Sounds to establish a corps: The origins of the United States Marine Band, 1798-1804

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Jeffersonian rise to power in 1801 ushered in sweeping political changes for the United States of America. It also focused attention on the newly established United States Marine Corps, as a group of hostile Congressmen sought to audit the service, dismiss many of its officers and do away with the executive function of its commandant. But Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was also a supporter of the new capital's growing cultural life, and no organization better defined the connection between music and the federal government than the United States Marine Band. While this ensemble was not officially authorized by Congress until 1861, Commandant William Ward Burrows had already transformed his small group of sanctioned field musicians into an ensemble that could provide ceremonial and entertainment music for Washington, DC. This article traces the earliest history of the Marine Band, documents its development from eighteenth-century signalling traditions and suggests the ways in which its presence in the capital helped to stem the growing Republican tide against the Marine Corps itself.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-132
Number of pages18
JournalEighteenth-Century Music
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of 'Sounds to establish a corps: The origins of the United States Marine Band, 1798-1804'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this