The Sweet Song of Success

Awash in an aura of nostalgia and history, the stately grey and white two-story turn-of-the-century home sitting proudly on the grounds of the Iron County Museum in Caspian, Michigan, seemed to sing out a welcome. Strains of “I Love You Truly” played upon my memory, bringing to mind the hundreds of thousands of weddings and other special events that have been blessed with the music of Carrie Jacobs-Bond, an early Iron County resident.

“I can remember driving past this house in Iron River when I was a kid and my mom telling me it was the home of the famous composer Carrie Jacobs-Bond,” I said to my husband Jim as we walked from our car to the entrance of the museum.

“But this is Caspian, how did the house get here?” Jim asked.

“Cookies,” I stated proudly.

“Cookies? Okay, I’ll bite–what’s that supposed to mean?” Jim asked.

“The community decided the Carrie Jacobs-Bond home should become a part of the museum, but the problem was money. Moving a building like this up and down the Stambaugh hillsides would cost a small fortune. Several ladies in the area, including my mom, figured out a brilliant way to make some money. They baked cookies–each in the shape of a foot–then put on turn-of-the-century clothing, walked up and down the streets of Stambaugh and Iron River and sold the cookies for a dollar a foot,” I said.

“I guess those gals really knew how to make dough,” Jim quipped.

“They sure did . . . but they had a good example to follow . . . that of Mrs. Bond herself. She didn’t become famous overnight. It took a lot of creativity, hard work, and patient perseverance in the toughest of times,” I replied, as we entered the museum.

“How are you today?” Alice Johnson asked brightly from behind the information desk.

“We’re here to take of a tour of the Bond Home,” I announced excitedly.

“Well,” said Ellie Coles who had just stepped out of the gift shop, “you’ve come at a perfect time. It’s not too busy today and the weather is beautiful–nice and sunny if you’d like to take some pictures. We even have a tour guide for you.”

“This is Lisa Hanninen. She’ll be your guide,” Adele Baker announced as a young woman of about seventeen walked into the reception area.

“Hi,” Lisa said with a sweet welcoming smile that was as sunny as the weather and I knew we were going to have a wonderful time exploring the house which had been home to Carrie Jacobs-Bond.

“Hi!” I smiled back. “We’d like to take some photos. Do you mind if we do some shooting while were going through the house?”

“Photos! Oh no, I don’t mind at all,” she said, leading the way out of the main museum building, across the lawn to the Bond home.
“I just love her music,” I commented as we walked up the steps to the front door.
“Oh yes, her music is wonderful. It’s never gone out of style either,” Lisa said.
“A Perfect Day,” “Just A’Wearyin’ for You,” and “I Love You Truly” were my favorites. My mother, Carrie Cederna, sang solos for a lot of community programs and I accompanied her on the piano,” I reminisced, “there was hardly ever a dry eye when we performed Mrs. Bond’s songs–it was like she herself was there sharing her innermost thoughts through her stirring, oftentimes sad, melodies. What a great composer.”

“Not only was she a great composer, but she was also a strong, determined, fascinating person,” Lisa stated.

“Sounds like you like your job,” I said, delighted to see and hear her enthusiasm.

Lisa’s smile grew even broader. “I love working here! I’m on a work study program, but I’d probably come here even I didn’t get paid for it.” She opened the heavy old wooden door and motioned us to come inside.

“These old Victorian houses have such character and charm,” I exclaimed, able to see a sampling of the many rooms through the doorways that led from the foyer. Bordered by white painted woodwork, the floral bouqueted, colorfully striped, and geometrically patterned wallpaper created the perfect setting for the blue velvet and tapestry covered sofas and chairs, polished carved wood furniture, and vintage clothing belonging to Mrs. Bond.

“Especially this one,” Lisa agreed. “We can go right into the parlor.” She directed us into a room filled with memorabilia–sheet music, Mrs. Bond’s satin dresses, and a gold gilded framed portrait of the composer. “This is where she wrote, played, and sang her music,” Lisa went on, pointing to the black baby grand piano and an old oak organ illuminated by the afternoon sun pouring in through the bay windows.

Bathed in sunlight and silence the room seemed, still, to be filled with the songs and voices of the past. I imagined I could hear the words, drifting through the years–Carrie and her husband Dr. Frank Lewis Bond engaged in conversation…an argument…

“A woman’s place is in the home,” thundered young Dr. Bond of Iron River, Michigan to his determined wife Carrie in 1895. Normally a kind, caring sympathetic husband, he’d been shocked by Carrie’s startling request.

He loved to hear her sweetly sing and play on her piano the little tunes she made up in her head. He’d been supportive of her flirtation with music–even encouraging her to write down some of the songs she sang for him, and him alone. And this was the thanks he got! Carrie Jacobs-Bond, his own dear wife, wanted to venture away from their secure little home, go off to the city, and try to sell her tunes to a Chicago publisher. It was enough to make a man crazy.

“Carrie, this idea of yours is preposterous. You’ve got to forget all about it,” Frank Bond said. “Please sit down at your piano dear and play a tune for your dear husband. Please.”

“I’ll be glad to play for you dear,” she said, “but it is a shame not to share these songs with others.” She sat at the piano and softly rippled her fingers over the keys, then sang of the birds and flowers she loved so well. “Besides,” Carrie whispered, slowly spinning ’round on the piano stool to face Dr. Bond, “we need the money.”

