Sheet Music Deep Dive: Labor Day

Labor Day Imagery

As we celebrated Labor Day this Monday, this week’s deep dive explores music from the labor movement. The Knights of Labor was founded in 1869 and lobbied for reforms including an 8-hour workday, and sought to end child labor and convict labor. Whereas other unions restricted their membership to white, male, skilled workers, the Knights of […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Poetry

Woman Reading Poetry

Music and text have been paired together since the earliest expressions of art—from ancient Egypt to the medieval morality plays of Hildegard von Bingen. When opera emerged, the composer and librettist (someone who writes the text for a musical work) would work hand in hand, like Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. Of course, […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Baltimore Landmarks


The Levy collection contains over 2,000 songs published in Baltimore, including some historic depictions of Baltimore’s landmarks and monuments. Fifth Regiment March was published by one of the most prolific sheet music publishers in the city, F.D. Benteen. The cover shows the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon– the monument was built between 1815 and 1829, […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Titanic


The 1912 sinking of the Titanic immediately caught the attention of the world press. It also came during an era of sheet music production that constantly churned out new songs related to world events— elections, celebrities, disasters. Therefore, it is no surprise that the tragedy made its way onto numerous sheet music covers. Some of […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Sophie Tucker

Rather than exploring a subject heading in the Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection, this week’s deep dive is a celebration of Sophie Tucker, the self-billed “Last of the Red Hot Mamas.” Tucker was an early vaudeville star at the turn of the century, enjoying a diverse career until her death in 1966. Born in modern […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Mountains


Now that summer is in full swing and national parks are seeing spikes in visitors, this week’s sheet music deep dive is dedicated to mountains and trails (not to be confused with volcanoes, which have already been featured on the blog). Often, songs with ornate covers didn’t feature any text (the flowers category is a […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte

Bastille Day is coming up next week, and although the Levy Sheet Music Collection doesn’t have any songs related to the French holiday, there are at least a dozen inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). One of the earliest songs in the collection depicting Napoleon is the Marsailles Hymn, now the national anthem of France. While […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Fireworks


Fireworks have been around since the Han Dynasty in China (200 B.C.E.), when hollow bamboo sticks were thrown into fires to expand and eventually explode. Chemicals were soon added to create colorful effects, and fireworks made their way to Europe via the Silk Road. In addition to dozens of songs celebrating Independence Day in the […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Parrots


Animal lovers have been keeping birds as pets for hundreds if not thousands of years—they can be found throughout history from Egyptian hieroglyphs to homing pigeons, and in White House families from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson. Parrots in particular have been among the most popular birds to keep as pets, making their way […]

Sheet Music Deep Dive: Tin Pan Alley

This week, rather than diving into a unique subject heading from the Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection, I decided to share a teaser for an upcoming map project. Before Times Square and Harlem were the centers of entertainment in New York City, Manhattan had at least two other major entertainment districts. One was Union Square […]