David Edwin (1776-1841)
Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)

Engraving, c. 1798


Boglewood: 2608
Wick 58



Source image:
Gilbert Stuart
Oil on canvas (1796)

Behold the Chief who now commands!

Version I:  As shown.  Collection:  Library of Congress.

Published in:  Joseph Hopkinson, The Favorite New Federal Song Adapted to the Presidents March (Philadelphia: Carr, 1798).

Notes:  The image of George Washington is separately engraved and then pasted within the title to the sheet music.  Initially, an engraved portrait of the incumbent president, John Adams, was used for the purpose, but Washington's likeness was substituted after he agreed in July 1798 to come out of retirement and lead American forces in an anticipated war with France. As a result, some copies of the sheet music exist with each of the two presidents.  Moreover, the Washington likeness exists in several varieties (see Boglewood 2607).  In addition, in some cases (as in Boglewood 2607) the sheet music itself is sometimes found with an image of an eagle and sunburst engraved within the center of the music title, in addition to the pasted-on portrait.
     The song, "Hail Columbia," was premiered 24 April 1798 and immediately became a national success.  In sending a copy of it to George Washington on 9 May 1798, the lyric writer, Joseph Hopkinson, wrote, "As to the song it was a hasty composition, and can pretend to very little extrinsic merit--yet I believe its public reception has at least equalled anything of its kind.  The theatres here and at New York have resounded with it night after night; and men and boys in the street sing it as they go."

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