Neil Morét’s light-style march A Deed of the Pen (1903) combines imagery, poetry, and music in a commemoration of the Louisiana Purchase. The cover illustration for A Deed of the Pen features a woman proudly displaying a map of the Purchase. She wears a dress decorated in fleurs-de-lis, reference the Louisiana Territory’s previous owners, as well as St. Louis’s own French heritage. The fleur-de-lis was common emblem on Louisiana Purchase Exposition memorabilia.
Neil Morét was a pseudonym for Charles Neil Daniels (1878-1943), a successful white composer of Tin Pan Alley songs. An early supporter of Scott Joplin’s music, he is best remembered for another work advertised on A Deed of the Pen – a ragtime-style piano piece called Hiawatha: An Indian Intermezzo.
Louis Dodge's poem, printed inside the front cover, celebrates the fact that the Louisiana Purchase added territory to the United States by a "deed of the pen," as opposed to an act of war. 19th-century Americans' faith in the idea of manifest destiny enabled them to overlook the violence their westward expansion perpetrated on the Native Americans living in the Louisiana Territory.
An example of light music, A Deed of the Pen incorporates well-known national songs from France and the United States. Listen to A Deed of the Pen at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library here. As you listen, keep your ears tuned for musical quotations from Yankee Doodle, Dixie, and La Marseillaise.