Popular Sheet Music a Hundred Years Ago

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, April 8, 1914: Nothing much. Don’t seem to have so much to do. My music lesson is easy for one thing.

Picture Source: Wikipedia
Picture Source: Wikipedia

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What songs was Grandma learning how to play? Maybe she had sheet music for some popular songs.

Sheet music published between 1911 and 1914 that I recognized included:


  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  • I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl that Married Dear Old Dad)


  • When Irish Eyes are Smiling


  • Peg O My Heart


  • By the Beautiful Sea
  • When You Wore A Rose and I Wore a Big Red Tulip

You can find the lyrics and recordings for these songs (and many more) on the Public Domain Music.org site, as well as on YouTube.

27 thoughts on “Popular Sheet Music a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Aw…..classics, for sure! I’m glad that Grandma found her music lesson easy. I took piano for several years, and although some of the lessons were tedious, I always enjoyed playing. And I love to look at old sheet music in antique shops!

    1. It is nice that she found the lesson easy. There were so many weeks last fall and winter when she found them difficult and uninspiring.

    1. I hadn’t focused on the composers or singers until you mentioned it, but there sure is a lot of alliteration with all the H’s

  2. I hope she’s playing “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” but I don’t imagine the music teacher would assign her that one. “By the Beautiful Sea” has a good cover. I’ll have to see if I can find it being played.

  3. Oh my goodness, I’m beginning to feel like a fossil – but I delight in knowing that I recognize every one of those songs. My best friends mother used to play them on the piano while we sang them. My friend had a really good musical “ear” and managed to add a harmonizing part to every one.

    1. I’m probably about the same age as you–and I also remember my mother playing these songs. (That’s probably why I selected them to feature in this post). 🙂

    1. They’ve been around a long time. It’s always interesting to think about why some songs (and books) survive over time and others don’t.

  4. What a beautiful old list of songs you found! I recognise some of them too, and can’t help but wonder what my children would make of these songs, considering they think songs of the 70’s are old relics! 🙂

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