The publication of folio-size sheets of American popular music dates to the late 18th century, but the practice didn't pick up steam until the 1830s, '40s, and '50s. That's when upright pianos first began to find their way into the parlors and salons of U.S. homes. Artists who produced sheet music covers early in their careers before going on to acclaim for their oil paintings include Fitz Henry Lane, Winslow Homer, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
The Civil War was a productive period for popular music compositions and also for beautifully lithographed title pages, most of them published in the North. There are also many Confederate music publications to collect—the war-based and illustrated pieces are generally of most interest. Though paper quality in the South was generally poor, all Southern sheet music is hard to find and desirable.
But the truly widespread popularity of sheet music in the United States in the late-19th and early-20th centuries coincided with the proliferation of domestically produced pianos...
The hub of sheet-music publishing was in New York City on West 28th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway, a stretch that became known as Tin Pan Alley. For a while, the publishers grouped there were essentially printing money—one 1892 hit, “After the Ball” sold two-million copies in its first year alone. “Sidewalks of New York” was published in 1894, “The Band Played on” in 1895, and “Hello! Ma Baby” in 1899.
Vintage sheet music is fascinating to collectors not only for its range of subjects, but for its entertaining cover graphics, featuring everything from pastoral landscapes to city street scenes. As such, they are snapshots, albeit romanticized ones, of life at the turn of the 20th century.
Other people collect sheet music less for the imagery on their covers as the songwriters associated with a particular tune. Scott Joplin compositions such as “Maple Leaf Rag” are popular, as are those by George M. Cohan (“Give My Regards To Broadway”), Irving Berlin (“Alexander’s Ragtime Band”), and George Gershwin (“Swanee”).
Then, just as the piano had created a demand for sheet music, two inventions, followed by the Depression, brought the glory years of the medium to an end. The first was the introduction of the phonograph, especially the Victrola, which was all the rage in the early 1920s. By the end of that decade, though, radios meant people could get their entertainment without lifting a finger, let alone having to gather around the family piano to sing along to sheet music.
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Casino bosses transform Sin City into Club CityMiamiHerald.com, May 24th
Waves of electronic dance music grow louder with each downward step toward a pulsating, football field-sized club where lasers cut the air above thousands of dancers. The revelers take their cues from the famous DJs onstage who are known to surf the...Read more
Retro Roundup's New York City notesThe Suburban Newspaper, May 24th
Colony Records, which had been around for some 70 years, not only sold (hugely) overpriced CDs and records, but lots of vintage sheet music as well. Retro Roundup's last New York hope for great music selection has been J & R Music World, which has had...Read more
MYSTERY SHOPPER: ReadingmiPRO, May 24th
Just a few minutes walk from Reading's central train station, Hickies is two floors of well-displayed gear ranging from violins, brass and woodwind to guitars, ukuleles and keyboards, as well as a wide range of DVDs and sheet music. After a few minutes...Read more
Singing Songs in the Key of LALA Magazine (blog), May 23rd
Sifting through the Central Library's 50,000-item sheet music collection, Kun and his students culled hundreds of songs from the 1840s through the 1950s that had a local connection. Among them is 1913's “I Love You, California,” written by lyricist...Read more
Pop-Up Magazine's "The Song Reader Issue" Celebrates Music Written ...KQED, May 22nd
Monday night's "Song Reader Issue" was inspired by Beck's Song Reader, a collection of sheet music written by Beck and published by McSweeneys. The print edition of Song Reader is a beautiful assemblage of neo-vintage sheet music for songs written by...Read more
Fine Line holds reception for opening exhibitGreen Bay Press Gazette, May 22nd
Her latest “Songbird” series shows a mixed-media side of Goggio's technique, using vintage sheet music to literally “compose” the birds. A number of her Songbird works are in cast resin, too. Wheeler's oil paintings reflect the scenes and people in her...Read more
Calendar Of EventsBurnaby Now, May 22nd
Donations are welcome, and will go towards buying sheet music for 40 people. SATURDAY, MAY 25 Festival features a colorful parade, a vintage car show, and a street festival featuring food, music, and fun for all ages. Event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p...Read more
Yard sale treasures in ClearmontMaryville Daily Forum, May 20th
There was also a sampling of vintage music paraphernalia, such as a bound collection of sheet music from 1948 featuring early hits by legendary country and western singer Ernest Tubb. Faye Smith said the couple's collecting days have largely come to an...Read more