[“Broadside” Billy-Boy Crime Kidnapping Sheet Music].
“A little school boy hastened / he heard the school bell ring / The class was soon assembled / no thought of danger there”
Remarkable sheet music concerning the real-life kidnapping case of “Billy” Whitla—Billy-Boy the Kidnapped Child. The sheet music’s stunning cover is presented as a strange hybrid of pictorial sheet music and a crime broadside or reward poster.
Surrounding a half tone image of Billy and his mother is a detailed physical description of the boy and the clothes he was last seen wearing when was abducted in Sharon, Pennsylvania near the Ohio border: “This is an exact life-size photo of “Billy” Whitla just as he was dress when he was taken from school.” This is followed by the offer of a “$1000.00 Reward” from the Scripps-McRae League, the first modern newspaper chain.
Not only does a sensational kidnapping help sell newspapers, but it also is fodder for sheet music, a medium that was always in need of fresh, contemporary content. That its cover should resemble a broadside is very clever marketing. An affecting musical chorus also pulls on the heartstrings:
I want to go home to my mamma / Oh won’t you please take me away / I want my dear daddy to hear me / when I kneel down to pray
I know that they both will be grieving / they heard not his pleading cry / I’m so lonely alone / won’t you please take me home where they call me their sweet Billy Boy
The lyrics also mention the $10,000 asked for Billy’s return and Pat O’Reilly who “...brought to justice those who caused sweet Billy Boy to cry.” James Boyle was later convicted of kidnapping Billy. Additional music printed here includes the song “I Love Thee My Irish Home.”
Description: [“Broadside” Billy-Boy Crime Kidnapping Sheet Music].
Billy-Boy the Kidnapped Child. Cleveland, O.: Bee Key Music Co., (1909). 6pp. Sheet Music. Bifolium with inserted leaf. Pictorial cover with half tone illustration; printed by “Schubert Co., Lith[ographers]. Cleveland, O.” Light handling and brief separations at head and tail of spine; a few short closed tears in fore-edge margin; very good.
No copies in OCLC. Not in the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins.