Historic American Sheet Music Covers (Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
This collection is the result of a project undertaken by Allan Kohl, Visual Resources Librarian at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The sheet music covers in this collection date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (1898-1923), and were scanned from examples in several private collections, including the Gertrude Goodrich Battles Historic Sheet Music Collection. The early years of the twentieth century have often been called the “Golden Age of American Sheet Music.” Prior to the late 1920s, the music industry used beautiful, eye-catching covers to promote the sale of sheet music for individuals to play — and display — on their parlor pianos. These covers document the popular culture and social values of early 20th century America, and provide examples of period illustration and design. Their designers used two-, three-, and four-color lithography, original line drawing vignettes, inset photographs, and hand-lettered titles whose distinctive fonts and color schemes carefully complemented the music and lyrics. The descriptive catalog records for each cover include references for relevant illustrators, composers, lyricists, and publishers. This genre of graphic design and illustration proved fleeting, as the advent of radio broadcasting and motion-picture tie-ins changed the way songs were marketed to the public. Nevertheless, the images now available in Artstor are visual records of these ephemeral cultural artifacts.