Root & Cady was created by Ebenezer Towner Root (1822-1996) and Chauncey Marvin Cady (1824-1889) on December 24, 1858 in Chicago.
Because the Civil War started three years after the firm was established, it contributed to much of its success. Root & Cady published Song Messenger of the Northeast, a monthly music publication that contained information about the music industry, music education, and sheet music. Not only was the firm publishing music about the war, but it also continued publishing music related to other subjects. George Root wrote “The First Gun is Fired! May God Protect the Left” about the Battle of Fort Sumter immediately after the war, and Root & Cady had it in print three days later. The speed of the company helped to make George Root successful during the war. Root & Cady’s music sold throughout the eastern United States, and the firm also sold instruments to the Union Army. Root & Cady also helped to create a band for the 19th Illinois Infantry by recruiting musicians and equipping them with instruments and music. The band had twenty-two members by late October of 1861. In 1862, George Root’s music book, The Silver Lute, was published by Root & Cady and became extremely successful. Because of its success, the firm started publishing books on musical methods.
Root & Cady’s most popular songs sold very well. Below are some of their most successful songs, along with the number of copies sold.
1862- Kingdom Coming (by Henry Clay Work): 75,000
1862- Battle Cry of Freedom, in sheet form: 100,000
1862- Battle Cry of Freedom, in book form: 250,000
1863- Vacant Chair: nearly 100,000
1864- Just Before Battle, Mother: 100,000
1865- Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!: 150,000 (Episein 48)
Although the songs were written for a Union audience, several of Root & Cady’s most popular pieces were rewritten for a Confederate audience. These songs included: “The Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Just Before Battle Mother,” “Mother.” “Kingdom Coming,” “The Vacant Chair,” and “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!”
The war not only helped the firm to grow in name, but also helped to create financial success. The return for 1864 was as follows:
- M. Cady- $8,965
- T. Root- $9,154
- F. Root- $10,188
- M. Higgins- $3,701 (Epistein 52).
From the start of the firm until 1865, its headquarters was at 95 Clark Street in Chicago, but in May of 1865 it moved to the Crosby Opera House at 67 Washington Street. Although the war had ended, the firm continued to publish music about the conflict.
On October 9, 1871, Root & Cady’s buiding was destroyed due to what is now called the Great Chicago Fire. Although some music and papers were stored in vaults, they were still destroyed. The losses for the company were enormous. The partners decided on October 24 to dissolve the firm and create two new firms. Ebenezer Root, Cady, and William Lewis continued to work under the name Root & Cady. They sold instruments, music merchandise, and music books. George Root, William Root, Frederick Root and Charles Root opened “George F. Root & Sons” and sold sheet music and music books for several years. In 1873, Cady left Chicago, prompting Root & Cady to become Root & Lewis. In 1875, George F. Root & Sons Merged with John Church & Company. After that, the two firms merged yet again with other companies, but continued to sell music of all kinds.