by Tony Ciarriocco
Striking a Chord emphasizes some of the great music-related artifacts in the Homestead Museum collection.
One of the earliest memories I have is of my mother telling me to “Pay attention!” That message was repeated by teachers, coaches, Army sergeants and work supervisors over the course of my life. Adherence to that admonition proved very helpful one day at the Homestead Museum.
I was a tour assistant one day, trailing guests through the Music Practice room of La Casa Nueva, when I noticed the sheet music that was placed on the Chickering piano. The song was “I Love You Truly” written by Carrie Jacobs-Bond. The music publishing company was shown as Carrie Jacobs-Bond & Son.
Why did museum staff display this particular piece of sheet music? Was there something special about the song or composer? My interest was piqued and I decided to find out who Carrie Jacobs-Bond was.
Carrie Minetta Jacobs was born in Wisconsin and came from a family with a musical heritage.
Her distant cousin, John Howard Payne, wrote “Home Sweet Home.” The tragedies in her life began with the death of her father who died when she was just a child, leaving the family with financial difficulties.
While in her early twenties, Carrie gave birth to her only child, Frederick Jacobs Smith. Her brief marriage to her first husband, Edward Smith, ended in divorce. Later she married Dr. Frank Lewis Bond and supplemented her family income with her musical talents by teaching piano and composing music. Dr. Bond died tragically in an accident, leaving his small family in debt. Meanwhile, Carrie continued to write music and decided to move to Chicago to be closer to music publishers. Finding it difficult to make headway in the male dominated music publishing business, Carrie formed her own publishing company, becoming one of the few women to control her own work.
Success came to Carrie with her song, “I Love You Truly,” which sold over one million copies of sheet music. Carrie eventually performed this popular song in the White House. The song was also featured in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as Bert and Ernie serenaded George and Mary Bailey on their wedding day.
While visiting California in 1910, Carrie wrote “A Perfect Day” while staying at the Mission Inn in Riverside. She was inspired by the setting sun shining on Mt. Rubidoux. (The Mission Inn still has a Carrie Jacobs-Bond Suite available for guests.) Two years later, the song was featured in the songbook aboard the ill-fated RMS Titanic. “A Perfect Day” eventually sold about 25 million copies of sheet music, her most popular song. This song was also featured in the movie, “Remember the Night,” sung by the actor Sterling Holloway, perhaps better known as the voice of Winnie the Pooh.
Like many others, Carrie moved to California for medical reasons, given the pain of her rheumatism. She remained actively involved in writing and performing music and was an early supporter of the group that created the Hollywood Bowl.
Tragedy struck Carrie again in 1929 when her son took his life. His body was discovered at a home in Lake Arrowhead with “A Perfect Day” playing on the phonograph.
Shortly after Christmas in 1946, Carrie suffered a heart attack in her Hollywood home and died. She is interred in the Court of Honor at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
This simple artifact was my ticket to a wonderful journey through the life of a special person.