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Maryland Sheet Music collection

 Collection 0366-SCPA-MSMC
This artificial sheet music collection was originally created by the Marylandia and Historical Manuscripts unit of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) at the University of Maryland (UMD) as a means to further document the history of the state of Maryland. The collection was subsequently transferred to Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA). The collection consists of over 1,500 pieces of sheet music that have some connection to the state of Maryland, such as subject, composer/author, and/or publisher; much is from Civil War-era Baltimore. It is organized into a single series.


  • 1809-1977; undated
  • Majority of material found in 1830-1870

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on any items in the collection. An inventory of the collection can be viewed by clicking HERE. To request access to an item, please contact SCPA by clicking HERE.

Conditions Governing Use

Many works in this collection are within Public Domain. Copyright was not transferred to UMD with the physical gift or purchase of these works. The composers, publishers, or heirs retain any copyright possessed in the collection for those works not in Public Domain. UMD Libraries is granted permission for the use in scholarly research by the Libraries’ patrons under fair use in Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act.


1545 Items

Scope and Contents

The collection contains 1,545 items, almost all of which are sheet music for the piano, and many have one vocal line with lyrics in English or with an English translation. Dates range from 1809-1977, with sixty-nine percent (69%) from 1830-1870 and thirteen percent (13%) from 1960-1980, but a large number of items are undated (796). Seventy-seven percent (77%) of the items with a place are from Baltimore, with Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and others appearing much less frequently. The three most common publishers are Frederick D. Benteen, George Willig, and Miller and Beacham, who were all in Baltimore and connected to one another. Benteen worked for Willig before buying out publisher John Cole (who also appears in the collection), and he would eventually sell to Miller and Beacham, who had been two of his clerks.

There are problematic pieces in the collection worthy of a content warning, and they remain in the collection so as not to sanitize it. Racism is the primary issue, appearing in titles, lyrics, lithographs, creators, and figures. Other problematic content includes: use of terms such as “gypsy,” “Indian,” and “crazy/maniac;” a piece titled and about the legend of the “wandering Jew;” use of coded language such as a dedication to the “silent majority” and telling people to leave the country if they do not love it. There are also dedications to controversial figures.

Special Collections and University Archives houses Agnew’s papers, and they transferred any sheet music received by his office to the Maryland Sheet Music Collection while it was still stewarded by them. This includes 21 songs from songwriter Thomas “Tommy” F. Martin, who self-published as Martin Music Publisher in Derby, New York. He had “heard that the V.P. played the piano so sent him some of his songs to play [received 2 March 1971] and also wants information as to how he could also deliver these songs to the U.S. Marine Band” (file in Agnew papers’ record of gifts given by constituents and heads of state).

Items 507-570 from the collection were lost in 1973. An accession record states “Taken by trash men, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 1973. Discovered loss, Thursday, Feb. 22, 1973. Gave sheets [accession records] to Mary, Feb. 26, 1973.”

Historical Note

Parlor music was a popular style of music in the United States during the 19th century. It was designed to be performed in the home by amateur musicians, typically on the piano with one vocal line. It was a product of and ingredient in changes in technology, society, and culture that took place during this time period—mainly, the rise of the middle class.

These people had more leisure time for lessons, practicing, and performing, and more disposable income for instruments, sheet music, and lessons. There were more native-born music educators, who provided informal and formal training in schools, churches, and homes. There were more music publishers, who produced more sheet music (first primarily by English composers, then Americans as people like Stephen Foster rose to prominence). Tours by professional singers, such as the Hutchinson Family and Jenny Lind, popularized songs that drove sheet music sales since audio recordings were not yet available.

Parlors (from the French word “parler”—“to talk”) became more common in home construction. This was the first room in the home not built for cooking, eating, or sleeping, but for receiving and hosting guests, such as during calls (short, ritualized visits) or amateur performances. Pianos were most likely to appear in this room, especially after Jonas Chickering patented a one-piece metal frame in 1843. Mass production lowered the cost of pianos, but owning one remained a sign of financial capital, and hosting calls and performances in the home was a sign of social capital. Women were typically the pianists and hosts, bound by gender/social norms (displaying the wealth of their husbands/fathers; what was expected of “virtuous” women) that limited their access to other opportunities to perform.

Parlor music was rooted in gentility, between blackface minstrelsy and aristocratic operatic and symphonic music. It was music for the middle class that represented their economic aspirations and societal values. Front covers with elaborate engravings further emphasized these qualities and increased sales.

