The Sheet Music Collection houses some 60,000 items that bear the personal stamp of Ernst C. Krohn. It represents the accumulation of many private and publisher collections.
Among the private and publisher collections that make up the Sheet Music Collections are forty boxes acquired from the St. Louis Public Library in 1964, some later purchases by former music librarian Elizabeth Krause at book fairs, etc., and some given more recently by University trustee Eric P. Newman.
The organization of the initial collection was the subject of an article written by Krohn, “On classifying sheet music,” Music Library Association Notes, v. XXVI/3, March 1970. Krohn divided this vast collection between St. Louis publications and things published before and after 1875.
In 1971, Ernst C. Krohn wrote the following concerning the collection:
Private collectors have been collecting American sheet music for a long time. Many of them have only been interested in the brilliantly colored lithographic title pages that adorn the music. In fact, collectors have not hesitated to separate the title page from the music. This is all wrong. It is of the utmost importance to preserve the composition intact, for the entire publication is needed for its invaluable data: the variant characteristics of the punches used, the name of the engraver frequently stamped on the last plate of music, the original copyright claim on the first plate of music and the plate number which is stamped at the bottom of each plate. The title pages are of extraordinary interest because they portray contemporary scenes and buildings, steamboats, railroads, and portraits of singers, composers, generals and presidents. The intrinsic importance of this music from an artistic standpoint does not enter into consideration, for it is an expression of the growth of culture in American civilization and is of more importance historically than musically.Ernst C. Krohn
The Gaylord Sheet Music Collection includes a series of boxes and stacks for St. Louis publishers without regard to year of the publication including “Art Publication Society,” “Balmer & Weber,” “Bauersachs,” “Bollman,” “Compton & Endres,” “Compton & Doan,” “Endres,” “Kunkel Bros.,” “[J.L.] Peters,” “[J. & J.N. (and) N.] Phillips,” “Retter,” “Shattinger,” “Thiebes-Stierlin,” and “Misc. Music Publishers.” Particularly for Balmer & Weber, Krohn has the boxes arranged in plate number order.
A very large segment of this collection is of pre-1875 music. Items with a copyright date are arranged in boxes by decade from 1820-1865, 1866-1874. Undated pieces that seemed to Krohn to have been published before 1875 he filed in boxes labeled with the city or country of publication. Certain cities had so many boxes, e.g., Philadelphia, that he designated some for the more prolific publishers like “Oliver Ditson” and “Oliver Ditson & Company.” Some special category boxes exist for “Civil War,” “Engraved Title-Pages,” “Lithographed Title-Pages,” “ditto-Portraits,” “ditto-Women,” and “ditto-Jenny Lind.”
In addition to individual publications are the more than 40 bound personal albums. Although sometimes crossing the 1875 line, most of these cumulations contain appropriately dated material. This body of material was the subject of the dissertation of George R. Keck, Pre-1875 American Imprint Sheet Music in the Ernst C. Krohn Special Collections, Gaylord Music Library, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri: A Catalog and Descriptive Study, University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1982. There are 5120 numbered entries listed; however, there is no relationship between entry numbers and how items are housed.
A major offshoot of the post-1875 group is “Popular Music.” The bulk of this category falls between the 1890s and the 1950s. It is further broken down with boxes devoted to certain composers and topics. Composers with larger representations are Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Noel Coward, Stephen Foster, Rudolf Friml, George Gershwin, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Nelson Kneass, Harry Lauder, Franz Lehar, Frank Loesser, Frederick Loewe, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Sigmund Romberg, and Vincent Youmans.
Topics included “African-American Songs,” “Bromo-Seltzer,” “Colleges and Universities,” “Du bist wie eine Blume,” “Hawaiian,” “Home, Sweet Home,” “Lindbergh,” “Missouri,” “Newspapers” (songs published by newspapers in St. Louis and elsewhere), “Patriotic-Foreign,” “Patriotic-U.S.,” “Popular Piano,” “Ragtime,” “1904 St. Louis World’s Fair,” “Silent Film,” “Star-Spangled Banner,” “States & Cities,” “Telephone,” “Transportation,” “Wa-Wan Press,” “World War I,” “World War II,” etc.