"The Missouri Harmony" was the most popular of all frontier tunebooks, with a history going back to 1820, when singing master Allen Carden introduced it into his St. Louis school. The 185 selections in "The Missouri Harmony", compiled from earlier tunebooks, were old favorites used in churches and singing schools which sometimes convened in taverns. Abraham Lincoln and his sweetheart, Ann Rutledge, are said to have sung from "The Missouri Harmony" at her father's tavern in New Salem, Illinois. Shirley Bean points out in her introduction the importance of tunebooks and frontier singing schools in teaching Americans to read music."The Missouri Harmony", continuing the European tradition of shaped notes, contained the largest collection of compositions for congregations and choirs. Carden included thirty-seven fuguing tunes, among them 'Lenox' and 'Sherburne'. The Supplement, added in the seventh edition in 1835, contains twenty-three hymn tunes, four choral numbers, a sacred song, and a duet; Isaac Watts was the author of most of the texts. This Bison Book edition duplicates the 1846 reprint of the popular ninth edition, which first came out in 1840.
Shirley Bean's introduction provides a historical framework that will be welcomed not only by scholars but also by the modern shape-note singing community. Dr. Bean is an assistant professor at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri - Kansas City.