Archive Record

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Catalog Number 2000:20
Collection Robert Schmertz Songs
Object Name Papers, Personal
Title Robert Schmertz Songs
Scope & Content Written and recorded by Robert W. Schmertz (b. 1898, d. 1975) Songs originally recorded (privately?) as 78 rpm or 45 rpm singles (1960s?), then later transferred to audiocassette. Present tape was copied from private collection of Jim Corr. Vocals: Schmertz solo on all songs except for A-14. Monongahela Sal, an ensemble piece that rotates the lead among several singers, including Vivien Richman (a local folksinger and family friend), probably also Schmertz's daughters Gretchen and Anne.

Physical characteristics
Admin/Biographical History ROBERT WATSON SCHMERTZ


The Schmertz family had settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before 1840. Robert Watson Schmertz was born there March 1898. He graduated from Peabody High School and from the Department of Architecture of the College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute of Technology. As a partner in the firms of Fisher & Schmertz and Schmertz & Irwin he designed many fine homes, schools and churches in the Tri-State Area. He was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and served as member of the Art Commissions of the City of Pittsburgh and the State for many years. He taught Architectural Design at C.I.T. (now Carnegie-Mellon University) for thirty-five years and on his retirement in 1966 was named Professor Emeritus.

Bob's interest in music began in high school and developed during his undergraduate years at C.I.T. where he organized and led a dance band and wrote for the college musical, "Scotch `n' Soda". While teaching at Tech he wrote its popular school song, "Fight for the Glory of Carnegie". Bob continued to write verses for a friend's birthday or anniversary, songs in a variety of styles, musical material for the Pittsburgh Playhouse, the Architectural Club and numerous other civic and community group productions. Bob's talents in the graphic arts were also broad, ranging from precise architectural renderings to charming watercolor scenes to his amusing and distinctive cartoon style of which the illustrations in the book are an example.

Bob suffered deeply from the loss of his beloved wife, Mildred Floyd Schmertz, in 1963 as he had from the death of their elder son, Robert W. Schmertz, Jr., in a tragic accident in 1948. Their other children carry on in the family tradition, daughter, Mildred Floyd Schmertz is senior editor of the Architectural Record; Gretchen Schmertz Jacob is a teacher of fine arts and frequently performs Bob's songs in concert, often with brother John C. "Jack" Schmertz, a mechanical engineer and amateur flautist.

Bob's music is gradually gaining wider recognition. "Monongahela Sal", probably his best-known composition, is being sung over a good part of the world and is included in George Korson's book, Pennsylvania Songs and Legends. Burl Ives' recording of "Angus MacFergus MacTavish Dundee" is known to a generation of children from the "Captain Kangaroo" television show. "Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord", recorded by both Ives and Tennessee Ernie Ford, is now in a German translation which has sold a half million copies in Europe.

Perhaps above anything else Bob Schmertz enjoyed performing, always in his completely natural, relaxed and witty style. He especially enjoyed performing with a group of friends and family, for Bob was eager to share the spotlight and to encourage others particularly young people to perform. On 12 April 1975 at the age of 77 he appeared in a concert and in the next few days completed the last sketches for this book: a few weeks later he died. All the folks he encouraged to sing and the songs he made for us are his legacy.
Dates of Creation 1898-1975