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American Popular Song Sheet Covers, 1890-1922

Thousands of examples of the covers of popular American sheet music from 1890-1922, the first decades of a much larger collection that stretches to the present.

Collection Contents

She is my picnic girl / words and music by Harry Connor. Digital ID: 1157576 She is my picnic girl / words and music by Harry Connor. Digital ID: 1157576

Collection History

This digital collection presents the first decades of a comprehensive holding of popular American sheet music. Totaling more than 400,000 titles, the collection came to the Library in 1966 from the estate of George Goodwin (1900-1966), a radio station director who developed the Tune-Dex, a comprehensive 25,000 card catalog index of popular songs. (He also published several compendia of songs in the 1950s with the title "Song-Dex.") The information on the cards was nearly exhaustive, documenting composer, publisher, licensing and copyright information as well as the song's words, music and chords, all on two sides of 3x5 inch index card! Achieved in the pre-automation era, Goodwin's idea was a great success and for a time used extensively by those in the industry including NYPL.

It is mere speculation that George Goodwin acquired his voluminous sheet music collection in tandem with his development of the Tune-Dex. However, the strength of the holding that came to NYPL mirrors his wellbeing and the growth of his index. Begun in 1942, the Tune-Dex continued until ill health overcame Goodwin in 1963. The sheet music collection, arranged by year of copyright and then alphabetical within each year, runs a parallel course; suddenly and noticeably weaker in 1963, it declines steadily in number of titles until Goodwin's death in 1966.

Background

Before the Music Division acquired the Goodwin collection, it regarded the collecting of popular sheet music as a secondary endeavor, but the Goodwin acquisition immediately made NYPL a major source for popular songs and remains so today. Wide in scope, the up-to-date collection encompasses early musicals, ethnic songs, presidential ballads, war songs, parlor songs, and even popular lead sheets. The collection's immense depth allows researchers to view a wide array of social, political, and historical moments in time in a way that only a contemporary piece of sheet music can provide.

Related Resources

Goodwin, George, comp. and ed. Song Dex treasury of humorous and nostalgic songs (c1956) 2 v.

_____ Song Dex treasury of hymns (c1959).

_____ Song Dex treasury of operas ... (c1957).

_____ Song Dex treasury of world famous instrumental music, a vast collection of over 600 instrumental selections containing the highlights of the most celebrated modern and classic composers, in addition to the most famous traditional American and foreign dance and folk music [1955] 2 v.

Music business (v.1- ; Dec. 1944- ); called Tune-dex digest ... v.1-2, no. 1 (Dec. 1944-Dec. 1945).

- 8/30/2004

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.