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 after the Civil War. Up to that point, piano-making had been a labor-intensive craft practiced only by highly skilled workers. Instituting mass-production techniques, U.S. manufacturers transformed this artisan enterprise into a business. By the end of the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of pianos a year were produced, and every single one of them required many more times its number in printed sheet music.

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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Remember Eddie Cochran

Remember Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran died in 1960 at the age of 21, but his legacy lives on at Remember Eddie Cochran. The site pays tribu… [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Blog

Ephemera Blog

Marty Weil's wide-ranging, in-depth blog on ephemera, including lots of great interviews with ephemera collectors. … [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Society of America

Ephemera Society of America

Great reference on ephemera... includes examples and descriptions of various ephemera categories, selected special … [read review or visit site]

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Wish you'd visited San Francisco in the late 1960s? Get a quick hit with this comprehensive collection of psychedel… [read review or visit site]

Dylanstubs.com

Dylanstubs.com

Hey babe, check out this database of over 2,900 Bob Dylan ticket stubs and concert posters, assembled with the help… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Jules Cheret (1836-1932) Original Lithograph Ta-ra-ra-boum Sheet Music - Rare!Elvis Presley - One Sided Love Affair - Original Uk Sheet Music - 1956Daddy Swiped Our Last Clean Sheet And Joined The Ku Klux Klan, Music,kkkThe Beatles "sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" Original 1967 Sheet MusicThe Beatles "sun King" Original 1969 Sheet MusicRare Authentic Signed Foo Fighters Sheet Music - Genuine Collectors AutographsThe Beatles "not A Second Time" Original 1963 Sheet MusicElvis Presley - I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine Original Uk Sheet Music1954Elvis Presley - Like A Baby - Original Uk Sheet Music - 1960Elvis Presley - My Wish Came True - Original Uk Sheet Music - 1957Lot Of 17 Beginner/easy Piano Songbooks, Instruction Books And Sheet MusicJamberry Nail Wraps Lot ~ 2 Half Sheets ~ Rhapsody – Sheet Music10 Original Issue (?) Scott Joplin Sheet Music - Read Description1903 Vintage Teddy Roosevelt Our Hero Political Sheet Music Very Rare1861 Lone Star Or Secession Polka Sheet Music Civil War Confederate Macon, GaBlack Americana 4 Songs Vintage Sheet Music See Pics ListJohn Lennon "well, Well, Well" Original 1970 Sheet MusicLocale California Olympics Sports Sheet Music Olympic 1932 March Song1863 "how Are You Green-backs" Dan Bryant Sheet MusicVintage Lot Of 242 Pieces Of Sheet Music Mashed Potatoes Rag Sheet Music By C. L. Woolsey Also Peroxide & Poison RagJoan Of Arc's Answer - Wwi 1918 Sheet Music - Ded. Fatherless Children Of FranceLocale California Sheet Music 1928 California And You BearFirst Publication Of Abc Song Sheet Music 1838 "the Schoolmaster" Rare!Stewin' De Rice Sheet Music-black Americana By Perry Bradford1889 Johnstown Flood Sheet Music "peerless Rider March " By Harry J Lincoln 1925Santa's Workshop Wilmington Ny Sheet Music 1950 North Pole Town1951 Rare Harpo Marx "guardian Angels" Piano Vocal Ukulele Sheet MusicThe Rat Pack "ain't That A Kick In The Head" Sheet Music Sinatra Oceans 11Lot Of Military Sheet Music ~army Air Corps Navy Wws 1 & 2 Coast Guard ~16 Songs1911 Vintage Detroit Riverview Belle Isle Electric Amusement Park Sheet Music1899 Vintage Blooming Belle Old Kentucky Cake Walk Black Americana Sheet MusicLocale California Sheet Music 1927 Westwood Collegiate Fox TrotVintage Beatles August 1966 Tour From London Program & "love Me Do" Sheet MusicThe English Organist - Book 1 - Organ - Sheet Music BookYamaha Flute 221 & Hisonic Flute Signature + Music Stand + Books + Sheet MusicBarry Manilow Signed Sheet Music "one Voice" With Publicity 8 X 10 - No Reserve!We Conquer Or Die Confederate Sheet Music 1861 Civil War James Pierpont Macon GaThe Beatles Original Sheet Music Maxwell's Silver Hammer Northern Songs 1969 FabLocale California Automobile Car Train Aviaition Sheet Music 1923 To California Very Rare Vtg Retro 2 Beatles Choral Sheet Music Taste Of Honey Yellow SubmarineArthur Pryor Sheet Music 1906 The Baby ParadeTamboo (montuno In E Minor) - Charles Magnante - Accordion - Sheet MusicElvis Presley - Santa Claus Is Back In Town - Original Uk Sheet Music - 1957Original 1966 "over Under Sideways Down" The Yardbirds Jeff Beck Usa Sheet Music1922 Black Americana Blues Jazz Hot Lips Armstrong Sheet Music Trumpet BusseJune Bugs Dance - 1888 Instrumental Sheet Music W/ Color Illus. Insect Orchestra1985 Dino Regal Reign Piano Sheet Music Book35 Movie/musical Sheet Music Lot 1930s-60s Astaire Van Dyke Crosby HayworthLocale California Sheet Music 1930 University Of San Francisco Victory SongJackie Coogan Silent Movie Film Sheet Music 1923 Circus Days20 Pcs Rock, Pop & Soul Sheet Music Mariah Carey, Elton John, Prince, EtcGreat To Be Alive 1950 Sheet Music Call It LoveThe Fabulous Beatles Souvenir Song Album - Sheet Music BookVintage Ambrosia Songbook Life Beyond L.a.sheet Music Book 1979 Free Us Mail8 Lb+ Lot 100pc + Vintage Antique Oversized Sheet Music 1910's-1930's '76 To '17, Composers Sisk&james,1917 Piano March Sheet Music. Lincoln & Harding "artificial Flowers," Signed Sheet Music, Sheldon Harnick, Ron Husman +Unique 1952 Signed Movie Sheet Music "she's Working Her Way Through College" Lot Of 100 Different Large Format Pieces Of Sheet Music

