Tag Archive | 1910s

Mechanical Reproductions, Pt 2: The Player Piano as Musical Instrument

During the 1910s and 1920s, the mechanical player piano became a popular and technologically forward-thinking form of entertainment. Like the Phonograph or the Victrola, the player piano gave their owners access to instant musical entertainment without the fuss of actually learning how to play a musical instrument or how to read sheet music. Consequently, the mechanical piano as a domestic appliance partly aided in the cultural collapse of home piano playing. On the other hand, the player piano gave consumers, some of whom were completely unable to play a musical instrument, the opportunity to enjoy live music in the home, albeit reproduced mechanically through the guise of a musical instrument. The idiosyncrasies of fewer people learning to play the piano with a growing interest in piano music cannot be more blatant during this transitional period from Ragtime Era to the Jazz Era in the late 1910s and early 1920s. The former asserts that the manual piano was falling out of fashion, while the latter shows that there was still a considerable consumer market for piano music. As a machine, the player piano was a brief fad that had transformative effects on piano culture in America; as a musical instrument, it expanded the reach of piano music in the home.

The results of mechanical reproduction of piano music were widely varied from context to context, but most of piano culture had been affected by the player piano. Within the home, the piano roll transformed musicianship of piano playing into musical ownership of mass produced piano rolls, passive music that anybody with the financial means of purchasing a player piano could enjoy. This change also happened in commercial settings like restaurants and saloons to provide background music, as well as movie theatres to provide a soundtrack to early, otherwise silent films. The piano roll medium also had influence on classical composers eager to tap the experimental potential of a machine that lacked the limitations of human play. For pop song history in the United States, mechanically reproduced piano music and lushly arranged piano rolls helped to popularize stylized ragtime novelty piano pieces during an era when ragtime was already out of fashion in favour of the orchestras of the early Jazz Era. Finally, there was one significant cultural change incurred by the sheer anonymity of the player piano roll. African American musicians, who were oftentimes segregated from white mass commercial audiences, found that they could record their own piano performances and earn commercial success without their audiences knowing they were listening to black musicians. Despite the fad of the player piano, the medium had diverse effects on American musical culture.

Throughout the Ragtime Era, the Victorian-age ethos of domestic piano playing had declined but with the player piano, a new, more accepting attitude about mechanisation and modernisation in music was taking hold with music purchasing consumers. The attitudes of many Americans at the time had shifted to positively embracing mechanical reproducing music. Machines which produced music like talking machines and mechanical pianos were considered part of the musical future, and according to James Haskins, “time is money, and if a middle-class family could afford a Pianola[1] and piano rolls, then they did not have to waste time learning to play on a standard piano.”[2] This new attitude towards mechanically reproduced music changed the culture surrounding the domestic piano away from musicianship and art form and towards music ownership of an entertaining consumer commodity; where music was consumed passively rather than engaged actively on the keyboard. While mastery of the keyboard took months and sometimes years to produce good music, the owner of the player piano could easily operate it and provide entertainment in the home without substantial musical expertise. Many popular titles throughout the 1900s were becoming widely available on piano rolls for consumers. This new passive form of entertainment also meant that player piano owners could also gain wider access to classical music, some compositions of which had been beyond the skill level of even more experienced players. Many titles of the classical music canon consequently became must-have piano rolls, compositions that showed one’s knowledge of cultured music within the home music library.[3] With attitudes towards music changing, the player piano became the latest machine to own, ownership of which created the opportunity for anyone to enjoy live musical experiences in the home.

