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    

1949 Cleveland Indians Our Indians Major League Baseball Team Orig. Sheet MusicItalian Sterling Silver Doll House Miniature Sheet Music Stand Place Card HolderRare Antique Vintage Halloween Sheet Music Witches Dance Black Cat Moon BatsEastlake! Spoon Carved Oak Sheet Music Holder Antique Victorian Bible Book StandLladro Figurine 5875 Angel Tree Topper Mint Green Sheet Music Retired 1992 SpainThe Beatles Original Sheet Music Love Me Do Ardmore & Beechwood 1962 Parlophone 1904 T. Roosevelt Fairbanks Convention & Campaign Piano Sheet Music Political Large Lot Bagpipe Sheet Music Vintage Song Books Scottish Highlander PipersArts & Crafts Carved Walnut Eastlake Wall Pocket Mail,sheet Music Holder Nice! Disney Beauty And The Beast Best Song Sheet Music Dsf Soda Fountain Pin NewOriginal 1964 "ask Me Why" Beatles John Lennon Paul Mccartney Sheet Music1963-93 Beatles Sheet Music & Song Book Lot Pinup Album Large Poster Souvenirs16 Auto Transport Lot Take Me On A Buick Honeymoon Sheet MusicJamberry Nail Wraps Lot ~ 2 Half Sheets ~ Rhapsody – Sheet MusicElvis Presley - I Love Only One Girl - Original Us Sheet Music - 1967 Black Americana Sheet Music Who Dat Say Chicken-large Rooster Staring At CrowdVintage Sheet Music - Salt Pork West Virginia - Louis Jordan - Tympany Five 1946Black Cat Sheet Music-photo Henegar's Orchestra-pub.mitchell,south DakotaElvis Presley 1956 Original Oz 4 Page Sheet Music "old Shep" Vintage Sheet Music - Let The Good Times Roll - Louis Jordan - Sam Thread 1946Vintage Black Americana Whar De Watermelon Grow Sheet Music Monroe H. RosenfeldLot Of 24 Pieces 1970's And 1980's Sheet Music Piano And GuitarLot 34: Rare Mamie Van Doren Untamed Youth Sheet Music 1957 Drive-in Movie BlondVintage Sheet Music Aint That Like A Woman- Louis Jordan - Claude Demitrius 194624 Pcs Rock Sheet Music (well Used) B J Thomas, Amboy Dukes, Jennifer Lopez, EtcAdjustable Folding Sheet Music Stand Score Holder Mount Tripod Carrying Bag RlwhBrun Campbell The Ragtime Kid Sheet Music Piano Solos Transc.richard EganSpider-man: Turn Off The Dark U2's The Edge Signed Sheet Music1971 Elvis Presley Hit Let Us Pray From The Movie Change Of Habit Sheet MusicSaint Cecilia Series Sheet Music Sacred Church Organ Lot X 15 Great Lot OrganistHuge Lot Of 52 Vintage Sheet Music Books For Piano/vocalBoomerang Rag 1916 Large Size Sheet MusicBeatles Slow Down Sheet Music From Venice Music Original Copyright 1957 & 1964Vintage Sheet Music - Beatles - Eleanor Rigby - John Lennon - Paul Mccartney20 Ww1 Patriotic & Military Mini War Edition Lot Of Sheet Music.Vintage Sheet Music Book Sam Cooke - Vip No. 11 - Greatest Hits - 18 SongsOver 100 Vintage Sheet Music 1920-40s, Four Little Blackberries/ Barney Google Sheet Music Cabinet Record Cabinet, Antique Rare Piece5 Piece Disney Movies Lot Snow White Sheet Music3 Bill Haley & Comets Hits Lot Rock A Beatin Boogie Sheet MusicAbba - I Have A Dream - Rare Original 1979 Uk Song / Music Sheet Like-new / MintFolding Sheet Music Stand Score Holder Mount Tripod Carrying Gig Bag Free ShipUnique! "sweet Charity" Signed Sheet Music Cy Coleman, Gwen Verdon.Lady Gaga Poker Face Autographed Signed Sheet Music Certified Ga Gai Aftal Box Of Large Format Sheet Music (250 Pieces) 1901 -1918 Lot 6 Rolf Armstrong Illustrated 1919 Full Color Pretty Girl Cover Sheet Music30 Jazz Piano Solo Lot That's A Plenty Sheet MusicScarce Disney Movie Der Fuehrer's Face Donald Duck. Sheet MusicKnickerbocker Holiday Sheet Music Book Vocal Score Kurt Weill1908 Wild West Cowboy Indian Intermezzo Wooly Bully Wild West Show Sheet Music 1908 Take Me Out To The Ball Game Original Sheet Music Northworth3 Pcs George Gershwin Sheet Music (flawed) Treasure Girl, Hayseed & Funny GirlVintage M Lowenstein & Sons Designer Corner Flowers/sheet Music Fabric Yardage3 From California's Theme Park Knotts Berry Farm Calico Rag Sheet MusicPiano Sheet Music Bob Dylan 1966 Beach Boys Lennon Mccartney The Four AcesAbba - The Name Of The Game - Rare Orig 1977 Uk Song/music Sheet Like-new - MintStatus Quo - Accident Prone - Rare Original Uk 1978 Music Sheet 6 Pcs Movie Sheet Music Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Robert Wagner, Jill St JohnHedy Lamarr Signed Movie Music Sheet 1945 Her Highness & Bellboy Robert WalkerFrederico Fellini Sheet Music 1955 La Strada Love Theme Nino Rota

Recent News: Sheet Music

Source: Google News

Lars Edegran, New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra shows plenty of variety at Jazz Fest
The New Orleans Advocate, April 24th

Friday afternoon's People's Health Economy Hall Tent set by Lars Edegran and the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra featured charmingly vintage music, originally popular from the late 1890s through the early decades of the 20th century...Read more

Friendly spirits at House of Brews
The Tennessean, April 22nd

The Smiths wanted an industrial theme for House of Brews, with vintage brick walls and treated wood finishes, along with a bar made of copper sheeting, mahogany and corrugated sheet metal. The building wasn't spectacular though, when the Smiths took it ...Read more

Loyalty Day Follies holds auditions
Coast Weekend, April 21st

Organizers also hope to hear from vintage crooner Pete Hanner. Live music is strongly encouraged. Vocalists are asked to bring sheet music. Piano accompaniment is available at the audition as well as at the performance. Patriotic songs are not required...Read more

Community briefs
Stevenspointjournal, April 20th

As in the past, there will be books, CDs, albums, DVDs, VHS tapes, sheet music and magazines available for $1 or less. To make low-cost books ... The Laura Ingalls Wilder and Tasha Tudor collections and sets of books, movies and music are also housed...Read more

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

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

Turning Clutter Into Joy
New York Times, April 4th

In that trunk we found 60-year-old tax returns filed by a priest, piano sheet music scores and many get-well cards for “Liza.” What history we cobbled together from this evidence wasn't very comprehensive — we think Liza broke her leg riding her bike...Read more