Sheet Music

About this collection

    Before the rise of phonographs and radio, publishers of sheet music dominated the American music industry. The biggest music publishing houses were those of ‘Tin Pan Alley’ in New York City. But throughout the United States, publishing houses, lyricists, arrangers, and composers, often working in partnership with local musical instrument stores, emerged to serve both national and regional consumers.
    As the American middle class grew during the mid-19th century, musical instruments and the ability to play them (and pianos in particular), became widespread signifiers of respectable middle-class status, and publishers responded to meet this emerging market. By the early 20th century, however, as phonographs became more commercially popular, sheet music was replaced by recorded music. This decline was further hastened by the public’s embrace of radio within the home in the years after 1920.
    The scores assembled here have been drawn from a variety of collections within the Hagley Library. New items may be added as they are scanned.
    Image: Dreaming of My Wedding Day, Minnie Gifford and Stephen Montroy, 1913. Click here to view.

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