Passive piano music as entertainment was not confined to domestic environs, it was also available as a commercial venture and business found that they could earn revenue with a coin-operated player piano. Coin-operated music was nothing new to the public; in fact coin-operated Phonographs had entered public spaces as early as 1890.[4] As soon as standardized player pianos became widely available for purchase in the early 1910s, there were restaurants, saloons, cafes, train stations and even grocery store interested in purchasing special, more decorative coin-operated player pianos. These machines could provide business owners with a steady stream of revenue with each drop of a coin of a customer curious about the machine and so live, playerless music became public entertainment, passive background music and commercial investment. Businesses were even instructed by piano roll makers to keep up with the latest popular piano roll titles of to ensure that consumers got the freshest music possible, so customers would not become bored with stale music selections.[5] As well, during the 1910s when the early film industry operated without sound, movie houses and theatres found that they could incorporate a player piano to provide accompanying music, sometimes with piano rolls supplied directly by the movie studio with music synched with the action shown on screen, thus circumventing reliance on a human piano player. Complex player machines had been manufactured specifically for movie theatres to include any sound effect needed for a movie. The Link Piano Company advertised a player piano equipped with four tracker bars and roll mechanisms to facilitate “the right music at the right time,” along with a host of sound effects ranging from footsteps, to gun shots, to sirens and alarms to go along with the action happening before the audience’s eyes.[6] As soon as the mechanical piano became part of the music environment of America, there were also applications of passive music in commercial and industrial settings.

Of course, whenever a new technological development for music comes to the public’s attention, there are vocal critics to oppose it. Such was the case of the player piano, whose mechanical music worried some groups about the status of art in music while others worried that it would destroy their own musical occupations. One of the earliest groups to criticize the mechanisms of the player piano were the Music Teachers National Association, who feared that the widespread popularity of the player piano could lead to fewer people learning proper musical technique.[7] Although player pianos were often advertised and marketed for educational and instructional purposes, “it did not turn people into pianists,” according to Michael Chanan.[8] More opposition came from barbershop quartets, brass bands and orchestras, who saw coin-operated player pianos fitting into hotel lobbies, brothels, restaurants and train stations, places where they would generally be hired to provide background music. After all, bands had to be paid, but a player piano fitted with a coin slot could easily earn money for the proprietor. Composers were also alarmed at the player piano and the piano roll, since copyright law did not include mechanical reproduction; as a result, piano roll makers could produce any popular title they wanted without paying a royalty. Record companies had, in fact, worked closely with sheet music publishers and composers for years to promote sales of popular titles,[9] but piano roll companies that published titles without consultation with publishers, were on the fringes of musical publication. A new copyright law in 1909 had to be passed to include mechanical reproduction, including piano roll.[10] While the new technology allowed easier access to live piano music and ease of piano roll reproduction, there were detractors fearful about the changes in the music culture in America as a result from the player piano.

The music business also changed to include freshly arranged compositions and recordings for famous composers, all available in the paper piano roll format. Traditional manual piano composition and play was restricted to ten fingers, but the mathematical nature of piano roll production changed this considerably with its slits and perforations dictating the action of the piano keys. From the inception of the player piano industry, manufacturers could create perfectly, technically masterful performances, albeit with the lack of heart that a musician could play a composition.[11] As a mechanically produced product, the possibilities for the music contained on a piano roll were boundless; consequently, mechanical reproduction of the music on a paper piano roll could emulate harmony, rhythms and range that human hands could not. Staff arrangers at piano roll companies used this to their advantage, enriching the sounds of already produced titles by adding flourishes to music rolls including “counter melodies, double octaves, tremolos, rapid chromatic runs…all impossible to play by hand.”[12] In 1912, new technology which reproduced more artistic nuances in music for the player piano brought another dimension to the player piano by transcribing live performances on paper roll by ink ready for perforation.[13] A wide range of renowned Romantic composers recorded their own playing on piano rolls, including Camille Saint-Saëns, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Artur Rubenstein; piano roll recording subsequently becoming an “adjunct of musical culture.”[14] Ragtime composer Scott Joplin got into the commercial recording industry with his own piano playing transcribed to piano roll, even though his original performances from 1916 had been heavily edited and arranged to include new, humanly impossible playing.[15] Not only could the new recording mechanisms record the ways in which composers interpreted the piano, it also captured all their playing mistakes on paper roll, all of which could easily be repaired on the final version of the piano roll.[16] The medium of the piano roll could do much more than any single person could possibly perform on a piano.

