Irving's Canadian Series of Five Cent Music

Irving's Canadian Series of Five Cent Music. An early mass-merchandising enterprise offering cheap, octavo-sized music 'for sale by all news dealers in the dominion'. The publications were distributed by (and the later ones bore the imprint of) the Toronto News Company Ltd, of Toronto and Clifton (Niagara Falls), Ont, and the Montreal News Company Ltd, both established, ca 1880, for this and other purposes.

The manager and president of both agencies, Andrew S. Irving, was a news agent at a Hamilton, Ont, railway station before he moved to Toronto in 1862 and established himself as a news dealer, bookseller, and stationer. About 1870 he published two pocket-sized volumes of song texts, The Canadian Maple Leaf Song Book and The Canadian Rosebud Song Book.

With a few exceptions, the nearly 700 numbered items (mostly dated from 1880 to 1885) of Irving's Canadian Series were vocal music by non-Canadian composers and lacked a copyright notice. Well represented are US songwriters of the 1850s and 1860s such as Stephen Foster, Will S. Hays, George F. Root, and Henry C. Work and their British counterparts Michael W. Balfe, Claribel (Mrs Barnard), and Stephen Glover. The few Canadian items include F.J. Hatton's 'Canada' (no. 114), which had first appeared in Belford's Magazine in 1878, and Muir's 'The Maple Leaf For Ever' (no. 269).

Although the series was discontinued in the mid-1880s, the news companies remained active until after World War I. Irving's later music publications, songs by the evangelist John M. Whyte, were independent of the series.