Dr. Bond didn’t answer. There was nothing more to say. He had lost what little money he had on his ill-timed mining investments. And, anyway, this woman would do what she proposed regardless of what he said. He slowly rose and walked to her, extending his hand. She grasped his fingers in hers and pulled herself up to stand even with him. They both knew that she was going to Chicago. This love of theirs was as strong a bond as any young couple could hope for. In a fond embrace, they looked into each others eyes and knew–together–they could conquer any barriers that might keep Carrie from following her dreams…

“Carrie Jacobs-Bonds said the happiest years of her life were spent here in Iron County,” Lisa’s voice interrupted my daydreams. “You know her husband died when he was only thirty seven years old.”

I remembered the tragic story. Dr. Bond had been called out to assist an ailing patient. On his way along the slippery streets of Iron River, he passed a playful group of children, throwing snow and sliding on the frozen walkways. One of them laughingly approached him, gave him a push, and sent him skidding on the ice, the result of which was to rock the little town with grief. Dr. Bond fell, struck the back of his head, and lingered in fever and pain for five days before he died, leaving Carrie a widow–alone and nearly penniless with a young son to support.

But the Chicago trip, Dr. Bond had agreed to let Carrie take, had produced a beginning to her musical career. While she hadn’t earned a large income from the sales of the few songs she’d sold, she had proved to herself she could be successful.

Carrie moved to Chicago where she thought she might make a living renting out rooms to medical students, but her expenses outweighed her income and she had to move to smaller quarters. She took a room for fifteen dollars a month. To keep hunger from her and her son’s door she was willing to do any honest respectable work. She took in sewing, sold hand-painted china, and gave musical recitals about the city. It was hardly enough to support a young woman and child, but she was determined to succeed.

While she worked at jobs that would put food on the table and pay the rent, she continued to write music and lyrics. Little by little she began to sell her songs, and then decided to try her hand at publishing. She opened her first “music store” in the hall bedroom of her tiny apartment keeping her stock of printed sheet music in a side closet. Though public interest was satisfying, she found herself in debt, but instead of panicking, she took out a loan to pay off her bills and open a larger store. Thus, the famous Chicago Bond Shop was founded and eventually became an international sheet music distributor.

Though her music business flourished, Carrie Jacobs-Bond continued to perform her songs for recitals and concerts. She shared the stage in London with the Great Caruso, had among her admirers Madame Schumann-Heink and Sarah Bernhardt, and was invited by President Harding to sing at the White House. Lullabies, love songs, and sacred hymns–her melodies of the heart were applauded universally.

Mrs. Bond eventually moved from Chicago to Hollywood, California where she found a beloved wooded hillside retreat that, like the U.P. offered her sanctuary with the birds, trees, and flowers she loved and which inspired her to write the musical pieces that have grown even more precious through the years. A prolific composer, she continued writing music throughout her eighty-five years of life, composing nearly sixty compositions between the ages of forty-eight and fifty-six.

“And finally,” Lisa said, “here are some pictures of the Bond home being moved from Iron River to Caspian.” She picked up a cookie in the shape of a foot. “Do you know what this is?” she asked.

“Yes,” I looked at Jim and smiled, “my mother was one of the people who helped bake and sell those cookies. Lisa, you’ve been great. Thanks so much for the really entertaining tour and your patience with our photography.”

“Oh, you’re welcome. It was fun talking to you. It seems like you have a lot of memories about Mrs. Bond and her music,” she answered.

“I do.” I smiled, remembering my eighth grade graduation from Couzen School in Stambaugh.

…It was a beautiful sunny day in June 1953. The girls, dressed in a rainbow of pastel organdy dresses, and the boys, miraculously well-groomed and sporting white shirts, dark pants, and ties had just finished singing “A Perfect Day.” Seated, we fidgeted and waited for Miss Lottie Wymore, our stern white-haired, bespectacled principal, to deliver her commencement address.

“Let the song you have just sung stay in your hearts forever. Let the melody linger to remind you of this great woman, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, who let nothing stand in her way of success. Let her life be an excellent example you follow. Never let anything stop you from reaching for your highest goals. Believe in yourself. Take the risk to be great. Remember, if you do nothing, no one will criticize. But if you move forward with your dreams, you just may succeed!”

By Coralie Cederna Johnson and reprinted from Peninsula People Magazine.

Sources: “Carrie Jacobs-Bond” by Marcia A. Bernhardt for the Iron County Museum, 1978.

“Songs Everybody Sings,” Carrie Jacobs-Bond, The Boston Music Co.


  1. I remember passing the home daily as a young boy when I walked with my grandfather on his way to work at the Outlet Store. I remember my grandmother Carrie Cederna making and selling the cookies. It was a little disappointing to see the empty lot where the home had once stood, as it was such a familiar site with the small wooden sign hanging on the porch announcing “The Home of Carrie Jacobs Bond”, but now I see that the move has kept the home and the memories alive and secure at the Iron County Museum. Oh yeh, nice story Mom!

  2. Thanks for sharing your memories, Paul! I, too, can still see Carrie Jacobs Bond’s home sitting on that corner lot in Iron River, Michigan. The Iron County Historical Museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the history of Carrie Jacobs Bond, her life and her home. A visit to the museum is a must for anyone traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Directions to the museum (per their website): Brady at Museum Road, Caspian, Michigan 49915 (2 miles off U.S.2 at Iron River, Michigan. Mailing address: Iron County Historical Museum, PO Box 272, Caspian, MI 49915.

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