All of this played out in the United States before, during, and after the Civil War. Music, especially patriotic music, had become part of American culture, including music sympathetic to the Confederacy. The majority of performers, composers, and publishers were located in the North before the war, but not all of them were staunch supporters of the Union. This was particularly true in border states like Maryland, which surrounds Washington, DC. Baltimore was an established musical hub and home to people and publishers who became known for their involvement in Confederate music.

Three days after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered 75,000 state militiamen to be transported to Washington to defend the Capitol. The only way to quickly move that many people was by rail, but all lines to Washington went through Baltimore. This was a city where many residents believed in a state’s right to secede, that one state should not permit troops to cross its territory to attack another state, or that Lincoln might use force to keep Maryland in the Union.

Two days later on April 19th, the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment was passing through the city limits of Baltimore in horse-drawn railcars until protestors blocked the tracks with sand, timber, and iron anchors. This forced the soldiers to disembark and march down Pratt Street from President Street Station to Camden Station under duress. A firearm in the crowd eventually discharged, which caused the officers to order return fire. By the time police arrived, put themselves between the two groups, and escorted the troops to the station, eight rioters, one bystander, and three soldiers had been killed.

James Ryder Randall, a native Marylander in Louisiana at the time, had a friend among the dead and wrote the poem “Maryland, My Maryland” in response, specifically mentioning the event in the first stanza: “Avenge the patriotic gore/that flecked the streets of Baltimore.” Set to the tune of “O, Tannenbaum,” it became a Confederate anthem and would go on to become the state song in 1939 during the Jim Crow era. Multiple attempts have been made since 1974 to repeal the song, or at least demote it to “historical song,” but no bill has managed to pass both chambers of the state legislate. However, in 2017, UMD announced that it would no longer play the song at athletic events. It appears six times in the collection, including the original 1861 Miller and Beacham edition, a pro-Union adaptation by Septimus Winner, and in booklets of UMD songs.

Spiro T. Agnew was a native of Baltimore, governor of Maryland, and President Richard Nixon’s first Vice President until his resignation on 10 October 1973 for his involvement in a bribery scandal in Maryland. Agnew was not a musician, but he performed a racist piano duet with Nixon for the finale of the annual Gridiron Club roast in DC on 14 March 1970. The club is an exclusive organization of journalists in the city and although the white-tie event was not officially covered at the time, accounts did leak out. Agnew’s office had occasionally received sheet music from constituents, but this event caused an uptick in piano music from supporters.


  1. Abel, Ernest Lawrence. 2012 "Confederate music." Grove Music Online. 23 Apr. 2019.
  2. Gaines, Danielle E. "House Committee Again Considering State Song Repeal." Maryland Matters. March 13, 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.
  3. Held, Amy. "Maryland Gets Closer To Retiring State Song That Calls Northerners 'Scum'." NPR. March 16, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2019.
  4. Key, Susan. 2016 "Parlor music." Grove Music Online. 23 Apr. 2019.
  5. O'Reilly, Kenneth. Nixon's Piano : Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton. New York: Free Press, 1995.
  6. "Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment Organized." Mass Moments. Accessed April 24, 2019.
  7. "Spiro T. Agnew, 39th Vice President (1969-1973)." United States Senate. January 12, 2017. Accessed April 30, 2019.
  8. "The Pratt Street Riot." National Parks Service. February 26, 2015. Accessed April 24, 2019.

Arrangement of Collection

This collection consists of a single series.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) accession records from the 1980s indicate purchases from such businesses as Carmen D. Valentino Rare Books and Manuscripts (Philadelphia), Harris Auction Gallery (Baltimore), Wurlitzer-Bruck (New York City), C. and S. Najarian Paper Americana (Newtown Square, PA), and Bookworm and Silverfish (Wytheville, VA).

In 1993, SCUA transferred the collection to what was then the UMD Music Library’s reference and circulation unit. In 2000, Philip Vandermeer, music librarian, transferred administrative responsibility for the collection to Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA). Since 2006, SCPA has purchased numerous works from Bookworm and Silverfish for the collection. Further acquisitions are possible.

Processing Information

Original housing and description work prior to 2006 is unknown. Mario Perez processed acquisitions from 2015-2017. Zachary Tumlin converted the descriptive data in spring 2019.
Maryland Sheet Music collection
Zachary Tumlin
January-May 2019
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