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

Jessica Alba is worth $200 million, and her company $1 billion
LA Observed, May 27th

The difference is that foursome made their money in their core field, media and music. Alba, at a young age, has done it in a ... “We're using all-organic cotton and plant-based polymer and a bio-plastic applicator,” says the 34-year-old actress...Read more

Mountaineer GNCC, Wyoming Enduro Preview, Slovakia ISDE AMA Travel ...
Dirt Rider Magazine, May 27th

The custom Roland Sands Caselli bike will be on display and live music from the local band Wine Brew. In addition, wine will be ... Guests can also tour the MotoDoffo Vintage collection of motorcycles, which are on display in the outside seating area...Read more

The Ecletic Approach
Winston-Salem Journal, May 25th

Today, the Eclectible Shop offers more than 20,000 books, and each feels like a stroke of luck: rare versions of “Anna Karenina,” ancient pocket-size hymnals, vintage editions of children's favorites such as “The Velveteen Rabbit,” and back issues of...Read more

New Cummer exhibit 'Whitfield Lovell: Deep River' looks at African American ...
Florida Times-Union, May 23rd

“Pago Pago” consists of a portrait of an African-American soldier seated in a bamboo chair with 15 vintage radios stacked beneath the portrait, accompanied by the sound of Billie Holiday singing “I Cover the Waterfront.” The first large area of the...Read more

Midday Fix: Graduation party ideas from Carol Mackey
WGN-TV, May 21st

Also for the musical graduate, take sheet music or sheet music paper (Michael's Craft Store) and with a star craft punch, punch out random stars, tape on a flameless candle. They will really stand out in the evening. If you're having a large party...Read more

Book Excerpt: Werner Herzog's Of Walking in Ice
Vulture, May 21st

In 1974, director-madman Werner Herzog walked from Munich to Paris in a show of support for his friend, the cancer-stricken fellow filmmaker Lotte Eisner. During his epic trek, Herzog kept a blessedly typical (for him) mystical and philosophical diary...Read more

A Pencil Shop, for Texting the Old-Fashioned Way
New York Times, May 19th

To a man interested in writing sheet music, she recommended an antique IBM pencil, designed to show up dark when scanned by an early computer, and so suited to someone who may be scanning his musical inventions on a 2015-era machine. I asked the ...Read more

Datebook: May 18 - Vintage & Collectible Sale, Blood Drive, Cardboard Boat ...
WKMS, May 18th

Angels Attic at 972 Chestnut Street in Murray presents a vintage and collectible sale from 5 to 7 tonight. Included are over 40 assembled balsa wood planes, vintage wood shaft golf clubs, collector trading cards, vintage sheet music, Little Golden...Read more