“Ponderously” Rare (Part 2): Variation and Rarity in Music Title-Page Design

The Lynch Archives is one of the premier private collections of American sheet music. Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives, begun more than one hundred years ago by his father, band leader and art dealer Francis Lynch. The collection of published popular music dating from 1736 to 1987 is uniquely sorted by subject, archived, and conserved. It is based principally on prominent nineteenth-century publications of American and British music, although many European prints are included as well.


In this three-part series, Kevin Lynch explores the variety of music title-page design through three sets of unusual and rare pieces from the Lynch Archives along with his own commentary on what makes these covers so special. Click here to read Part 1!

In part two, Kevin takes a look at views of two St. Louis hotels.

Southern Hotel Polka

Southern Hotel Polka.
Lithographed and printed in tints by McLean Lithography, St. Louis, 1865, vertical format, folio.

The hotel was designed by architect George Barnett, who built other famous buildings in St. Louis. This litho demonstrates the tendency to highlight and draw to perspective by deliberately setting off the shaded side of the building from the sunny side. These views of buildings have proved to be very popular with collectors. The ornately titled piece adds to the allure.

One of the interesting things about this copy of the Southern Hotel Polka is that it is full size and unbound, unlike at least ninety-five percent of nineteenth-century music that has survived. Binding into personal volumes, or sammelbands, was what protected so much of American music from this time period. As WorldCat.org only locates this at Yale University – not even at the Library of Congress – you can get a sense of the difficulty of locating this in an unbound, uncut state, as originally published. Sadly, the Southern Hotel burned in a spectacular fire in 1877, the burgeoning fire shooting up the elevator shafts in the structure.

Lindell Grand March.
Lithographed and printed in tints and hand coloring by Ehrgott, Forbriger and Company, Cincinnati, 1863, horizontal format, folio.

Interestingly, this sheet music was both lithographed and published in Cincinnati to promote a St. Louis hotel, the Lindell House. The dedicatees, Messers Sparr and Parks, were the original lessees of this spectacular hotel, which also burned, in 1867, ten years before the Southern Hotel. It’s possible Sparr and Parks were active in Cincinnati and perhaps even had a hotel there under their management. To bring these two venues and prints into even closer association, the buildings had the same architect: George Barnett.

You can see the advantage a horizontal format had in giving a sense of the size of the hotel. The detail and quality of the tints are well beyond what one normally sees on a music cover. It’s possible the artist was Christian Fabronius, who was in Cincinnati at the time of publication along with his brother Dominique. Both were known to work with Ehrgott, Forbriger as well as Middleton, Strobridge Lithography. This item is also unbound, in original size and, oddly, also held at Yale, as well as Johns Hopkins (Levy Collection) and the Library of Congress.

Click here to continue to Part 3 of this series!


All sheet music covers courtesy of the Lynch Archives. No further reproduction or distribution is permitted without permission of the Lynch Archives.

Kevin Hugh Lynch is a steward of the Lynch Archives. Mr. Lynch develops presentations based on the Lynch Archives in his home state of Washington. He has written articles for Imprint, Illustration Magazine, The Journal of the Book Club of Washington, and the Rail Splitter: A Journal for the Lincoln Collector. He lives in Whidbey Island. The Lynch Archives collection of suffrage sheet music will be on display at the American Historical Print Collector’s Society 45th Annual Meeting in May in Louisville, Ky.