Collection of Old-Timey Sheet Music

May 1, 2015

America’s history is written into its music. These sheets of feel-good summertime music for voice and piano are artifacts of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They’re part of the American Sheet Music Project, a historic collection of more than 3,000 pieces stored in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The assortment includes waltzes, operas, musicals, polkas, spirituals, war tunes, and songs of the Tin Pan Alley variety.

Preserving these sheets is tricky: Paper made from rags tends to hold up well, while music printed on cheaper wood pulp paper quickly becomes brittle.

  • Elizabeth '11 is a writer in New York. She previously worked as a senior editorial fellow for The Trace and a staff writer for Duke Magazine.