A Cure for What Ails You: Songs from the Medical Library’s Sheet Music Collection

26 January 2014 - 3:51pm by Mark Gentry

Exhibit curated by Toby Appel

January 23rd-May 2nd, 2014

Harvey Cushing/ John Hay Whitney Medical Library foyer

Join us for an exhibit tour on Thursday, February 13 at 11:30.  Meet at the entrance to the Medical Library.  The tour scheduled for the 13th is cancelled due to inclement weather and will be re-scheduled for a later date. 

Celebrating a new collection of recently donated medically themed sheet music, this exhibit highlights music on medical providers, purveyors of remedies, ailments both real and imagined, cures for all purposes (especially for lovesickness), health songs for children, and music advertising patent medicines. Most of the music was written for public entertainment, whether in London music halls, Parisian theaters, or American vaudeville and early musicals. Later songs in the collection were aired on the radio, featured in movies, recorded on record labels, or served as themes for TV shows on doctors and hospitals. Songs range from “The Cork Leg,” a traditional Irish song about a self-propelling prosthetic cork leg, to Loretta Lynn singing about the advantages of “The Pill.” The engraved and lithographed covers of the music provide striking images of medicine and popular culture.

The collection with over 1,000 items was donated to the Medical Historical Library by William H. Helfand. Discover the entire collection through the finding aid: sheet music collection.