Sheet music, "Cover Me up with the Sunshine of Virginia," words by Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis, music by George W. Meyer (New York, 1923)
Romantic View of Virginia
The public image of Virginia in 1945 was little different than it had been fifty years earlier. In the 1880s and 1890s Thomas Nelson Page had glorified the pre-Civil War South, especially Virginia, in a series of popular novels. More than anyone else of his generation, he was responsible for creating the stereotype of a golden age of harmonious plantation life and honorable living unstained by material concerns. At the same time, author Ellen Glasgow began a career that looked "beneath social customs, beneath the poetry of the past, and the romantic nostalgia of the present."
It was the romantic view of Virginia, however, that got into the mass popular culture of the first half of the 1900s. Many songs were written about Virginia and disseminated through sheet music. Most of them were penned along New York City's "Tin Pan Alley" by men who had never been to Virginia, but those written by Virginians were little better. In both, sentimental lyrics conjure up a Virginia of moonlight and magnolias, heavy with racial stereotyping of a degrading character, or else they were vapid compositions that could easily be retitled with the name of any state.