The Americana Sheet Music Collection

URLs to browse or search the collections

The Americana Sheet Music Collection database was developed to provide bibliographic access to the Americana Collection of sheet music, one of the special collections of the Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Some records for selected compositions have associated images of the scanned sheet music. Over time additional images may be added to the collection

The Americana Collection contains sheet music published in America before 1900. The collection includes principally music from the popular tradition, although that distinction is blurred until ca. 1865. Many compositions are songs for voice and piano, but music for solo piano and other instrumental music is also included. Midwest publishers are well represented as is music by women composers.

Much of the material in the Americana Collection came to the library as gifts, including a significant group of publications that once belonged to composer/publisher Joseph P. Webster. Although several thousand pieces are individual compositions, the collection includes approximately 100 bound volumes of sheets, compiled by previous owners, many of whose names appear on the covers.

Although the scope of the Americana Collection is limited to music bearing American imprints, a few foreign publications are included in the database as they are bound together in volumes which contain predominantly American imprints.

Publication dates begin in the 1790s and extend to 1900. Some sheets published after 1900 are included because they are bound together in volumes which contain principally 19th century material.

This catalog represents only those titles in the Americana Collection. Other sheet music owned by the Mills Music Library is not included. Researchers are encouraged to search also the Wisconsin Sheet Music Database for additional materials and to inquire of staff as to other sheet music collections.

Access to the Americana Collection

The Americana Collection is one of several Special Collections in the Mills Music Library. Materials in the collection are non-circulating but may be consulted in the library. Titles in the Americana Collection are not included in MadCat and access is only through this database. Patrons wishing to consult materials in the Americana Collection should request specific titles/call numbers from the reference librarian on duty.

Materials in the Americana Collection are subject to the guidelines for use and reproduction of materials in the special collections of the General Library System of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


The goal of the Americana Collection is to present to the widest audience possible early American sheet music, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning. These selections are presented as part of the record of the past. They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries does not endorse the views expressed in this sheet music, which may contain content and images offensive to users.


Many individuals contributed to the development, content, and presentation of the Catalog of the Americana Collection.

The database was conceived by Geri Laudati. Staff and volunteers who inputted or verified data over the history of the project include Peg Brown, Helga Consiglio, Jeff Delfield, Stephanie Finch, Jennifer Friedman, Wayne Heisler, Howard Kanetzke, Laura Lenca, Laura Lentz, Christine Nauert, Katherine Olson, Diane Schoff, David Seubert, and Dara Welty. Technical support was provided by Kirstin Dougan, Charles Dean, Sue Dentinger, and Adi Shrivastava.


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List of genre headings

Genre headings from the following list are assigned on the basis of cover information:
airs, arias, ballads, barcaroles, canons, canzonets, caprices, comic songs, cotillions, dances, etudes, fantasies, folk songs, gallops, gavottes, glees, hymns, intermezzo, lullabies, marches, mazurkas, medleys, melodies, minuets, nocturnes, operas, overtures, polka mazurkas, polkas, polonaises, quadrilles, quicksteps, reels, reveries, schottisches, songs, two steps, variations, and waltzes.

List of topical headings

The topical thesaurus includes the subjects most typically sung about in the 19th century and are assigned on the basis of the text. Use a keyword search to search on the following topics: animals, bicycles, business, celebrations, childhood, children, christmas, civil war, dance music, death, disasters, drinking, father, film music, flowers, folk music, food, government, home, humor, hunting, immigrants, american indian, labor, love, marriage, military music, minstrel music, mother, musicals, nature, newspapers, patriotic music, political music, protest songs, racist songs, rags, sacred music, sea songs, seasons, school, slavery, societies, sports, telephone, trains, transportation, and war.