Skip to main content
Use the right side menu to identify relevant boxes and place requests.

Ruth Kafka collection on Theodore M. Tobani

 Collection 0212-SCPA

Theodore Moses Tobani was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1855 and died in New York City in 1933. He was a prolific composer and arranger active in the late 19th and early 20th century. This collection was donated by his granddaughter, Ruth Kafka, and contains scores, magazine articles, membership certificates, and miscellaneous items related to Tobani.


  • 1829-1933
  • Majority of material found within 1890-1927

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room during SCPA’s operating hours. Please contact the curator for an appointment or if you have questions related to digital access of the materials.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Copyright was not transferred to the University of Maryland with the gift of any copyrighted materials. All rights remain with the creators and rights holders. The University of Maryland 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.

To inquire about duplication of materials for research or for publication, please contact SCPA’s curator.


2.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Ruth Kafka collection on Theodore M. Tobani covers the period from 1829 to 1933; the bulk of the materials date from 1890 to 1927. The collection consists of both personal and professional papers, including collected scores, articles, memorabilia, and photographs related to Tobani's career as a composer.


Theodore Moses Tobani (2 May 1855 - 12 December 1933), born Theodore Moses, was a composer and arranger of popular music. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, to Josef Moses, a cigar manufacturer, and Marianne Wede. He began violin studies at the age of three. His family moved to the United States, where he attended the Rivington Street School in New York City, but they returned to Europe when Theodore began to show significant musical proficiency. He was a solo violinist with a touring European company by the time he was 10. Later, he was a member of the Hamburg Stadttheater orchestra and studied piano and harmony with Julius von Berntuh, conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic. 1971, the family returned to the United States and Tobani became first violin at Simpson's Theater in Philadelphia. From 1872 to 1874, he was first violin in the orchestra of Louisa Lane Drew's Arch Street Theater in Philadelphia. In 1875, he returned to New York City and played first violin at Wallack's Theater (later known as the Star Theater) until 1881. From 1881 until 1890, he played at the Grand Opera House and at the Bijou, Thalia, Daly's, and Palmer's theaters.

Tobani's compositions were first published by Lee and Walker in 1873. In 1882 he began his publishing relationship with Carl Fischer. He wrote an estimated 550 original works, including his most famous composition, "Hearts and Flowers," and made more than 4,500 arrangements. Tobani's publisher encouraged him to write songs under several pen names due to his prolificacy. Some of these pen names included Florence Reed, F. Wohanka, Andrew Herman, and variations of his own name. In 1895, he legally changed his name and added the surname Tobani.

Tobani was first married in 1885 to Rose Luster, with whom he had three children. After his split with Luster, he married Helene Kracht in 1890, with whom he had six children before her death in 1928. Aside from his musical career, he was also a licensed real estate agent and owned several properties in Long Island City, a neighborhood in Queens, New York. In 1933, Tobani died in his home in Jackson Heights, Queens and was buried at St. Michael's Cemetery in neighboring Astoria.


This collection is organized into four series:

  1. Scores
  2. Magazine clippings
  3. Certificates of memberships
  4. Personal items

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Gift of Raoul F. Camus (ABA Member), acquired from Mrs. Ruth Kafka (granddaughter of Tobani) on November 27, 2012, and donated to SCPA on June 22, 2015.

Ruth Kafka collection on Theodore M. Tobani
Mario Perez
June 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

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