Above: 1920's covers from the Erdmann Collection.

Music of the Roaring Twenties

From the Erdmann Collection

Last year we received a generous and most important donation of sheet music from the Erdmann family of New Jersey. This unique donation included sheet music from the late 19th century up to the 1970's. The total number of sheets donated to us exceeded 6,000 and has increased our collection to a level exceeding all but a few library collections and places us as the top private non-profit web library collection in the country. This is the fouth and final issue in a series overview of the collection, such as we have done with other large collections such as the Marshall-Morrow collection donated to us in 2009. To continue the review of the decades represented by this collection, this issue will look at music of the 1920's from the collection. We hope to make much more of our collection available to view through a redesign of our site and help from volunteers to catalog everything, scan and organize the music to make it more accessible.

As in the previous recent articles, we are continuing to include the full cover art in the Scorch versions so you can enjoy them in more detail than our thumbnail images allow. As a result, the Scorch files are much larger than usual so expect some delay in downloading. In most cases, the download file size exceeds 2mb so some will take quite some time depending on your type connection. The wait will be worth it! In addition, all music featured this month is printable using the Sibelius Scorch player.

The decade of the 1920's brought forth some more radical changes in America's music. Often called the "jazz age" and of course the "roaring twenties," America experienced an explosion of social change. Women's rights were prominent in the social scene as women not only gained the right to vote but their prominence in the social and political scene exploded.

"The 1920s is commonly thought of as a hedonistic interlude between the Great War and the Great Depression, a decade of dissipation, of jazz bands, raccoon coats, bathtub gin, flappers, flagpole sitters, bootleggers, and marathon dancers. According to this view, World War I had shattered Americans' faith in reform and moral crusade, and the younger generation proceeded to rebel against traditional taboos while their elders engaged in an orgy of speculation.

In fact the decade was both a decade of bitter cultural tensions as well as a period in which many of the features of a modern consumer society took root."
Mintz, S. (2007). Digital History.
Retrieved April 16, 2011from

The decade also brought us the unique female phenomenon of the "Flapper," the wild and sexually free woman of the 20's whose dancing and cavorting was often featured in films and newsreels. One contemporary account describes the Flapper as: "Two bare knees, two thinner stockings, one shorter skirt, two lipsticks, three powder puffs, 132 cigarettes, and three boy friends, with eight flasks between them." It also brought prohibition and the gangster era that was associated with the illegal alcoholic beverage industry and the "speakeasy." Of course, as in earlir decades, our music reflected these changes and became more free, more sexually open and the blues and jazz music emerged as prominent aspects of our music.

Unfortunately, the twenties is also the period where the entry of music into the public domain was squashed by legislation that extended the copyright protections on music and other intellectual properties. As a result, music after 1922 is still in copyright and we can only present music up to that year so this issue only allows us to focus on music from the years 1920, 21 and 22. Despite that restriction, we can bring you some delightful music reflective of the beginning of the roaring twenties and the jazz age that presaged the full development of these concepts. We've included selections of well known tunes and many that are unknown to most of us today. We hope that the discovery of these obscure songs is as enjoyable to you as it was in our own discovery and bringing them to you.

To enjoy the full musical experience, we recommend that you get the Scorch plug in from our friends at Sibelius software. The Scorch player allows you to not only listen to the music but to view the sheet music as the music plays and see the lyrics as well. Each month we also allow printing of some of the sheet music featured so for those of you who play the piano (or other instruments) you'll be able to play the music yourself. It's a complete musical experience! Get the Sibelius Scorch player now.

Richard A. Reublin, June, 2011. This article published June, 2011 and is Copyright © 2011 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Association, Inc. Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or a company officer.

This article will be published in June of 2011

Please come back then to see and hear twelve new songs from the 1920's

This article published June, 2011 and is Copyright © 2011 by Richard A. Reublin and The Parlor Songs Association, Inc. Text, images or music may not be reproduced in part or in total without express written permission of the author or an officer of the corporation. Though the songs published on this site are often in the Public Domain, MIDI renditions are protected by copyright as recorded performances.


Thanks for visiting us and be sure to come back again later to see our next issue or just to read some or all of our over 130 articles about America's music. See our resources page for a complete bibliography of our own library resources used to research this and other articles in our series.


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