Salut à Louisville: Music from Louisville During the Nineteenth Century

by Marion Korda

Louisville's importance as an early music-publishing center has been little appreciated. Ernst Krohn, in his Music Publishing in the Middle Western States before the Civil War (1972) mentions the city only briefly. This project documents Louisville's interesting and important place in the early history of music publishing in this country. The fascinating story covers the fifty-year span, from the first mention of William C. Peters in the 1832 city directory as "prof. of music" and manager of a circulating music library, up to the last documented publication of D.P. Faulds in 1882. It is a repertory rich in the polkas, marches, quick-steps and waltzes that testify to the popularity of social dancing, and the sentimental ballads that recall the importance of family drawing rooms or parlors. Instrumental music slightly outnumbers vocal music in the ratio of five to four.

The Dwight Anderson Music Library at the University of Louisville today claims a large collection of early sheet music, thanks to the interest and generosity of such patrons as Hattie Bishop Speed, Frances ApMorgan Vance, Mrs. William Davenport and their many friends. This music may be rarely sung or played, and musically it may be unremarkable, but collectively it is a useful historical reflection of the pleasures and tastes of the last century.

Of the 1450 items examined here, the heart of the collection is the work of William C. Peters, whose publishing output included 85 editions of his compositions along with 15 editions for which he served as arranger. David P. Faulds, George Washington Brainard and the Tripp firms were also prolific. Other smaller but still significant publishers include Francis W. Ratcliffe, William McCarrell, Julius C. Meininger and Henry Knoefel. For the present study only Louisville imprints were indexed; therefore, no mention will be made of other imprints bound in the volumes, which often included well-known European composers. While their music was mostly published in other cities, Stephen Foster had strong Louisville ties, as did the Louisville songwriter Will S. Hays; therefore, their compositions are also listed when they appear in these volumes.

The mid-nineteenth century was a period of rapid growth for this western outpost, strategically situated at the Falls of the Ohio River, supporting trade and a terminal for both the southern and western territories. As a teacher of piano, Peters realized the special need for pianos and teaching material. Most publishers were equally important as piano manufacturers or piano dealers, a fact which contributes to the difficulty of distinguishing their various partnerships. The firm of Peters, Webb & Co. came to include W.C. Peters' brother, Henry J. Peters; Benedict J. Webb, a regular book publisher; and Frank M. Burkett and R.S. Millar, both piano manufacturers. At some time the firm worked from two addresses: one a manufacturing warehouse/factory and the other a showroom/storehouse and music store. After 1865, Peters, Webb & Co. were no longer publishing music in Louisville, but continued as manufacturers of pianos. Faulds continued to be listed in the directories under "Musical Instruments and Merchandise" until the end of the century, though he ceased publishing in 1882. The passage of the copyright law of 1891, which provided safeguards against the infringement of European copyrights, contributed to the changes in music publishing, along with the changing tastes and fashions.

Attracted to the flourishing Louisville market, in 1851 the Cleveland music publisher George Washington Brainard opened a store in Mozart Hall (117 Fourth Street). There is evidence that Brainard shared Webb, Peters' plates, but his music publishing venture seems not to have been a commercial success. The shop closed in 1854 although ties with Louisville continued under the firm names Brainard Bros. and G.W. Brainard & Co. after his return to Cleveland, where his brother Silas' firm was flourishing. During this period he appeared as a joint or secondary publisher along with Faulds (who most likely bought him out in 1856) and with such well known firms as Oliver Ditson in Boston.

Mention must also be made of the Tripp family of publishers, active from 1851 to 1880. Louis Tripp teamed up first with Thomas P. Cragg, then published by himself, then took on G.W. Linton as a partner, and finally left the firm in the hands of his wife, Emily. During the Tripp & Linton partnership, the short-lived periodical the "Musical Monthly" was published (1872).

This period is both interesting and notable for long stretches of family and company involvement in the musical life and times of Louisville. W.C. Peters' sons established a veritable dynasty of music publishing in Cincinnati, St. Louis and New York, and his brother, Henry J., continued the business in Louisville until a year before his death in Texas in 1877. Henry J. Peters was a highly respected musician, appearing both as pianist and instrumentalist on La Reunion Musicale Club programs in 1874. He was also the organist at Christ Church Cathedral. During Faulds' long period as the leading music store proprietor, he gave encouragement to at least four former clerks or bookkeepers who later established their own music publishing businesses: James Cragg, James Perry, Harry L.B. Sheetz, and Will S. Hays. Joint imprint statements tell us that both Peters and Faulds established ties with other leading publishers of the day, among them Wm. Hall & Son in New York, Balmer & Weber in St. Louis, and Lee & Walker in Philadelphia. Peters also lists European agents on a few items. Faulds published several items in Chicago, although the Civil War seems to have disrupted this venture. His obituary in 1903 stated that, "in all, he published 2,500 pieces." Both men were members of the Board of Music Trade of the United States of America, 1855-1871, Faulds serving as President after having served first as Vice-President in 1860. Tripp & Cragg were also members, 1859-1871.

Interesting in passing is the evidence that, during the Civil War, Faulds seems to affiliated himself with both sides of the conflict. (This was of course typical of Louisville in general.) For Union publications he became affiliated with the Root & Cady firm in Chicago, for Confederate ones with Bonner & Sapper in Richmond, Va. Jacob Slinglandt, the best- known local music engraver, also worked for both sides.

