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    

Vintage 50s Original Novelty Print Sheet Music And Violin Skirt Full 6 8 Xs SMarc Bolan T Rex Memorabilia - Sheet Music Book, Electric Warrior Bio & MoreHuge Sheet Music Lot: 270 Pieces, All Movies/films ~full List Of Titles IncludedThe Darktown Swell March In Rag Time Sheet Music 1899 Black AmericanaRare!! Sheet Music, "bonnie Blue Flag" Csa 1862 Pub By Miller & BeachamMassive Vintage Frank Sinatra Sheet Music Lot 122 Different ItemsSheet Music, "beauregard's March" To Genl. P G T Beauregard, Csa 1861Minnesota State Fair Sheet Music-photograph Horticultural Building Pub. St.paulRare - Davy Crockett (fess Parker) - Disney Tv Show "at The Alamo" Sheet Music6 Large Format Rags & Ragtime Lot Maple Leaf Rag Sheet MusicElvis Presley Sheet Music Blue HawaiiVintage Man From Uncle Theme Sheet Music Napoleon Solo & Illya Huge Lot 235 Percussion Sheet Music Drums Xylophone Marimba Timpani More Yamaha Portable Electronic Psr 270 Keyboard With Sheet Music Stand Blue 61 KeysBlack Americana Sheet Music Collection Lot Of (12) Al Jolson Etc. Free Ship $25Alabama Cotton Ball Syncopated (ragtime) Sheet Music By Spencer Williams 1915Elvis Presley Sheet Music Hawaiian Sunset (1961)Kate Bush Music Sheet Rocket Man Mercury RecordsMadness Driving My Car Stiff Records Sheet Music16 Mostly 70 -80's Black Americana Lot Ltd Switch Sheet MusicBatman And Robin Tv Show Theme Sheet Music - Ka-pow! - 1966Madonna Sheet Music Collection Like A Prayer True Blue La Isla PlaygroundLovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen - Theater/showtunes Sheet Music Selections - 1970Hawaiian Sheet Music Vintage Sheet Music Hawaii TahitiEartha Kitt Hand Signed 8 X 10 Photo + Signed Sheet Music To "monotonous" "wish You Were Here" Signed Sheet Music Harold Rome, Tom Tryon, Joshua Logan ++1924 Prohibition Sheet Music California Temperence Campaign Song As-isLot 67: 7 Pcs Automobile Sheet Music: Autos Early Cars 1915 - 1925 Trolley Too16 Piece Mostly 1960's Pop Lot 2 The Cyrkle Bill Medley Sheet Music15 Lot Sheet Music Perry Como,the Platters, Patti Page,johnny Ray, Bonanza GlennJames Stewart & John Wayne Sheet Music Liberty Valance (1962)Popeye Sheet Music I'm Popeye The Sailor Man (1964)Smokey Robinson & The Miracles Sheet Music.... Just A Mirage (1967)4 From The Danny Kaye Bing Crosby Movie Lot White Christmas Sheet Music5 Boogie Woogie Blues Piano Solos Hershal & George Thomas 1941 Sheet Music BookLot 54 - Vintage Children's Sheet Music -10 SinglesLot 56- Vintage Children's Sheet Music -10 SinglesGoodby Seaside The Trail's End City, Sheet Music, Oregon Vacation Spot Is SeasdeBig Lot 105 Guitar Sheet Music Classical Contemporary Duet Solo MandolinVirginia Martin, Sid Caesar, Cy Coleman Signed Photos & Sheet Music "little Me" Banana Blues French Litho Sheet Music Salabert Paris 1924 Mint1908 Take Your Girl To The Ball Game Sheet Music Vintage Baseball Geo. M. Cohan 1937 Mickey Mouse "silly Symphony" Walt Disney Ad Sheet Music Irving BerlinA Modern Satire, Novelty Piano Solo, Harry Sosnick Sheet Music 1929 Robbins10 Dean Martin Movies Lot That's My Boy Sheet MusicOld Original Vintage 1953 Walt Disney Living Desert Sheet Music Song Book9 Bing Bob Hope & Dorothy Lamour Movies Road To Lot Sheet Music9 Great Novelty Bands Kidoodlers & Korn Kobblers Band Lot Sheet Music.2 Piece Lot From The Musical Dearest Enemy Sheet Music16 Pcs Rock, Soul Sheet Music Elo, Styx, The Band, Sylvia, Starship, Extreme1966 Sheet Music - White Rabbit By Jefferson Airplane - Copper Penny Music Co.Ammon Wrigley Saddleworth & Basil Windsor Oldham Sheet Music12 Lot Large Format Vintage Antique Sheet Music - Art Deco 1904-1918Lot 55 - Vintage Children's Sheet Music -10 Singles1993 29¢ Country Music - Full Sheet Of 20, Scott #2771-2774, Mint Nh, Cat=$25.00Autographed/signed Frank Sinatra Cycles Sheet MusicMega Sheet Music Book Lot Piano Jazz Pop Western Church Classical + More 40 LbsSheet Music –the Kodak Girl –graphic Cover- 1902.Paul Newman Sheet Music 1963 Hud Elmer BernsteinSheet Music – Benny Havens, Oh! – West Point Favorite Ca 1860

Recent News: Sheet Music

Source: Google News

Historic Old Gillett Farm Estate Auction
PR MediaRelease (press release), August 31st

A Huge 3-Day Auction will take place on September 18th, 19th and 20th. The Family Estate of the 8th Generation of the Old Gillett Farm Established in 1868 and located at 4 Drake Lane, Elkhart, IL 62634 will sell Auction! The HUGE 3-Day Auction will...Read more

WWE: Raw Was a Night of Diminishing Returns
Hidden Remote, August 31st

Savvy wrestling fans can see a storyline twist coming a mile away, while returning favorites often leak via social media or through dirt-sheet websites. Additionally, the days of ... But then the signature guitars of the Dudleys' theme music hit and...Read more

The Boy Scout Handbook Is The Best Y.A. Book Ever
Daily Beast, August 29th

A hunt for vintage Playboy yielded back issues of the less titillating Old Bottle Magazine. I almost gave .... Just compare the contents of The Boy Scout Handbook with everything else young people are immersed in: school, pop music, social media, video...Read more

BRIEFLY: Aug. 29-Sept. 1
Wicked Local Plymouth, August 29th

29, rain or shine, at the Hedge House, located at 126 Water St., offering attic treasures, vintage jewelry, homemade goodies and bargains galore. ... The fair offers rides, exhibits, vendors, farmers' markets, truck and tractor pulls, live music and...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

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

Dr. Michael White lost everything in Hurricane Katrina except what mattered ...
NOLA.com, 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