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Root discontinued his association with the publishing company and focused on writing music. Root died in 1895 at his summer home in Maine.


Polly H. Carder Collection on George F. Root
  1. Series 1: Songbooks
  2. Series 2: Scores
  3. Series 3: Other Materials

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of Dr. Polly H. Carder, April 2011. A small selection of materials was purchased by Special Collections in Performing Arts in fall 2011.

Related Material

Other resources about George F. Root available in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library include:

Dr. Carder's Biography of Root

  1. Carder, Polly. George F. Root, Civil War Songwriter: A Biogaphy. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2008. [Call number: ML410.R68 C37 2008]

Root's Autobiography

  1. Root, George F. The Story of a Musical Life: An Autobiography. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970. [Call number: ML410.R68 A3 1970]

Other Published Materials

  1. Root, George F. Root's Harmony and Composition. Cincinnati: Root and Sons, 1892. [Call number: Special Collections, MT50.R782]
  2. Root, George F. "The Flower Queen, or, The Coronation of the Rose." Poetry by Frances Jane Crosby. New York: Mason andamp; Law, c1852. [Call number: Special Collections Rare Stacks, M1533.R64 F5 1852]
  3. Root, George F. "The diapason: a collection of church music: to which are prefixed a new and comprehensive view of "Music and its notation," exercises for reading music, and vocal training, songs, part-songs, rounds, etc. : the whole arranged and adapted for choirs, singing schools, musical conventions, and social gatherings." New York: Mason Bros, 1860. Available upon request to the curator.
  4. A variety of circulating editions of some of Root's publications are available in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Center and can be located in the library catalog.

Other Archival Materials

  1. The Lowell Mason Collection, also housed in Special Collections in Performing Arts, contains three songbooks by Root, an article, Normal Institute of Music materials, and one letter from Mason to Root.
  2. The Jacklin Bolton Stopp Collection, Subseries 2.8: George F. Root Collections contains 20 songbooks compiled by George F. Root.
For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.
Polly H. Carder Collection on George F. Root
David Travis, May 2011.
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2011-10-19: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Jennie Levine Knies, October 2011.

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library Library

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