Gilmore, a cornet soloist and band leader, entertained American presidents from James Buchanan to Grover Cleveland.
"Band and politics have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning," said Hammer, who wrote a book last year titled "Gilmore - The Authorized Biography of American's First Superstar."
Gilmore immigrated in 1849 from Ireland to Canada, then Boston, where he earned a good reputation with town bands. Part of Gilmore's contracts with bands was he would schedule all the work he could find.
By 1869, his band was playing all over the East. He played for George Washington's birthday ball, in Boston events, and Virginia and North Carolina political rallies.
When Abraham Lincoln ran for president, Gilmore was on hand in Chicago for the Republican Convention, where 10,000 people gathered. Gilmore also plays for Lincoln's inauguration.
After the Civil War began, he played in cities in the North, and later joined the Massachusetts 24th Regiment, where he continued to play in the band. His band was attached to the regiment in 1861, and while Gilmore didn't hold any rank, his band was the pride of the regiment, said Hammer.
Command of the bands
Between battles, the band played in towns.
Gilmore took his band to Louisiana and was asked to take charge of all bands in the Gulf area, where he had 500 bandsmen under his command.
Gilmore's band played lots of southern songs, such as "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and "Dixie," Lincoln's favorite song. By 1856, Gilmore had sold 100,000 copies of sheet music.
Toward the end of the war, Gilmore was back in Boston and Washington, D.C., for Lincoln events. During the 1872 World's Peace Jamboree, Gilmore produced a 2,000-piece orchestra with 20,000-voice chorus.
Gilmore gained his biggest fame in communities for his constant touring of the United States, said Hammer. He also played at the World's Fair; for the Mexican president in 1876; and played 130 concerts in seven European counties in 111 days. Gilmore's band also was on hand when Grover Cleveland was elected in 1884.
"He wanted to have the greatest band in the world," said Hammer.
Some of Gilmore's music was recorded in Thomas Edison's lab.
Gilmore is buried with his wife and daughter in Old Calvary Cemetery, Long Island, N.Y. A monument was erected at the grave in 1992 by the P.S. Gilmore Society, according to Hammer, executive director of the society. Concerts in 50 states and several counties also were sponsored by the society during the centennial of Gilmore's death.
Hammer also talked about an official portrait of Gilmore that was found in New York. The portrait was damaged, and has been restored. It is in the possession of George Foreman of Danville. The portrait shows Gilmore wearing several medals, but Hammer said the famous musician apparently never earned medals while in the military. Despite his extensive research, Hammer was unable to find any information about the medals.
Music in Lincoln's time
Several musicians talked about music played during President Lincoln's time during the conference at Weisiger Theatre on the Centre College campus.
Lincoln grew up with "music in his home and heart" and was a lover of music of all kinds. Mark Elrod, a Civil War band scholar, said songs would perk up Lincoln when he was sad.
Olde Towne Brass of Huntsville, Ala., played period band music typical of Lincoln's era.
"Once, after hearing 'Dixie's Land,' Lincoln stood up and applauded and asked the band to repeat it,"Elrod said. "He always included 'Dixie' in his favorite songs."
Usually when "Dixie's Land" was played and Lincoln was present, "Yankee Doodle" was included.
More than 150 people who attended the history conference also heard Olde Towne Brass recreate a concert played for President and Mrs. Lincoln.