A Foundational Acquisition: The Krohn Musicology Collection

In 1967, WU acquired the musicological collection of Ernst C. Krohn, a St. Louis collector, musician, composer, musicologist and teacher.   That collection now forms an important and unique part of the Gaylord Music Library.  It includes not only music scores and festschriften, but also correspondence, scrapbooks, and other archival materials that detail the history of music in the St. Louis region.  Gaylord Music Library reading room circa 1960s (right)

(below) Student studying at the Music Library in the 1960s

Gaylord Music Library, 1960

Gaylord Music Library, 1960

About the collector

Krohn was born in New York City in 1888, and studied piano as a child.  Later, the family moved to St. Louis, where Krohn worked as a clerk for Shattinger Piano and Music Company.  Afterwards, he taught private piano from 1909-1953 and composed a number of pieces for solo piano.  He also taught courses on music history at WU (1939-53) and SLU (1953-63).

Krohn began his expansive collection in 1903.  He described himself as “a compulsive book buyer,” and his collection grew for more than 60 years.   At first, he made purchases only from local dealers, but later expanded his shopping list and acquired works from all over the world.  As a result, his collection contained a wide variety of material, from German musicological periodicals to American hymn collections, little-known sheet music, and collections of local Missouri music.

Local Music Expert

Grand March

Saint Louis grand march

In fact, he became an expert on local music.  He published multiple books, including  Missouri Music and Music Publishing in St. Louis, on the history of music and music publishing in the Midwest.  When Krohn sold his collection to the WU Libraries, he was appointed its honorary curator.  Krohn was also the first curator of the Sheet Music Collection at WU, an archive of more than 60,000 pieces of historic American sheet music.

Some examples from the Krohn Musicology Collection include :

Saint Louis grand march (pictured)

Division eighty-nine : official song of Relatives’ auxiliary, St. Louis men 89th division

Bayou ballads : twelve folk-songs from Louisiana

Father Kemp’s old folks concert tunes

American primitive music : with especial attention to the songs of the Ojibways

Caliph for a day; an amusing comedy

These titles, and thousands more, are available at the Gaylord Music Library.

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.