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

Bad Girls United! Madonna Teases 'Rebel Heart' Collaboration With Miley Cyrus
Entertainmentwise, July 31st

Miley pays tribute to her idol in a vintage tee of Madonna naked (Miley Cyrus/Instagram). The double trouble duo have developed a close friendship in recent months and 'Girl Gone Wild' singer Madonna even made an appearance in the youngster's MTV ...Read more

Surprise 'N Sync Album Proves Some Fandoms Never Die
Wall St. Cheat Sheet, July 30th

The Essential *NSYNC (which comes complete with an obviously vintage photo of the group on the cover) has sold out on Amazon and is currently No. 6 on iTunes ... Music, the release coincides with the 14-year anniversary of the band's first No. 1 single...Read more

Calendar of Events
The Trinity Journal, July 29th

9: Trinity Trailer Trash Show, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 330 River Rock Road, 25-plus vintage trailers and live entertainment by Frank Carlson, $10 admission benefits Relay For Life. No dogs. Aug. 9: Racing at Hayfork ... Music, workshops, vendors, children's...Read more

Term Sheet – Tuesday, July 29
Fortune, July 29th

Five of its exits, including Zulily, Hybris, Rally Software Rickus Wireless and Yammer, came from the prior, $425 million fund, a 2011 vintage. .... experiences,” has raised $2.3 million in seed funding from Structure Capital, SK Ventures, Zelkova...Read more

Beck Faces Grim Reaper & His 'Loser' Past in 'Heart Is a Drum' Video
Billboard, July 29th

The studio version of Song Reader -- a collection of Beck-penned tunes that formerly only existed in sheet music form -- is finally here. Beck Song Reader features Jack White, Jack Black, Fun, Jarvis Cocker, Laura Marling, Beck himself, and many others ...Read more

Beyond bluegrass? Ossipee Valley Music Festival broadens appeal
Portland Daily Sun, July 28th

The Ossipee Valley Music Festival wrapped up another summer in South Hiram, branching out from bluegrass but staying true to its root cause of making music accessible to fans of all ages. 7-29-14-TG-fest-Jason-Anick-left-. The festival welcomes...Read more

Who is Wakefield Poole and Why Haven't You Heard of Him?
Indie Wire (blog), July 28th

“Boys in the Sand” was a phenomenon and utterly new—an artistically photographed, sexually explicit narrative film, set to classical music and featuring only male actors. These actors had ... Placing ads in these magazines, Poole and producer Marvin...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