Wonderland Music

Wonderland was built before the Internet, before Television, before Radio, almost before widespread use of the Phonograph. Songs and Jingles are a very effective medium to advertise an amusement enterprise — far more effective than newspaper advertisements, handbills,, or posters. But how do you broadcast your advertising music to the public at a time before there was an effective medium for it?

The answer was to have composers come up with songs and have them played by the Cadet Band at the park, with singers in the Arcus Ring or the daily Parade singing them. Then they sold inexpensive copies of the sheet music. It was hoped that people would take it home and, in fits of nostalgia, play it on the their own pianos and sing along. This would make them want to return, and would broadcast the message to friends and neighbors.

There were at least three Wonderland songs, coming out in different years and promoting the big attractions for each year.

1906 — Wonderland (Waltz)

The 1906 Wonderland song was written by Thomas S. Allen and dedicated to Gladys Eulalie Thompson, the daughter of Floyd C. Thompson, the Park’s General Manager. Here are the lyrics:

There’s a city of sights for the midsummer nights

And it’s down at Wonderland Park

When the evening draws near take a car for Revere

It’s the only place after dark.

You can take your best girl for a “Whirl on the Whirl”

And she’ll tell you it’s simply sublime

You will have to admit that the place is the “hit”

Of the good old summertime.


Wonderland, Wonderland, that’s the place to be

Every night when I call on my steady

She says to me

“Let’s take a trolley ride to the ocean side,

Where the shining lights are grand.”

If you want to make good as a real lover should

You should take her to Wonderland

Any night of the week if for pleasure you seek

Take a trip to Wonderland Park

On the peaceful Lagoon on a boat you can spoon,

It’s the only place for a lark.

When they’re “Fighting the Flames” then my girl will say, “James!

It’s as good as the St. Louis Fair.”

I’ll be down at the park just as soon as it’s dark

Ev’ry night you’ll find me there.


The song manages to name the “Whirl the Whirl” ride, the Lagoon, and the “Fighting the Flames” attraction, and compare Wonderland Park to the 1904 St. Louis Fair, which also featured a “Fighting the Flames” show and a Shoot the Chutes going into a Lagoon — in fact, it was the very same Shoot the Chutes ride, which Wonderland purchased from the St. Louis Exposition. It also told listeners that they could get to Wonderland by train (“take a car” means a train car, not an automobile. And the “trolley” also refers to the Narrow Gauge Railroad that ran up Revere Beach).

You can listen to the piano music here

(The music features a brief introduction, the first stanza, and the chorus, repeated twice. My thanks to Riccardo Gresino for interpreting the sheet music on piano.)

If you want to know what it sounded like in 1906, sung with full orchestra accompaniment, you can listen to a recording here. The recording is from the collection at the University of California at Santa Barbara. (There is also a wax cylinder recording at Syracuse University)

Harry Tally (1866-1939), a popular tenor and recording star active from 1902 until 1917

Harry Lee Tally

The words and music were written by Thomas S. Allen (1876-1919), a prolific Boston-area composer, lyricist, manager, and violinist.

Thomas S. Allen

1907 — Just Take Me Down to Wonderland (March)

The music and the lyrics are again by Thomas S. Allen. This time the song is dedicated to Master Harold L. Perry, the young son of Wonderland’s new Assistant General Manager, now that Thompson was no longer associated with Wonderland.

Here are the lyrics:

Let’s all be merry

Jump on the ferry

We’ll go to Wonderland

Lights shining brightly

Crowds gather nightly

Down where the sights are grand

We’ll ride the ponies

They are no phonies

We’ll hear the brass band play

Wonderland, Wonderland

That makes my heart feel gay


Just take me down to Wonderland

Down on the old North Shore

Every time I get inside the gates

I don’t want to go home any more

Let’s have a cottage built for two

Right on the ocean sand

I want to be

Down by the sea

Just take me to Wonderland

I take my girlie

We’re always early

Down by the ocean side

I am no boaster

But there’s a coaster

And it’s a grand old ride

Divers in motion

Under the ocean

That is a sight to see

Wonderland, Wonderland

You’ve made a hit with me


You can listen to the music here:

(The music features a brief introduction, the first stanza, and the chorus, repeated twice. My thanks to Riccardo Gresino for interpreting the sheet music on piano.)

