Printmaking history and photographic history are usually treated independently, but this poster will examine their connections through the lens of one specific era of photo-illustrated sheet music production. The title quotation is from an 1877 edition of W. Stuckenholz's "The 'Elite' Race Galop," lithographed in four colors with an albumen photo of the composer directly adhered to the cover, credited in lithographic printing to "Bradley & Rulofson, Photo, S. F."
The Huntington Library holds several thousand pieces of 19th and 20th century American sheet music, all slated for digitization, including one box labeled simply “Photography: Photos Attached.” This box contains about 50 printed pieces of sheet music, each with a paper photograph directly adhered to the cover, and all dating between the early 1860s and the early 1880s. Although some technology did exist in this era to print photographs as part of the cover illustrations, several music publishers seem to have found the combination of albumen photograph and lithographed cover a satisfactory way to meet the appetite for both celebrity portraiture and sheet music. Customers could purchase the same sheet music with a choice of celebrity portraits, or sometimes purchase the plain sheet music more cheaply.
San Francisco is the best represented city in The Huntington's collection, but examples were created in many other American towns and cities from Jersey City Heights to Leavenworth, Kansas. San Francisco's leading music publishers Matthias Gray and Sherman & Hyde produced sheet music illustrated with photographs from San Francisco’s leading photography studios, especially Bradley & Rulofson, well-known for publishing Eadweard Muybridge’s views of Yosemite Valley, and their competitors Thomas Houseworth & Co. All these businesses were located within a few city blocks of each other, and it can be hypothesized that this lavish sheet music was mutually beneficial, driving business to both the photography studios and the music stores, as well as generating publicity for the performers and composers.
This poster surveys this type of sheet music from collections around the United States, illuminating connections between printers and photography studios in this era, and discussing the most common condition problems of these hybrid objects. The poster will be illustrated with examples from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden’s collections.