Collection ID: UA289

Collection context


6.3 Linear Feet and (3 boxes, 2 flat files, 2 4-flaps)
Preferred citation:

(Name of item, if applicable), SONGS AND SONGBOOKS, 1875-1997, undated. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.


Scope and Content:

The collection contains four series: Volumes, Pamphlets, Song Sheets, and Manuscripts.

The Volumes series consists of hardcover, published songbooks that contain music and lyrics of University songs, as well as a draft version of a songbook that shows the process of making one of these publications. This series includes one songbook that is not specific to the University, but rather to City of Rochester; this book contains a section called "School and College Songs" where some University songs can be found.

The Pamphlets series consists of published songbooks that are in the form of thin booklets of varying sizes.

The Song Sheets series consists of single sheets, some folded to create multiple pages, that contain one or more songs. These sheets were ready for distribution at the time of their production, but tend to be less formal than songbooks and often contain lyrics only. Most sheets were presented at events such as Class Day, alumni dinners, and fraternity gatherings. This series also contains some non-University songs sheets that were collected along with University material.

The Manuscripts series consists of handwritten or, in several instances, typed songs not ready for distribution. Some manuscripts contain music, and others have lyrics only.

Biographical / Historical:

Most songbooks containing University songs were published between the 1870s and 1940s. Every few years during this time, committees--organized by class year and under the guidance of faculty and administrators such as Professor Kendrick Philander Shedd, Professor John Rothwell Slater, and Dean Janet H. Clark--would select the songs they felt best represented the University.

The creation of songbooks was largely inspired by a singing tradition started in 1900 by Professor Shedd, himself a member of the Class of 1889. Every Friday at 12:30 p.m. after his class, he led students in the singing of four University songs. As the tradition grew, Shedd and a larger group of students began to sing songs inside the chapel or near the statue of President Martin B. Anderson. This tradition, called Friday Sing, inspired classes to create pocket-sized songbooks such as Some Songs We Sing at Rochester to take to the weekly event. The last Friday Sing was held in 1912, the year Shedd left the University; producing songbooks, however, continued to be a special tradition for many later classes. The College for Women joined this tradition in 1916, and their first songbook was dedicated to their dean, Annette Munro. It was common for committees to dedicate their songbooks to someone they admired. In 1945, Evelyn Meyers, editor of The University of Rochester Songs, dedicated that volume to Dean Janet H. Clark "whose guidance has been invaluable in the furthering of music at the College for Women."

Songs that were frequently published in songbooks include "On the Campus at Old Rochester," "The Dandelion," "The Victory," "Commencement Hymn," "Banquet Song," and, of course, the University alma mater, "The Genesee." Several versions of "The Genesee" can be found (including in this collection); and according to the pamphlet "The Genesee, A College Song," this was because its author, Thomas Thackeray Swinburne, was known to modify his verses. Swinburne, a member of the Class of 1892, wrote "The Genesee" in 1893. It is difficult to determine exactly when this song became the official alma mater, though Professor Slater writes in a 1952 Rochester Review article about Swinburne that it was first publicized in the Interpres yearbook in the early 1900s. At this time, the University was on the Prince Street Campus, which was far from the Genesee River; therefore, the last words of the song, "Beside the Genesee," had more meaning after the River Campus was built.

Professor Slater also played a large part in creating songs. He took on many roles during his time at the University including serving as the first bellman for the Hopeman Chimes located at the top of the Rush Rhees Library. Arthur J. May notes that music was among Slater's favorite hobbies and that, among his contributions, he provided a, "Commencement Hymn," in Latin, for the annual ceremonies. This and other songs appeal to, and seek to foster, pride in the University. As President Rush Rhees was often quoted in songbooks as saying, "College songs are the best evidence and stimulus of college spirit."

Acquisition information:
Materials acquired from various sources.

Song sheets that do not have a title have been filed by the first line of the first song on the sheet and are indicated by a dash at the end.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard



For access to this collection, please contact the University of Rochester Archives ( at least two business days prior to your planned visit.

Please note: Some materials may be restricted or require permission for use.


To request reproductions or permission to publish materials from the collection, please contact the University of Rochester Archives ( Researchers may be responsible for determining any copyright questions.


(Name of item, if applicable), SONGS AND SONGBOOKS, 1875-1997, undated. Rare Books Special Collections & Preservation Department, University of Rochester.

Rush Rhees Library
Second Floor, Room 225
755 Library Road
Rochester, NY 14627, United States
(585) 275-2121