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]

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    

Vintage 50s Original Novelty Print Sheet Music And Violin Skirt Full 6 8 Xs SThe Vibrators - Automatic Lover - Destroy - 1978 Orig.sheet Music - ExcellentThe Ruts - Staring At The Rude Boys - 1980 Orig.sheet Music - Punk - ExcellentHuge Sheet Music Lot: 270 Pieces, All Movies/films ~full List Of Titles IncludedHuge Lot Vintage Flute Sheet Music Concertos 27 Pieces Bach Class Method StudiesHuge Lot 65 Trombone Brass Sheet Music Classical Contemporary Massive Vintage Frank Sinatra Sheet Music Lot 122 Different ItemsLot 140 Piano Klavier Sheet Music Classical Contemporary Four Hand Solo MoreLot Of 120 Vintage Sheet Music Alabama Cotton Ball Syncopated (ragtime) Sheet Music By Spencer Williams 1915Rag-a-tag Rag - Sheet Music, Published 1910 - Ragtime & Black Face 16 Piece Mostly 1960's Pop Lot Brenda Lee & The Rivieras Sheet MusicHawaiian Sheet Music Sweet Brown Maid Of Kaimuki 1910 Henry Kailimai15 Disney Cartoon Movie Lot Alice In Wonderland Snow White Sheet Music16 Mostly 70 -80's Black Americana Lot Sun & Debarge Sheet MusicGene Vincent Be-bop-a-lula Sheet Music. 4 Pages. Excellent Condition.Lot 69: 19 Pcs Cartoon Comic Book Sheet Music 1915 - 1995Stolen Sweets From Broadway Brevities 1920 Theater Sheet Music Deco ArtAntique 1928 The Lone Eagle Sheet Music-lindbergh Solo Airplane Flight-nunda NyHuge Sheet Music Lot 125+ Movie Stars Disney Al Jolson Country Jazz Western32 Pieces 50's Lot 2 The Four Aces Lettermen Sheet MusicPriscilla March - 1895 Sheet Music - Fall River Line Steamship Photo30 Ww1 & 2 Military Patriotic Themed Lot 2 Sheet MusicLot Of 89 Vintage Movie Theater Broadway Piano Sheet Music Song Books 20s 40s Lot Of 50 Pieces Of Sheet Music Including Eric Clapton Rick James Journey Lot8114 Les Paul Mary Ford Hits Lot I'm Confessin' & Smoke Rings Sheet Music2 From The1979 Joel Grey Musical The Grand Tour Sheet MusicElvis Presley Sheet Music Hawaiian Sunset (1961)Scarce 1951 Musical Flahooley Sheet MusicI Want To Go To The Ball Game - Sheet Music, Published 1909 - Baseball SongLot Of 169 Large Format Lf Vintage Sheet Music Eartha Kitt Hand Signed 8 X 10 Photo + Signed Sheet Music To "monotonous" Black Americana Sheet Music Collection Lot Of (12) Al Jolson Etc. Free Ship $25Marilyn Monroe "the River Of No Return," 1954 Sheet Music From The Film *rare 25 Ww1 & 2 Military Patriotic Themed Lot Sheet Music32 Pieces 50's Lot The Four Aces Lettermen Sheet Music30 Jazz Piano Solo Lot Moonlight Ballet Coquette Sheet MusicVintage Felix The Cat "felix Kept On Walking" Uk Sheet Music 1923Lot Of 60 Vintage Piano Sheet Music3 Eubie Blake Musicals Lot Shuffle Along Sheet MusicPopeye Sheet Music I'm Popeye The Sailor Man (1964)Tom Bosley Martin Balsam Sheet Music 1962 When A Fella Needs A Friend8 Willie Nelson Hits Lot Always On My Mind Sheet Music9 From The Ruby Keeler Movie Lot Go Into Your Dance Sheet Music7 Black American George Gershwin Musical Porgy & Bess Lot Sheet MusicEasy Big Sounds For Organ Church Sheet Music Lorenz Christian Worship SacredValerie Bertinelli Tv Sheet Music One Day At A Time (1981) Bonnie Franklin 10cc/sheet Music By 10cc (cd, 1990, Dcc Compact Classics) Free ShippingMarilyn Monroe Bye Bye Baby Sheet Music Gentlemen Prefer Blondes5 Boogie Woogie Blues Piano Solos Hershal & George Thomas 1941 Sheet Music BookLot 55 - Vintage Children's Sheet Music -10 SinglesJerome Kern 4 Large Theater Sheet Music A Little Bit Of Silk Nice LotVintage 1904 St Louis Worlds Fair Piking The Pike Sheet Music Midway Song Old O4Elegant Art Deco Flapper Girl 1924 Sheet Music P & L Studios Ray Henderson Nice!Big Lot 105 Guitar Sheet Music Classical Contemporary Duet Solo MandolinHuge Lot 235 Percussion Sheet Music Drums Xylophone Marimba Timpani More Stunning 1940 World Series Detroit Tigers Sheet Music Charlie Gehringer Sheet Music –the Kodak Girl –graphic Cover- 1902.Sheet Music – Benny Havens, Oh! – West Point Favorite Ca 18601924 Prohibition Sheet Music California Temperence Campaign Song As-is

