The Age of Paper

Music cover sheet Inside Dard Hunter's book on paper history, there's an illustration of the cover sheet of a song entitled The Age of Paper. The full-size copy of the cover sheet was on display at the Dard Hunter Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin when I visited it. (The museum materials are now in Atlanta, Georgia). The words and music were not available. A bit of a search found them at the British Library in London.

Mr. Howard Paul, attired in a suit of paper, sang this in British music halls during the 1860's. Mr. Paul was born in Philadelphia and moved to England where he acquired a degree of popularity as a journalist, author, and eventually as a theatrical performer and producer. He and his English wife appeared on the British and American stage either as a team or separately.

For perspective on the title "The Age of Paper", remember that Waters & Sons were just starting to build paper boats in Troy NY during this time. In other applications, paper seemed indeed to be taking over the world. By 1870, a Boston manufacturer claimed to be producing 75,000,000 paper shirt collars a year and Troy, NY was proclaiming itself to be "The Collar City", recognizing a thriving industry for this product. If you didn't read the Short History of Paper Boats on the entry page of this web site, and want some more perspective, this might be a good time to read at least the first part of it.

If you're interested in singing this song, I've included a couple of mp3 music files. (They may take a few seconds to load). There's an 8 measure introduction and then the words begin. There's another 4 measures after the end of the song. I think you are obliged to do a little soft shoe and some twirls, or other silliness, during the intro and ending (as in old British Music Hall.) As initially presented, Mr Howard Paul would have sung the verses, but the audience would have been expected to join in on the chorus).

(Some web browsers may have trouble with this; hopefully yours is not one of them!)

For the introduction and first verse:

& for subsequent verses: (this will loop until you stop it!)

The Words of the song:
 Of "Golden Age" do poets tell,
 The "Age of Brass" they laud as well;
 While ev'ry age hath serv'd by times
 A peg on which to hang their rhymes.
 But as the world goes rolling on,
 Strange times indeed we've chanced upon,
 For Fashions progress never lags-
 And now we're in the "Age of Rags.
  - For paper  now is all the rage
    And nothing else will suit the age.
 Each swell attired in mode extreme
 Of paper is a walking ream;
 His collar, necktie, shirt, and vest,
 Instead of starch'd are all hot press'd
 But greatest care he's forced to own,
 Being held together by paste alone;
 And should he sneeze, or start, or spring
 Twould "weally be a dreadful thing"!
  - For paper  now is all the rage
    And nothing else will suit the age.
 The ladies meet our stricken gaze,
 All paper'd round like fresh bouquets;
 And, thus attir'd they roam the streets,
 Mere paper parcels fill'd with sweets.
 But on them should a rain drop fall,
 To grief they'd come, aye! each and all,
 For of their dresses once so splash,
 There'd naught remain but papier mash !
  - For paper  now is all the rage
    And nothing else will suit the age.
 The children soon we may suppose,
 Will run about in paper clothes;
 With sealing wax each tear we'll bind,
 Then give them whacks of a different kind.
 To keep them clean no soap we'll need,
 For India rubber will do instead,
 But pinafores 'tis greatly fear'd,
 Will at the corners get dog-ear'd!
  - For paper  now is all the rage
    And nothing else will suit the age.
 In every shop one now espies
 The "last new thing" in paper ties;
 The coats of "best blue wove" are made;
 But shirts, of course, are all "cream laid."
 A paper hat should you desire,
 Or paper socks, say half a quire,
 Or "peg-tops" of the last design-
 You'll get them all for three and nine!
  - For paper  now is all the rage
    And nothing else will suit the age.
 T'is hard to say where this will stop;
 Each tailor soon must close his shop;
 And ev'ry laundress, do not doubt,
 Ere long will fairly be washed out:
 For we shall see 'midst other rigs
 Our maids deck'd out in paper wigs,
 Our ships unfurling paper sails,
 And tomcats sporting paper tails,
  - Before the world has lost its rage 
    To celebrate the PAPER AGE.

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© Ken Cupery 2011
(with exception of the song which is almost certainly public domain)