Balch Institute sheet music collection
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
This collection of sheet music was formed over time by the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. The materials in the collection date from the 1820s to the 1960s, with the bulk of the music dated from the 1890s to the 1930s. Housed in seven boxes, the music in the collection has been arranged mostly by ethnic group, though a small portion has been arranged by subject. A searchable database of the collection is available in HSP's library.
The Balch Institute sheet music collection serves as an extensive resource of songs that were published by or for members of various ethnic groups. Much of music reflects visual stereotypes and stereotypical speech patterns associated with different groups. The most prevalent materials are related to the following ethnic groups: African American, Jewish, Greek, Italian, Irish, and Swedish; however, there are smaller caches of music pertaining to other groups such as Chinese, Hawaiian, Hispanic, Romania, Russian, Slovak, and Scottish, among others. This music is housed in Boxes 1-6 of the collection. Some sheet music that did not fall under any particular ethnic grouping has been housed by subject or genre, such as American/Patriotic, Foxtrot, Ragtime, Multiethnic/Immigrant, "Gypsy" (songs that invoke the "Gypsy" stereotype, not songs of the Romani people), and Polka.
In the collection researchers will find a wide array of songs types, from spirituals and minstrel songs to folk songs, traditional anthems, and popular radio hits. The majority of music in the collection is in English, with some songs containing foreign language lyrics. Most of the Greek sheet music, however, is only in modern Greek and almost all of the Swedish music is in Swedish. Researchers may occasionally find notes on English translations in these groups. Please note that a significant number of songs in the collection contain potentially offensive language, including racial and ethnic slurs, some of which was common in the eras in which the music was published.
This is an artificial collection culled together by the staff of the former Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.
- African Americans--Music--19th century
- African Americans--Music--20th century
- African Americans--Music
- Ethnic attitudes--United States--History
- Folk songs
- Minstrel music--United States
- Music title pages
- Music--Manuscripts--19th century
- Sheet music--United States--History--19th century
- Sheet music--United States--History--20th century
- Songs, German--United States
- Songs, Greek (Modern)--United States
- Songs, Irish--United States
- Songs, Italian--United States
- Songs, Slovak--United States
- Songs, Swedish--United States
- Songs, Yiddish--United States
- Spirituals (Songs)--United States
- Stereotypes (Social psychology)--History
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2015.
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from the Young Friends of HSP.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. Please contact HSP's Rights and Reproduction department for questions concerning the use of potentially copyrighted items.