Recent News: Sheet Music

Source: Google News

Town briefs & events in Morris County
Daily Record, August 28th

The Collings Foundation will be returning to Morristown Airport with vintage World War II aircraft from Sept. ... The artist lineup includes The Villalobos Brothers, one of today's leading Contemporary Mexican music ensembles, Almanac Dance Circus...Read more

Wicked Local Kingston, August 28th

29, rain or shine, at the Hedge House, located at 126 Water St., offering attic treasures, vintage jewelry, homemade goodies and bargains galore. The old-fashioned New England fair is held under a big tent on the sweeping lawn of the Hedge House, ...Read more

So Bad It's Good: 'Dirty Dancing' and the Limits of Nostalgia
Flavorwire, August 28th

I remember this little factoid primarily because of a ridiculous footnote: the sheet music offered up an alternative chorus for “Hungry Eyes,” which reimagined the song as “Loving Eyes,” in case the idea of hungry eyes was too racy for the school choir...Read more

Gangrene Sticks To Vintage Boom Bap On 'You Disgust Me'
XXLMAG.COM, August 27th

Instead, it's “Sheet Music” featuring Mobb Deep's Havoc and the late Sean Price and “Flamethrowers, Pt. 2” that both move the momentum of You Disgust Me forward. “Sheet Music,” like the bulk of the album, is the vintage-sounding infamy hip-hop that...Read more

AC/DC rocks MetLife Stadium: 8 truly epic moments (PHOTOS, VIDEOS), August 27th

AC/DC's stage setup might have told the band's current chapter before they even appeared. The design's centerpiece was a large arch that was plated with crumpled, rusted sheet-metal and crested 50 feet over the stage. Devil horns topped the display, as...Read more

First Listen: Dam-Funk, 'Invite The Light'
NPR, August 26th

What to make of the guy playing vintage, satin-sheet R&B in "Glyde 2nyte" with his former employers Leon Sylvers III and IV? Could all this be the work of one man? Just as you try to get a grip on Dâm-Funk's sound, he glides away and comes at you from...Read more

8Days: Fur, Vintage Trouble and stoner soul
Portland Phoenix (satire) (press release) (registration) (blog), August 26th

COUNTRY STORYTELLER | An old man I've never heard of is playing in Portland's biggest music venue. So why am I recommending him? Because .... Books can hang from the ceiling, or be stitched into a sheet. Some books are assembled together to form ...Read more

Dr. Michael White lost everything in Hurricane Katrina except what mattered ..., August 22nd

possessions, but pieces of history he had been collecting for decades: thousands of photographs, books on jazz, records and CDs; interviews with New Orleans jazz musicians born between 1890 and 1910, who were no longer alive; historic sheet music...Read more