Case Professor Shares Historic Collection of Cleveland Sheet Music

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If you wanted to hear your favorite song at the turn of the 20th century, then someone had to play it. 

So, it was essential to have the sheet music with the song's notes and lyrics.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

Case Western Reserve University director of popular music studies Daniel Goldmark has a passion for collecting historic sheet music from and about Northeast Ohio.

CWRU's Daniel Goldmark with his sheet music collection [photo: ideastream]

In late 1800's and early 1900's Cleveland, people purchased sheet music at the Arcade on East 4th Street between Euclid and Superior Avenues.

Cleveland Arcade c. 1910 [photo courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

"If you're looking for songs and you're living in Cleveland at the turn of century you could come to the Arcade, because you had music stores and even music publishers based [there].  You could go straight in and buy the latest songs," Goldmark said.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

One of the most important music publishers in Cleveland at the time was Sam Fox Music on the third floor of the arcade.

Sam Fox [photo courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

Sam Fox Music Publishing sign (upper right) [photo courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

"Very quickly he corners the market on [local sheet] music and makes a name for himself, not only in Cleveland but throughout the entire music publishing industry," Goldmark said.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

At the time music publishers would glom on to any song topic if they thought it would sell.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

"When the ragtime craze happens, everybody writes a rag on every theme from famous names to animals, fruits and vegetables, lobster rag, fruit and vegetable rag, pickled-beets rag you name it," he said.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

More than a century later many of the artists behind the sheet music covers are unknown.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

"The sad thing is that a lot of these [sheet music covers] are unsigned.  Even the ones that are signed we know very little about the people who created them because these were craftspeople just like people who made furniture or built cars," he said.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

Goldmark hopes that by collecting local sheet music he can tell the story of how popular music was a part of life in Cleveland before rock and roll came on the scene.

He shares the music occasionally at sing-along events, and he is considering other ways to highlight his collection.

[image courtesy: Daniel Goldmark]

"I'm really looking forward to having the chance to help fill in this gap of what a strong part Cleveland had in the music industry in shaping musical tastes in the United States during the late 19th and [early] 20th century," he said.

CWRU music professor Daniel Goldmark hosts an old-time sing-a-long of Cleveland songs at the Happy Dog on Wednesday, April 24.

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