These music publishing and music retail firms were the center of the musical life of the city, first located on Main Street and later on Fourth Street in Louisville. Here, theater and concert tickets were sold, music teachers and performers became acquainted and came to be recommended to prospective students and the latest music news of the rest of the country disseminated. During 1871 and 1872, the Harmony Club met twice each month at Louis Tripp's Harmony Hall.

Music teachers worked closely with the firms in publishing their own work, as did such favorite local composers as Charlie L. Ward and Will S. Hays. Local early music teachers such as Robert Challoner, Octavia Hensel, Madame Ablamowicz and Carolyn Riv‚ (mother of Julia Riv‚-King) are represented in the listing, regardless of the place of publication. Other teachers at seminaries throughout the state published a commemorative march or quick-step in honor of their institution, while vanity publications reflect dedications to sweethearts or devices otherwise to impress an amateur composer's friends. The list of persons, institutions and causes to which pieces are dedicated paint a fascinating historical picture of the times. Local poets, such as Amelia B. Coppuck and Mrs. George D. Prentice, inspired many of the sentimental ballads such as W.C. Peters', "When first I gazed, oh lady fair," with words by Amelia. Fifty-three men and seven women have been identified through contemporary music programs and directories as Kentucky music teachers or musicians. One can also find a goodly number of far-flung fellow music publishers being represented in their listings such as Charles Balmer, George W. Hewitt, Charles Kunkel and Septimus Winner.

Readers will find it a special joy to examine the many beautifully engraved sheets of music, both the covers and the music itself, whether engraved or lithographed. One charming title-page engraving shows an Indian maiden; another someone dancing a polka. Mostly, however, it is the wonderfully decorative flourishes, fanciful and still clearly etched lettering of both music and covers engraved on quality paper that have survived. Peters' output is outstanding in this regard. Several elegantly lithographed covers in black and white were done in 1844, such as the "Ashland Quadrilles," presumably by Thomas Campbell or Thayer, as they were not signed but listed as being the embellisher in the catalogues printed on the back cover. As early as 1844 he had advertised his lithographic press as "conducted by experienced and accomplished artists," and that he was also prepared to execute maps, plans, manifests, etc.

After the Civil War, lithography and stereotyping dominated. More was paid for elaborate and colored lithographed covers, often, I suspect, accounting for their popularity. In the early years the pieces were generally printed on two pages, the insides of a single folded sheet of paper. What a contrast between the single music sheet the anonymous "Java March," most likely one of Peters' earliest publications in Louisville, and his later publications. By the time of the minstrel and reply songs, the music was printed on four or five pages with an outside decorative cover with publishers' series listings, frequently publishers' catalogs on the back cover. This change was also due to a new musical fashion: choruses were added to most popular songs. Louisville music publishers saw about half of their publications printed locally, the rest through firms and engravers in Cincinnati, New York and elsewhere. The excellent local engraver, Jacob Slinglandt, and later his son Benjamin F. Slinglandt, engraved between one-third and one-half of the music published in Louisville. Jacob Slinglandt worked for both Peters and Faulds beginning in 1844, with his son serving as music engraver 1878-1889 for Faulds and Emily Tripp as well as attempting some ordinary-looking covers.

Of the 215 bound volumes in the Anderson Music Library, 135 contain Louisville imprints, while 175 more can be found among the collection of about 500 single sheets. In describing the 1450 items, and using a Buttonware PC file:db with a WordPerfect printout, a layout plan was developed using the following conventions. The composer is given as main entry, with a separate line for arranger. Next, title or titles, plus space for a series listing in brackets. The 104 anonymous items are listed under title, even when the arrangers were known. In the imprint statements that follow place of publication, publisher or additional place and publishers, and date the publisher's address is listed as given, since the date is often based on it when neither plate numbers nor dates appear. Pagination and height in centimeters appear, followed by the plate numbers. Following this are details on illustrated covers; names of lithographers/engravers, whether the cover or music, if given; medium, usually voice or piano; subjects; song lyricists; the first lines of songs; and other special notes, such as dedicatee, language of texts other than English, and other peculiarities of the edition. Finally, the shelf number listing in which volume or volumes or other single item listing where it can be located in the collection and, when appropriate, the number of copies.

Plate numbers are crucial to assigning dates when none is given, also occasionally to determine whether other publishers' plates were used. While the present list consists of citations, the computer database can also generate separate listings of engravers and lithographers, subjects and medium. A specific publisher's output can be searched by year, plate number and place of business within the city. Early city and business directories can be consulted, while subsidiary or secondary publishers' listings can determine the business relationships of various companies. The same title was often used by several publishers, or re-issued under different plate numbers. Seven different editions of Peters' "Louisville March and Quick Step" gives evidence of its popularity, as well as the evidence of the practice of sharing plates and compositions between publishers. Balfe's, "Then you'll remember me," which has the largest number of variant editions, is typical of the predominantly secular selection emphasis, having been published by Peters, Webb & Co., Henry Knoefel, Emily Tripp and D.P. Faulds.

In the final analysis, the most felicitous use and value of this study is that library patrons, which usually means anyone in the area, can now have access to this wealth of local historical material for further consultation and study, perhaps simply pleasure in its perusal. Hopefully, it also proves to music librarians and others that similar studies of long-forgotten music collections can be studied and indexed given a good block of time, such as one and one-half years, plus the new computer technology now at one's disposal. One can enjoy looking through the index or printout with the gratifying knowledge that it can be revised or added to at any time. Such an historical study of American music publishing can be a rewarding effort and valuable contribution.

Marion Korda

Kentucky Sheet Music | Special Collections