First Epoch - America's First Popular Music Epoch 1768-1887
The 500


The music collection that I steward began in my father’s hands as early as 1915 or 1920. He was a young violinist and pianist and collected the music of the day, 20th century music. I, much like the Fitzgerald character Benjamin Button, went backwards and collected back through the 19th century to the 18th, to England and the George Bickham Jr. illustrated music engravings of 1736-39. My interest broadened to attractive 19th century music sheets published on the European Continent, Australia, and even South America.
My intent is to raise awareness of this passion of ours, collecting these important musical publications, these historical documents, these original prints. From early editions of the Star Spangled Banner to lithographed title pages by Winslow Homer and evocative illustrations such as Henry Eno’s cover design of the Petroleum Polka, visually capturing the first oil wells in Tar Creek, Pa., these rag paper folios capsulize America’s first full century. They form the very basis of what most paper collectors consider ‘Americana’. The scarcities are nearly innumerable. Great rarities, many no doubt ‘single digit’ problems, with perhaps less than 10 copies extant, clearly abound.

Bon Soir Galop (1865)
Henry Eno lithography

I’m hopeful that at some point, some vague sense of relative scarcity will come to light for many of the most prominent, seminal publications. If a number of the great sheet music archives and privately owned collections can somehow be brought into a single data base, for at least a limited number of celebrated items, we would have an inkling of what some of the rarest pieces might be.