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.


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Recent News: Sheet Music

Source: Google News

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RT, February 9th

The quiffed hairdos of the English rock group the Beatles were all the rage in the 1960s, and now you can get your very own clump of that famous hair – providing you have more than $12,000 to buy strands pocketed by John Lennon's former barber...Read more

Breakfast recipes from scones to potato hash for Valentine's Day and beyond
Kansas City Star, February 9th

City during Theresa's ceramics residency at Red Star Studios. Today guests share their 1890s house, which features vintage woodwork and European antiques, modern private baths, contemporary art and a location near restaurants and shops in the West...Read more

'Jubilee,' an iconic showgirl spectacular, takes its last steps in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 6th

Jubilee feature dancers, Elyse Corbin, left, Katherine Schwing and Kaleigh Jones poise for a photo in the dressing room at Bally's, 3645 South Las Vegas Boulevard, on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal Follow @jlscheid ...Read more

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The book that declared pop music dead
The Guardian, February 6th

He was absorbed by tales of pimps and voodoo queens, and pictured Mister Jelly Roll as the dust jacket described him, “wearing a hundred-dollar suit as sharp as a tipster's sheet … the diamond in a front tooth gleaming like gaslight”. The book...Read more

Haute Living Sits Down With The Amazing Adrien Brody
Haute Living, February 6th

Beyond the 31-pound weight loss, he learned Chopin (without reading sheet music), sold his apartment and, we hear, even broke up with his girlfriend of the moment to try to feel he had nothing to come home to, like the Holocaust survivors. In addition...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: Vintage valentines can be a gift from the heart
Post-Bulletin, February 4th

Melissa Placzek, a Red Wing writer, photographer and collector of vintage items, says, "I'm one of those people who really likes Valentine's Day. Actually, I should say, I puffy heart LOVE it. I look forward to decorating my home with hearts, vintage...Read more

14 Totally Dreamy New Orleans Wedding Ideas
Brit + Co, February 4th

Jazz Music Sheet Centerpieces: Pull inspiration from the band and go with unique jazz music sheet centerpieces. It'll add a charming vintage and extremely romantic feel to your tables. Take it one step further and choose specific music sheets, like...Read more

Suburbs look to expanded Hamburg library as model for digital future
Buffalo News, February 2nd

Today, the library's new circular addition at the back where the cafe softly plays vintage Top 40 hits reminds him of Frank Lloyd Wright's circular Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. There's a fireplace, wall space to display artwork and a ... For the...Read more