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The South Before the War Company Papers

Call Number: MSS 87

Scope and Contents

The South Before the War Company Papers include scripts, orchestral parts, published and unpublished sheet music, and other ephemera. Unfortunately, there is no list of musical numbers used in the show, and it is difficult to judge if any of the orchestral parts constitute a complete score. The script is complete, however, and it is possible to combine that with the songs and segues that most frequently appear in the orchestral parts to make a very preliminary sketch of the musical numbers involved:

Act I:

Before Curtain

Curtain music

Chorus at curtain: Negro melodies: "Picking Cotton", "Oaken Bucket" etc.

"Chicken Songs"

"Black Annie"

"My Old Kentucky Home"

"The Days When I Was Young" (or "My Old Savannah Home"?)

"Ambolena Snow"

Grand Chorus: "Palms"

Act II & Act III (?):

Intro. music to "Levee scene"

"Buck Dance"

"Soft Shoe Dance"

"Frog Act"

"Paulina Cotrell" (female solo?)

The Baileys -- specialty act

Andy McLeod -- specialty act

"One Hundred Fathoms Deep"

Keystone Quartet -- specialty act

Imperial Quartet -- specialty act

"The Man Who Led the Cake Walk"


The Papers, of course, include many more songs than indicated in this list. The individual orchestral scores are largely made up of segues identified only by script cues, and there is some variation from score to score. The second half of the show appears to have been only loosely related to the story line: it is basically a variety revue.


  • [Late 1890s?]


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection.

Conditions Governing Use

The South Before the War Company Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The South Before the War Company Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Marguerite S. Megaw in 1981.


In 2 series, as follows: I. Publicity, scripts, and other materials. II. Music.


4 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Music and other materials from the touring minstrel show The South Before the War

Biographical / Historical

The South Before the War Company was a minstrel show owned and managed by Herman Wallum (alias Harry Martell) that toured the United States in the late 1890s (and possibly before and after that time as well). The musical show performed by the Company was also named The South Before the War, and the company-owned parlor car bore the same name.

Blackface minstrelsy is a popular entertainment form, originating in the United States in the mid-19th century and remaining in American life through the 20th century. The form is based around stereotypical and racist portrayals of African Americans, including mocking dialect, parodic lyrics, and the application of Black face paint; all designed to portray African Americans as othered subjects of humor and disrespect. Blackface was a dominant form for theatrical and musical performances for decades, both on stage and in private homes. The Gilmore Music Library's Special Collections include Blackface minstrelsy materials for the benefit of scholars seeking to better understand the role racial performance has had in shaping Western culture.

Processing Information

This finding aid contains original descriptive language for materials that contain racists, outdated, and harmful language. This includes transcribed titles of musical works. The use of this description is not an endorsement of the language it contains. Original descriptive language has been retained to promote searchability and discoverability of the collections.

Citation for the biographical/historical note on Blackface minstrelsy: Berry, Dorothy. “Descriptive Equity and Clarity around Blackface Minstrelsy in HTC Collections.” August 6, 2021.

Register to The South Before the War Company Papers
Edited Full Draft
Compiled by Ana Bentancur
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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