to Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music
By Paul McCutcheon
development in aeronautics has been accompanied by great popular
interest and media coverage. This widespread fascination with flight
has inspired an enormous output of historical drawings, paintings,
advertisements and illustrations for publications. Some of the most
colorful illustrations are those which adorn sheet music. In the
Bella Landauer collection, you can find illustrations that range
from the bizarre to the commonplace, from the humorous to the mundane.
But most are colorful and interesting.
earliest known aeronautical song was published in 1785. Entitled
Chanson sur le Globe Aerostatique, it depicts a Montgolfier
balloon ascending from the Tuilleries in Paris. This piece was followed
by countless musical compositions dealing with all phases of aeronautics.
"Wrong-Way" Corrigan had his bard, no less than Lindbergh. And there
was always someone to opine musically about such disasters as the
wreck of the dirigible Shenandoah or the Hindenburg.
importance of music as a mirror of the times has largely been overlooked
in aeronautics. It remained for Bella Landauer, a veteran collector
whose son was a pilot, to recognize it. She started collecting sheet
music in the early 1920's, scouring music shops, publishing houses,
auctions and private collections for sheet music with an aeronautics
Landauer got little help from clerks in music stores, who could
usually remember Come Josephine, in my Flying Machine but
few other aviation songs. She consulted publishers' lists and personally
inspected old musical stock, gradually building up a formidable
difficult to place a value on such a collection but Major Lester
Gardner, former chairman of the American Institute of Aeronautics
and Astronautics, proclaimed that some of the scores are priceless
because of their rarity, age and excellent state of preservation.
Major Gardner also said that "Almost all languages are represented
in the collection. Almost every cover in this collection has a lithograph
and from these pictures the whole history of aeronautics can be
of the music written in the early 19th century until the age of
the airplane, fell into three categories: songs expressing the author's
desire to fly to distant lands or even to the moon, comic songs
about ballooning mishaps, or purely romantic songs. There was a
tendency to scoff at the free-traveling balloon because of the pilot's
inability to pick a destination. Many of the American songs had
a predominantly romantic tone.
pioneer days of flying in the United States brought a plethora of
music which will be remembered nowhere except in Mrs. Landauer's
collection. These compositions include such as Take Me Up In
Any Old Plane and Since Katy the Waitress Became and Aviatress.
For 200 years, the musicians have been turning out marches, polkas,
gallops and waltzes celebrating aeronautics. But the most celebrated
event was Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight of 1927. After
Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart seems to have been the most popular
subject of aviation theme music. However, Byrd, Chamberlin and Post
also heard paeans sung in their praise.
music occupies a special niche in the Bella Landauer collection.
John Phillip Sousa wrote a stirring tune called The Aviators
March. The Battle of Marne was a popular piece from World
War I. The noted aircraft designer, Major Alexander de Seversky,
displayed his versatility by composing Over Land and Over Sea,
Song of the American Force. To aviation buffs, the principal
enjoyment of aviation music is the cover illustrations. Perhaps
the most lurid illustrations are found on the martial pieces such
as Battle in the Sky and Luftflotten-Marsch, featuring
Bella Landauer collection continues to be of great interest to historians,
researchers and collectors today. The curatorial staff at the National
Air and Space Museum has found this collection to be an invaluable
source of information about the social history aspects of aeronautics.
The sheet music has been featured in a number of exhibitions here
at the Smithsonian Institution. The Bella Landauer collection attracts
much interest from outside the Smithsonian as well, from historians
other scholarly researchers to serious collectors of aeronautica.
We hope you enjoy this digital presentation
of the Bella Landauer Collection…