A selection of broadsides, which were used in Maryland in the mid-19th century for political agitation, advertisements, poems, ballads, and Civil War propaganda.
Collection Location: Special Collections Department, Enoch Pratt Free Library / State Library Resource Center
Collection Overview: A broadside – sometimes called a “penny ballad” – is a single sheet of paper with printing normally on one side only. The broadside was an easily produced and highly visible way for individuals or groups to show their support for a cause. Thus, by the end of the Civil War thousands of broadsides had been printed throughout the Confederacy and points beyond. In peacetime, the broadside became a low-cost way to distribute the words of old favorites or of new songs.
Choosing sides in the Civil War was difficult for many in the United States because the issues – slavery or its expansion to new states, states’ rights, suspension of personal freedoms – divided us by region as well as by family. Maryland was no exception. Indeed, as a border state Maryland felt these divisions acutely. The first blood of the Civil War was shed at the Baltimore Riot of 1861, when Southern sympathizers attacked Northern troops traveling through Baltimore. And at the Battle of Front Royal, Virginia, soldiers of the First Maryland Infantry led by John R. Kenly fought soldiers of the First Maryland Infantry, Confederate States of America, led by Bradley T. Johnson.
The Maryland legislature voted to remain in the Union, yet many of her citizens believed in secession or, at least, in the right to secede. To ensure that Maryland remain in the Union, Federal troops established martial law in its major cities. This, of course, led to suspension of personal freedoms, especially the freedom of speech and expression, and the jailing of some of Maryland’s most prominent citizens, who felt it their obligation to speak out. Because of this threat of imprisonment, names of the author and publisher/printer and the exact date and place of publication are missing from most Confederate-leaning broadsides. When a name is used, it most frequently is a pseudonym. One Marylander (Dr. Nicholas Greenberry Ridgely) used more than ten pseudonyms.
The Broadside Verses provide a unique look into life in 19th century America, especially life in Maryland between 1860 and 1865, when the country was in turmoil, and immediately after the Civil War. Most of these verses have a political message, but others – advertisements, love songs, temperance songs, ballads about life and death – show what life was like for Marylanders and other Americans after the Civil War, providing insight into the American character and personality.
Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Toll, Robert C. Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1974.
Wharton, H. M. War Songs and Poems of the Southern Confederacy, 1861-1865. Philadelphia: 1904.
Library of Congress Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/smhtml/smhome.html
Parlor Songs: The Composers of Tin Pan Alley at http://www.parlorsongs.ac/bios/composerbios.php