Music has been big business in the United States for more than 150 years. Following the Civil War, the demand for pianos and parlor organs skyrocketed as more and more Americans became musically literate. Music retailers distributed thousands of scores for popular music written for piano, parlor organ, and voice — which could be played and performed at home on the instruments they sold. A new exhibition opening in Roger H. Perry Hall, drawn from materials in Champlain College’s Special Collections, features sheet music and promotional items from three Burlington music businesses in operation between the 1860s and the 1920s, including H.L. Story.
A native of Cambridge, Vermont, Hampton L. Story (1835-1925) published sheet music in the 1860s to promote his College Street music store and piano factory, Story & Powers. He later founded the Story & Clark piano company in Chicago, Illinois. While in Burlington, he published at least 37 vocal and instrumental scores, including the 1868 piece Chick-A-Dee Waltz by Edward M. Read, illustrated here.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, the Vermont sheet music in Champlain College’s Special Collections is the focus of a Humanities Research for the Public Good project funded by the Council of Independent Colleges and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This multifaceted project provides undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct in-depth studies of the music and present their research to the public. This exhibition and blog post was developed to supplement the student work.
-Erica Donnis, Special Collections Director