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Paul Dresser

Paul Dresser (born Johann Paul Dreiser, Jr.; April 22, 1857 – January 30, 1906) was an American singer, songwriter, and comedic actor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dresser performed in traveling minstrel and medicine-wagon shows and as a vaudeville entertainer. He sold his songs through sheet music publishers in New York City's Tin Pan Alley, and became a partner in the music publishing business.

Dresser grew up in a large family (including his brother, novelist Theodore Dreiser) and lived in Sullivan and Terre Haute, Indiana. He had a troubled childhood and spent several weeks in jail. Dresser left home at age sixteen to join a traveling minstrel act and performed in several regional theaters before joining John Hamlin's Wizard Oil traveling medicine-wagon show in 1878. Dresser composed his first songs while working for Hamlin. He settled in Evansville, Indiana, for several years while continuing to work as a traveling performer and musician. Eventually, he became a nationally known talent and traveled with a number of different acts, including The Two Johns, A Tin Soldier, and The Danger Signal, among others. Dresser wrote songs featured in these shows, sold his songs to others acts, and published his music. In 1893 Dresser joined "Howley, Haviland and Company", a New York City sheet music publisher, as a silent partner. He later became an active partner in other music publishing companies. At the height of his success, Dresser lived in New York City as a wealthy entertainer, successful songwriter, and sheet music publisher. He was generous, especially to family and friends, and lavish spending. The turn of the century brought him financial distress when his music fell out of style. In 1905 his music publishing business declared bankruptcy and Dresser's health declined. He died penniless in New York City a year later.

Although Dresser had no formal training in music composition, he wrote ballads that had wide appeal, including some of the most popular songs of the era. During a career that spanned nearly two decades, from 1886 to 1906, Dresser composed and published more than 150 songs. His biggest hit, "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" (1897), became the second best-selling sheet music of the nineteenth century. Following the success of "Wabash", many newspapers compared Dresser to popular composer Stephen Foster. "On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away" became the official song of Indiana in 1913. The Paul Dresser Birthplace in Terre Haute is designated as a state shrine and memorial. Dresser was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Birth and Death Data: Born April 21st, 1857 (Terre Haute), Died January 30th, 1906 (New York City)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1896 - 1942

Roles Represented in DAHR: composer, lyricist

Recordings (Results 26-50 of 116 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor [Pre-matrix A-]699 7-in. 2/21/1901 Give us just another Lincoln J. W. Myers Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix A-]864 7-in. 6/12/1902 On the banks of the Wabash Steve Porter Male vocal solo lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix A-]1115 7-in. 11/27/1901 Mr. Volunteer Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer, lyricist  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]1115 10-in. 11/27/1901 Mr. Volunteer Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer, lyricist  
Victor [Pre-matrix A-]1228 7-in. 2/3/1902 Way down in old Indiana J. W. Myers Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]1228 10-in. 2/3/1902 Way down in old Indiana J. W. Myers Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix A-]1242 7-in. 2/7/1902 Mr. Volunteer J. W. Myers Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]1242 10-in. 2/7/1902 Mr. Volunteer J. W. Myers Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix A-]1856 7-in. 1/9/1903 In dear old Illinois John H. Bieling ; Harry Macdonough Male vocal duet composer, lyricist  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]1856 10-in. 1/9/1903 In dear old Illinois John H. Bieling ; Harry Macdonough Male vocal duet composer, lyricist  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]3108 10-in. 2/16/1901 There is no North or South to-day Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer, lyricist  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]3109 10-in. 2/16/1901 I'd still believe you true Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]3111 10-in. 2/16/1901 Calling to her boy just once again Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]3140 10-in. 2/21/1901 Give us just another Lincoln J. W. Myers Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor [Pre-matrix B-]3466 10-in. 6/12/1901 On the banks of the Wabash Steve Porter Male vocal solo composer, lyricist  
Victor A-6 7-in. 4/29/1903 Mr. Volunteer Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor B-6 10-in. 4/29/1903 Mr. Volunteer Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer, lyricist  
Victor A-29 7-in. 5/21/1903 The voice of the Hudson Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor B-29 10-in. 5/21/1903 The voice of the Hudson Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor A-30 7-in. 5/21/1903 The boys are coming home today Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor B-30 10-in. 5/21/1903 The boys are coming home today Joseph Natus Male vocal solo, with piano composer  
Victor A-237 7-in. 8/4/1903 King of the winds Clarke's Band of Providence ; Claud Spary Band, with trombone solo composer  
Victor B-237 10-in. 8/4/1903 King of the winds Clarke's Band of Providence ; Claud Spary Band, with trombone solo composer  
Victor A-496 7-in. 10/6/1903 In dear old Illinois John H. Bieling ; Harry Macdonough Male vocal duet, with piano lyricist, composer  
Victor B-496 10-in. 10/6/1903 In dear old Illinois John H. Bieling ; Harry Macdonough Male vocal duet, with piano lyricist, composer  
(Results 26-50 of 116 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Dresser, Paul," accessed October 27, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958.

Dresser, Paul. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved October 27, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958.

"Dresser, Paul." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 27 October 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/108958

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