Nineteenth century Americans loved poetry. They wrote it, read it, memorized it. They understood it as a means of communicating and recording ideas, events, and emotions. The popular press, from daily newspapers to literary periodicals, printed poetry alongside other material. While in the early part of the 19th century much of this poetry was copied from British publications, there was at the same time an effort to encourage American authorship on American themes. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of first the Boston-based Ladies' Magazine and later Godey's Lady's Book, believed strongly that Americans should have access to work by American writers. She also strove to assure that her magazines had a message, that they demonstrated and taught American unity, patriotism, simplicity, and virtue. This volume contains poems that were published in Godey's or in the Ladies' Magazine from 1828 to 1877, a full half-century of American history. There are poems about Native Americans, slavery, temperance, westward migration, urban poverty, the Civil War, and more. To the writers and to 19th century readers, these were poems of current events. To us, they are glimpses into the past, a chance to see events from our history as they were seen by some of the Americans who lived them. Some of the poems are stronger as literary pieces than others; some are merely song lyrics. All, however, tell us something about our past, and allow us to share in the experience of Americans of an earlier time, even if only from a distance.
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