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Anonymous Private Collection of American Sheet Music 1

 Collection 0344-SCPA
Howard Serwer (1928-2000) joined the University of Maryland in 1968 as a musicologist in the School of Music. He was a member of the Board of Directors and Vice President of the Georg-Friedrich-Handel-Gesellschaft from 1968 to 1995. Serwer, along with Paul Traver, was one of the driving forces behind the 1975 Handel Festival held in Washington, DC. His own collection of papers consists of research materials pertaining to various topics in music. This bound set of 18 pianoforte duets comes from his personal collection of print materials donated with his papers. The folio is representative of American middle-class home parlor music composed in the 19th century, with pieces published in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia.


  • Publication: 1819-1848. undated
  • Publication: Majority of material found in 1819-1848


There are no restricted files in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Please make an appointment with the curator: Tel: 301.405.9220, Email:


1 Items (1 bound book of scores)

18 Scores

Scope and Contents

The Anonymous Private Collection of American Sheet Music 1 covers the period from ca. 1819-1848. The collection consists of one bound folio of 18 pianoforte duets. The publications are the products of New York: Firth & Hall, Dubois & Stodart, J. L. Hewitt, Dubois & Bacon; Philadelphia: Fiot, Meignen & Co., G. Willig; Baltimore: John Cole, John Cole & Son.

Historical Note

The early 19th century, in both America and Europe, saw a sudden boom in the sheet music industry’s productivity and popularity. Various factors affected this increase in sheet music demand, which stemmed from the growth of parlor music, which was music performed in the private homes of the middle and upper class. Economic prosperity following the Revolutionary War strengthened the middle class, enabling more families to enjoy luxuries that had once been available only to the wealthiest households. One of the more popular additions to the middle-class home was the pianoforte, providing entertainment and musical education—a skill connoting a well-rounded citizen—for both children and adults.

Early 19th-century sheet music was generally composed for musical amateurs. It was marketed toward middle and upper class families by associating it with famous composers and performers. The sheet music will often display ornately illustrated titles that included details like the arranger associated with the publication, the original composer (W. A. Mozart, G. F. Handel, etc.), the opera that the melody is from, or a celebrated singer that first premiered the piece. Names of famous composers and musicians would have drawn the attention of those who desired the experience of seeing a live performance—a relatively expensive affair—and created an opportunity for the amateur musician to participate in the contemporary music scene.

Arrangement of Collection

This collection is organized into one series:
  1. Sheet music

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

This collection was donated in June 2002 by by Nancy Serwer, Howard Serwer’s spouse. Dr. Serwer was an occasional collector of historic music materials, and the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of this folio are not documented.

Related Materials

Howard Serwer papers, Special Collections in Performing Arts, University of Maryland Libraries. (finding aid)
Anonymous Private Collection of American Sheet Music 1
Grace Chris
November 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States