There was a 1907 recording made of this song, as well, sung by the very popular tenor Billy Murray (1877 – 1954) . Unfortunately no music file is available online. The information from the University of California at Sanra Barbara on the recording is here.

Billy Murray

Again, the lyrics manage to point out how to get to Wonderland, and tell you some of the sights. you “hop on the ferry” because this was before there were railroad tunnels under the Charles River. You took a ferry from Boston over to East Boston, where the Narrow Gauge railroad could take you to Revere and Wonderland. The bright and colorful lights at night were a big draw, as were the Cadet Band and the Waverly Orchestra that played that year in the Ballroom. “We’ll ride the ponies” because they put in a new pony cart track in the space where Kennedy’s Wild West Show had been the previous year. “Divers in motion under the ocean, that’s a sight to see” is the new Under the Sea attraction, featuring a glass-walled water tank in which Fred A. Wallace and his associates cavorted in diving suits. The attraction was new for 1907, replacing what had been the Fatal Wedding.

1908 — Wonderland, That’s the Place for Me!

The song for 1908 was a departure from the songs of the first two years. For the first time it was not written by Thomas S. Allen and published by Walter Jacobs. This time it was written by Albert Lincoln”Bert” Potter (1874-1930, active 1904-1917) and published by G.W. Setchell. I can find no picture of Mr. Potter. There is no dedication of this song to any child of a Wonderland executive. Here are the lyrics:

There’s a place that is near to the city

Where we go in the bright Summer time

The girls are so pretty, dainty and witty

And you meet them all down the line.

It’s a place where they all like to linger,

But its beauties you can’t understand;

Till you’ve taken a trip on the trolley,

And landed at Wonderland.


            Wonderland, Wonderland, that’s the place for me.

            ‘Tis there we go when the breezes blow by the deep, blue sea.

            Wonderland with its big brass band,

            That’s where I long to be.

            The sights are grand at Wonderland,

            That’s the place for me.

Ev’ry girl in the world has a fellow

And the fellows they all have their girls

They all like to squeeze them, fondle and tease them

And call them their dear little pearl

When they look in your eyes with a longing

You will certainly then understand;

That there’s only one place you can take them,

And that place is Wonderland.


You can listen to the music here

(The music features a brief introduction, the first stanza, and the chorus, repeated twice. My thanks to Riccardo Gresino for interpreting the sheet music on piano.)

This time there are no references to the new attractions at Wonderland. The lyrics mention getting there by trolley, and they mention the “big brass band” that was a daily feature at Wonderland, but that’s about all — not very effective advertising. I attribute this lack of 1908 specifics to the fact that it was a new songwriter and distributor. Perhaps that also explains the lack of a contemporary recording. Observe, too, that the image on the cover doesn’t even attempt to depict the actual Wonderland. It’s a generic domed amusement park, and the only point it has in common with the actual Wonderland is the presence of the water of the Lagoon. But at that time, the existence of a splashdown lagoon for the Shoot the Chutes ride was virtually a given for any amusement park.

the Wikipedia page on Potter mentions no works by him between 1907 and 1912, which is odd since this piece is definitely dated 1908. The discrepancy appears to be due to something I can’t explain. Although “Wonderland, That’s the Place for Me!” was copyrighted in 1908, it was not done so in the name of Albert Potter. Instead, it is attributed to Armando Seppelli.

This is not a case of a pseudonym. Armando Seppelli (1860 – 19??) was a real and distinct musician, a composer and conductor of the Ellis Opera Company of Boston.

What connection Seppelli and Potter had with each other, and with the G.W. Setchell company, I have no idea.

This was , as far as I am aware, the last Wonderland publicity song written. 1908 was the last big year of the Park, and at the end of the 1908 season Wonderland found itself broke. They avoid foreclosure by some financial sleight-of-hand, but the Park had to become very austere in its operations for the next two years. Circus performances were replaced by cheaper vaudeville acts, many rides and attractions were shuttered (including, for one year, the Infant Incubators), no Big Name Acts were hired, and there was no extra money for fripperies such as custom music.

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