Music halls were a popular entertainment of the 1890s. They even became … gasp, horror! respectable.
In those pre-radio days you also had phonograph recordings and sheet music. Howeveryou heard the songs, they did become hits. And have lived on [see “The Streets of Cairo” as an example of how snippets were incorporated into more recent songs.]
Sometimes they were patriotic, as with the Spanish-American War. Other times they were achingly sentimental. What astonishes me is how they’ve endured. I’m not that old, and I can sing (badly) the chorus to the famously popular, After the Ball.
In Australia we had bush ballads. [You know, researching this has made me realise how many old songs I know. Click Go the Shears for instance. I’m going to blame the old sheet music kicking around the family home when I was a kid.]
The thing about music is it conjures up time and place. I love threading it through a steampunk story.
And you know what I really miss … according to Dad, Granddad used to have a pianola. Though nothing this grand. Now, that would have been a great steampunk-ish inheritance 🙂