Illustrated Song: “My Mother Was a Northern Girl”

by Jim Buhler

Proof set of 16 pictures to illustrate "My Mother was a Northern Girl"POKING THROUGH the database of the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division, I came across a proof sheet for an illustrated song set to “My Mother Was a Northern Girl,” a 1902 song by J. Fred Helf. This song slide set also dates from 1902, before the era of the nickelodeon, so these slides were likely used by a singer in vaudeville, where the illustrated song was an occasional (minor) attraction.

The actual lantern slides (these are paper proofs) would have likely been hand colored, with a cover of the sheet music being used as the opening slide. By the time of the nickelodeon, the chorus would often be included as a final slide and the audience urged to “join in.” An ambitious theater manager would have copies of the evening’s songs available for sale.

A larger jpg version is available by double-clicking the image, and you can get the full 64MB tiff through the LoC site, here.

The full sheet music for the song is available through the Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music at the Sheridan Libraries of the Johns Hopkins University, here.

This is a slightly edited version of this x-post.