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    

1862 Civil War Navy Battle Sheet Music - Battle Of The Monitor & Merrimack1861 Confederate Imprint Civil War Sheet Music Confederate National Anthem Flags1860's Confederate Civil War Sheet Music - Stonewall Jackson, John Morgan +++1863 Civil War Battle Of Gettysburg Illustrated Sheet Music - Gettysburg Orphans1864 Confederate Imprint Civil War Sheet Music - General John Hunt Morgan1860's Confederate Civil War Sheet Music - General Robert E. Lee Cover1856 John C Fremont Presidential Campaign Illustrated Sheet Music Very Rare1865 Civil War Sheet Music With Battle Of Shiloh Illustrated Cover Drummer BoyGeorge Mcclellan Autogaph, Sheet Music Civil War Gen., Lincoln Opponent Gorgeous1864 Confederate Imprint Civil War Sheet Music W/ Army & Navy Battle Scenes1863 Confederate Imprint Civil War Sheet Music W/confederate National Flag Cover1858 Pre Civil War Color Illustrated Military Sheet Music New York Militia45 Pieces Of Marimba Sheet Music And Books - Great Condition - $500+ Value!Vintage Py Lefton Music Sheet Girls Angels Salt And Pepper Shakers Very NiceHuge Lot 100+ Vintage Piano Organ Sheet Music Solos Song Books Classical Vintage1863 Civil War Sheet Music With Artillery Cannon & Flag Tinted Illustrated Cover1863 Confederate Imprint Civil War Sheet Music - "harp Of The South Awake"Sheet Music 1964 The Beach Boys She Knows Me Too Well Brian Wilson 1960s Song1862 Civil War Sheet Music With General Ambrose Burnside Color Illustrated CoverPolitical Campaign Waltzes Sheet Music - Rutherford B. Hayes - 1876New Jewel Kade Pink Glass Glitter Heart Charm - Sheet Music - Must See!10cc Sheet Music Mini Lp Cd Japan Teci-21222 / Lol Creme Kevin Godley 10 CcLot Of 50 Pieces Sheet Music Modern Van Halen Bjork Springsteen Tlc Lot10Beatles Sheet MusicHuge Lot 100+ Vintage Piano Organ Sheet Music Solos Song Books Classical VintageSheet Music Come On Spark Plug C 1923 King Features Debeck Black AmericanaMandolin Sheet Music - Old - Lot Of 30Country Western Sheet Music - Vintage - Lot Of 19Vtg Americana Sheet Music "gonna Win Ball Game Uncle Sam!" Baseball Theme 19421882 "the Verdict March" Eugene Blake Sheet Music Cox Corkhill Porter & Jury1918 Anti-german Propoganda Sheet Music The Kaiser's Got The Blues W.c. HandySheet Music Nigger War Bride Blues Black Americana Jimmie Marten Leblanc 1917 Ww1908 Lusitania Waltz Sheet Music, Composed Ezra Read Complete Huge Lot 100+ Vintage Piano Organ Sheet Music Solos Song Books Classical VintageSheet Music Popular In - Movies - Theater - Musicals - Showtunes - Lot Of 21 - BSheet Music 1967 Penny Lane The Beatles John Lennon & Paul Mccartney SongLot 116 Pieces Sheet Music 1950's 1960's Nancy Sinatra Duane Eddy Connie FrancisSheet Music Pat Sullivan's Felix The Cat C 1928 Artwork: MessmerGentlemen Marry Brunettes Sheet Music 1955 Jane Russell Title Song Orig. 1959 "i'm Thru With Love" Sheet Music "some Like It Hot" Marilyn Monroe1861 Civil War Sheet Music Union General George Mcclellan's Grand March1860s Bound Civil War Sheet Music Confederate & Union Mcclellan Contrabands, Etc1900 E T Paull Black Memorabilia Sheet Music "my Louisiana Babe" By C. C. ClarkCivil War Sheet Music - The Battle Cry Of Freedom By George F. Root - 1862Over The Rainbow Arlen Lowden Jazz Band Sheet Music Full Score Trombone FeatureThe Wizard Of Oz. Sheet Music.. 1939. 23 Pages1925 Ukulele Lady Sheet Music Gus Kahn & Richard A. Whiting.4 From The 1965 Musical Lot Flora The Red Menace Sheet MusicVintage The Beatles Help! Movie Sheet Music 1965 Lennon & Mccartney Lot Of 50 Pieces Sheet Music Modern Whitney Houston Cyndi Lauper Books Lot51942 Ww Ii Sheet Music Walt Disney Movie Tie-in Der Fuehrer's Face Donald DuckGroup Lot 40 Different Pop Sheet Music 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s Rock1930 Rare William Haines & Leila Hyams "singing A Song To The Stars" Sheet MusicThe Alvin Twist Sheet Music (1962) The ChipmunksCher Sheet Music You'd Better Sit Down, Kids (1967)1939 Old New Stock Sheet Music Back To Work Labor Stages Pins And Needles26 Piano Jazz Hits Lot Gershwin Love Walked In Sheet Music1949 Charles Alberti Chicago Private Press Sheet Music (macatawa)Beatles Any Time At All Sonora Swedish Sheet MusicBox Of Sheet Music (300 Pieces)

Recent News: Sheet Music

Source: Google News

Macintosh: 'Classic' Diego Costa leads Chelsea to win
ESPN FC (blog), March 1st

No defender has ever seen their names on the team sheet without grimacing in recognition of what would await them. ... If he wasn't a footballer, he would be the man who played music through the speakers of his phone on the quiet carriage of a train...Read more

Community News
Rock Hill Herald, February 25th

The Arts Council of York County and Rock Hill School District Three present the annual Teachers' Choice Youth Art Exhibition featuring selected artwork by Rock Hill students from high, middle and elementary schools. A free, public reception will be 6 p...Read more

World-renowned alumna plays as role model for young women composers
Golden Gate Xpress, February 24th

“This was written by an old boyfriend of mine from my old heterosexual days,” Armer said with characteristic amiability. ... Classical composer, Elinor Armer, writes down a few notes on sheet music while she plays piano in Berkeley Sunday, Feb. 22...Read more

Pizza and Threesomes
Huffington Post, February 23rd

Sun and Room is an affectionate and painfully honest look into those college years you might want to forget. It explores transitional friendships and nights that come with freshman year and often go without reflection. Written by Danny Mitarotondo and...Read more

Jol Dantzig's Esoterica Electrica: The Musician's Clubhouse
Premier Guitar, February 23rd

Can the virtual world or the big-box store truly replace the experience of an old-school brick-and-mortar music shop? Like many ... There were racks bulging with sheet music and showcases full of percussion instruments and all sorts of musical...Read more

Things to do in NYC This Week
Albany Times Union (blog), February 20th

Dickinson's musical identity encompassed piano performances, the collection of sheet music and concert outings, and those experiences are detailed here. Friday, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m.; Monday and Thursday from noon to 8 ...Read more

Sheet Music Plus Library Now Offers More Than 1 Million Titles
PR Web (press release), February 4th

Sheet Music Plus is home to the world's largest sheet music selection, exceeding more than 1 million titles. Instrument, choral, pop, Christian, Jazz and vintage sheet music are among the million titles, coming from more than 1,000 global publishers...Read more

40 DIY Projects to Create with Vintage Sheet Music
Crafting A Green World, July 17th

40 DIY Projects to Create with Vintage Sheet Music Do you love vintage sheet music? We're sharing 40 DIY projects that you can create with your favorite recycled paper! As a musician, my favorite recycled paper is sheet music. If you're a consistent...Read more