In 1937 Irving Caesar published the first collection of songs for children. Called Sing a Song of Safety, the 21 songs included in the collection were intended for use in classrooms across the country to teach children about the potential dangers of everything from crossing the street to playing with matches. Caesar claimed the idea had come to him as he gazed out the window of his office, watching children walk along the streets, blithely disregarding traffic and the warning shouts of their mothers.
Generations of children grew up listening to these songs and learning the lessons the songs imparted. New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia distributed the songs in New York City public school classrooms. Caesar appeared in a weekly radio show that featured these songs.
The composition of the Songs of Safety garnered Caesar accolades from across the country. Lancaster, Pennsylvania celebrated “Irving Caesar Safety Day,” and Caesar even received a letter from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt thanking him for his service.
The Songs of Safety were followed by two other collections: Songs of Friendship in 1946 and the Songs of Health in 1947. Gerald Marks composed the music for both collections. The Songs of Friendship, which promoted tolerance and understanding of different cultures, were inspired by the creation of the United Nations. Caesar initially offered the Songs of Friendship to the federal government for use in schoolrooms. When the government passed on the offer, the songs were published by the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith. For these songs, too, Caesar received recognition from former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He performed the Songs of Friendship for Roosevelt, Nelson Rockefeller, and UN Secretary General Trygve Lie, among other distinguished guests.
In addition, Caesar is the composer of the official musical setting for the “Pledge of Allegiance” and has written songs for the U.S. Postal Service and the Internal Revenue Service.