Recent News: Sheet Music

Source: Google News

On Record Store Day, longtime Allendale collector celebrates forever vinyl
NorthJersey.com, April 17th

Iuliucci's collection includes more than 11,000 rare, out-of-print and signed records, sheet music, guitars, CDs, DVDs, laser discs, posters and memorabilia collected over the past 50 years. His basement, which houses most of the items, could double as...Read more

Extra things to do Saturday, April 18
Statesmen News, April 17th

Lone Star Round Up. This weekend celebration options a vintage car show, art exhibits, live music, a giant swap meet and tons of vendors. Saturday and Sunday. Weekend wristbands, $15 children 12 and younger, cost-free. Travis County Expo Center, 7311 ...Read more

Throwback radio, pocket squares, and some Pete And Pete tunes
A.V. Club Austin, April 17th

it storm by waving a sheet of aluminum. Ironically, the advent of today's technology means that this decades-old art form is now more accessible than ever before. For my daily commute, I'm a big fan of this Old Time Radio Player app for my Android...Read more

Things to do in and around Greenwich
Greenwich Time, April 16th

Strickland Avenue in Cos Cob, Stefanie and Bill Kies, Bea Crumbine, Peggi De La Cruz, Dan Swartz and John Goldschmid will give an encore performance of 1914-1918 readings, songs and a PowerPoint presentation of vintage sheet music illustrating the ...Read more

Museum & Gallery Listings for April 17-22
New York Times, April 16th

The result is something of a shambles, but at least the music videos — projected on a large screen with surround sound — confirm the visual side of Björk's complex sensibility and achievement. ... This show tracks his six-decade career with 150...Read more

Bridgewater College meets Downton Abbey in exhibition to start April 17
Augusta Free Press, April 10th

Artifacts on display include a set of regional calling cards and trade cards, a stoneware jug from the early Bridgewater College dining hall, Edwardian era china used in Bridgewater, vintage clothing, popular World War I sheet music and items carried...Read more

Museum & Gallery Listings for April 10-16
New York Times, April 9th

The result is something of a shambles, but at least the music videos — projected on a large screen with surround sound — confirm the visual side of Björk's complex sensibility and achievement. ... This show tracks his six-decade career with 150...Read more

Civil War, RR, Incunabulum Coming up at National Book Auctions April 12
Fine Books & Collections Magazine, April 6th

Ephemera offerings include early maps & cartography, signatures of literary & historical figures, railroad-related, antique magazines, chromolithographs, sheet music, stamps, travel, original antique correspondence, antique photographs, and other genres...Read more