Popular Sheet Music

About the Collections

The Sibley Music Library is home to a number of collections of popular sheet music that, taken together, span the late 18th century through the modern day.  The largest of these collections, the U.S. Sheet Music Collection, provides an extensive overview of popular music published in the United States between 1790 and 1970. The various other collections listed here are more focused and highlight specific time periods or unique aspects of sheet music publication and use.

Burke, FitzSimons, Hone & Co. Imprints

This collection contains 73 sheet music imprints, including both songs and solo piano pieces, that were published for advertising purposes and distributed by Rochester-area retailers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The bulk of the collection (70 imprints) were published and distributed by Burke, FitzSimons, Hone & Company, a leading dry goods firm in Rochester, NY. Three additional imprints were published as part of an advertising campaign by Bromo-Seltzer and Emerson Drug Co. (Baltimore, MD) and distributed by various Rochester-area druggists.

Hazel Munger Burke Collection

Hazel Munger Burke (1900-1989) was a resident of Rochester and an avid amateur pianist. Her personal collection of sheet music, which was donated to Sibley after her death, contains almost 950 items of popular sheet music, including both vocal and instrumental selections; most of the music dates from the early 20th century (1894-1952, bulk 1915-1940). Music from World War I is well represented in the collection, as are piano rags and popular dance music from the early 20th century.

Margaret Cobb Papers

This collection, a gift of the Debussy scholar and editor Margaret Cobb (1907–2010), is comprised of 59 items of sheet music, including songs and instrumental music, composed by Ida Bostelmann Cobb (1894–1979), a piano teacher and avid composer particularly of piano compositions and children music. The collection also contains a small amount of research material, namely genealogical documents, related to Ida Bostelmann Cobb.

Carl Dengler Collection

Carl Dengler (1914-2006) was a prominent Rochester dance band leader (active 1927-1990). This collection contains performing parts and lead sheets for dance band arrangements conducted by Dengler, including several hundred manuscript parts and approximately 240 published arrangements. The collection also includes more than 700 items of published popular sheet music, most of which date from the 1920s-1960s.

Sam Forman Dance Orchestra Collection

The Sam Forman Dance Orchestra Collection contains full and partial sets of performance parts for nearly 200 popular compositions published between 1910 and 1960. The sets were used by Jeno Bartal and His Orchestra during their New York City performances.  When the ensemble disbanded, Bartal gave his extensive music collection to Sam Forman (1912-1987), who both performed with the orchestra as drummer and served as the ensemble’s music librarian.

James W. Phillips Collection

This collection contains nearly 3,000 items of sheet music dating from approximately 1890 through 1980. Most of the items in the collection are songs from revues, musicals, motion pictures, and other theatrical productions. The collection was the gift of Phillips (1915-2006), a Rochester native and lifelong music and musical theater enthusiast.

Betty K. Ryan Collection

The Betty K. Ryan Collection is comprised of more than 500 unique items of popular sheet music, mostly songs for voice and piano. A majority of the items are “professional copies” or “advance artist copies” of songs published in the early 1930s, which  Ryan (1917-2018) acquired during her brief career as a professional song plugger. A few items are also accompanied by instrumental parts from arrangements for voice and big band or other ensemble accompaniment.

Robert Schwartz Collection

The Robert Schwartz Collection contains nearly 3,500 popular sheet music titles from the 20th century, the bulk dating from 1940 through 1979, as well as 58 song collections and 5 instructional books. The collection includes many once-popular songs that have since fallen into relative obscurity.

Sheet Music Cataloguing Project

This collection consists of 313 items of popular sheet music, including both vocal and instrumental music. These items were separated from the US Sheet Music Collection in the late 1980s and early 1990s as part of a pilot project in sheet music cataloguing, and local cataloguing and OCLC records were created for each title. This sheet music has since been maintained as a separate collection (accession no. SC1996.2), and the titles are searchable through Sibley’s online catalog.

Charlotte Stafford Collection

Charlotte Stafford (1886-1970) was a professional musician who worked as a silent film accompanist in Rochester during the 1920s. This collection includes almost 700 items of published sheet music, including popular vocal music, piano sheet music, and anthologies of dance tunes. It also preserves Stafford’s working collection of theater songs, theme sheets, and handwritten “tune books.”

World War II Sheet Music Collection

This collection contains more than 500 items of popular sheet music published during the years of World War II (1941-1945); all of the music included in this collection relates specifically to the war or is of a general patriotic nature. The sheet music in the collection was purchased as individual items from the Boston dealer C. W. Homeyer during the years of World War II; in 1948, the individual items were bound together as a distinct topical collection of sheet music.

U.S. Sheet Music Collection

The U.S. Sheet Music Collection contains more than 100,000 pieces of sheet music published in the United States between 1790 and 1970. The collection, which includes both vocal and instrumental music, contains examples of art song, parlor song, folk song, and popular song, as well as numerous genres of instrumental compositions. Of particular interest is the series of local imprints, which includes an extensive sequence of sheet music from publishers located in western New York (prominently Rochester and Buffalo) and eastern Pennsylvania.

Additional Collections Containing Sheet Music

Some materials associated with the U.S. Sheet Music Collection remain unprocessed. This includes a series of sheet music composed by Irving Berlin, a series of music composed by Stephen Foster, and a series of song collections and dance band collections.

In addition, Sibley holds an extensive collection of European imprints of popular sheet music, the bulk of which consists of music published in the U.K., Germany, and France. At the time of this writing, this collection has not yet been processed.

The Eileen Malone Collection, which is comprised of music and documentation from Miss Malone’s lengthy teaching and performance career as a harpist, also contains two boxes of popular sheet music for voice and piano. This limited series of sheet music is noteworthy for its inclusion of numerous Irish and Irish-derived songs, an ample reflection of Miss Malone’s family heritage.

The Mario Salvador Collection includes 60 sacred songs for voice and piano or organ, most of which were published between 1890 and 1960. This body of sheet music was included among the scores within Dr. Salvador’s working music library (which represents his career as a concert and cathedral organist and church music director) and was likely used during religious services and weddings.

Stephen M. Totzke Sheet Music Collection [unprocessed]

In progress

Statement on Harmful and Offensive Content

Popular sheet music imprints are rich primary source material for historical, cultural, and musical research. As texts, they reveal historical attitudes, perspectives, trends, and information about everyday life and culture.

We acknowledge that many songs within Sibley’s popular sheet music collections contain offensive or harmful language and imagery. Some items reflect racist, sexist, misogynistic, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes through objectionable and disparaging portrayals of persons based on race, gender, national origin, sexuality/sexual orientation, disability, religion, or other personal characteristics. This includes content that promotes American exceptionalism, Christian-centrism, and other ethnocentric ideologies and prejudice. While such songs and the attitudes they represent are reprehensible, these items have been preserved in Sibley’s collections for educational and research purposes so they may enhance our understanding of history.

For more resources to contextualize these materials, see the Offensive Materials in Sibley Collections LibGuide.