The boundless world of player piano music gave inspiration to Modernist composers who, throughout the 1910s and 1920s, were eager to push the expanding boundaries of modern music. Perhaps the first composer to create a composition specifically for the player piano was Igor Stravinsky, producing the Étude pour Pianola in 1917. For Stravinsky, interest was in the “whimsicalities of the unexpected melodies of the mechanical piano” to emulate a pianist with “sixteen arms and no feelings.”[17] Claude Debussy also found similar inspiration in player piano. Perhaps the most notorious use of the mechanical piano composition was George Antheil’s La Ballet Mécanique, which had originally been scored to include sixteen simultaneous player pianos, sirens, tam tams, and aeroplane propellers.[18] Composer Conlon Nancarrow has composed over fifty studies specifically for the player piano to explore the “complex simultaneous sounding rhythms along with such impossibly wide reaches for the pianist’s hand.”[19] But composers quickly learned that concert application of the player piano was limited despite the futuristic idea of a piano that could play itself. In 1921, Stravinsky had planned on including a number of synchronized mechanical pianos into a performance of the ballet Les Noces, but due to time constraints and observed difficulties in synchronizing the machines, he abandoned the project in favour of an arrangement that opted for wind instruments and percussion.[20] At the well publicized 1927 debut of Ballet Mécanique at Carnegie Hall, synching four player pianos was too difficult for Antheil and the result was a lot of noise and riotous protest from the audience, along with a number of attendees loosing their hats due to wind from propellers; one critic expressed derision at the performance by quipping “don’t make a mountain out of an Antheil.”[21] But despite the difficulties of bringing to work to the stage, Ballet Mécanique was so futuristic that MIDI technology in the 1990s finally allowed a first perform the piece as planned by Antheil.[22] For composers, the player piano offered possibilities of realising futuristic sounds without interaction by human hands.

Even though there were few pop song consequences of the player piano as a musical instrument, but there was one pop area that did enjoy tremendous success, specifically linked to the popularity of the player piano. By 1917, when Tin Pan Alley composers were looking towards the war in Europe as a topic for commercial songs, a new musical trend was coming out of the piano rolls of music consumers, that of the novelty ragtime piano piece. “The most important medium in terms of the instrumental rag, however, was the player piano,”[23] according to Terry Waldo, a musical genre developed from new mechanical methods of arrangement and ornamentation.[24] During the late 1910s, the ragtime genre was on the decline, but the possibilities unleashed by piano rolls actually helped to produce a whole body of popular ragtime piano work. During the height of player piano popularity, piano techniques of accomplished ragtime pianists of sliding block chords and dizzying syncopated rhythms had found themselves on the pop market and the player piano was the preferred medium for hearing such pieces. The compositions of Zez Confrey like “Kitten on the Keys” (1921), “My Pet” (1921), “Dizzy Fingers” (1923), and “Stumbling” (1922) were well suited for the player piano of this new novelty piano style and becoming big selling hits for piano rolls. Other composers like Roy Bargy had novelty hits like his 1919 piano rag “Knice and Knifty.[25] There is a plausible reason for the upsurge in novelty piano at a time when pop audiences were more embracing the orchestration of Jazz. When these titles had been published between 1919 and 1921, the player piano was experiencing the zenith of sales and more people than ever were buying the instrument and the piano rolls played on them. As a new, rhythmic music on a popular medium, it makes sense that novelty piano enjoyed popularity at a time when Ragtime was out of fashion.

But there are other, more culturally significant aspects of the music of the player piano that changed the musical scene in the United States. Even though there had been successful African musicians and composers during the Ragtime era like recording artist George Washington Johnson, stage performer Bert Williams, and composers James Reese Europe and James P. Johnson, most music coming out of Tin Pan Alley and the recording studios were created by white composers and musicians. It had been a well-established tradition to “black-up” for stage and studio. Singer Al Jolson originally performed his vaudeville act and popular songs in blackface throughout the 1910s and Arthur Collins’s recordings in African American dialect were so successful that in 1905 Edison Records released a disclaimer proclaiming that “Mr. Collins is not a Negro.”[26] During the 1910s, African American pianists learned that they could record their piano playing and earn money selling performances, spread their reputations by quick distribution of paper piano rolls, all unbeknownst to the white consumers purchasing the new novelty piano rolls.[27] Perhaps the first black musician to record a piano roll was John “Blind” Boone in 1912 and stride piano player Eubie Blake made numerous paper roll recordings throughout his career. The piano roll was a revelation for some piano players. When he learned through the pages of The Etude magazine that a contraption called the Leabarjan Perforator could allow home dictation of piano playing “for pleasure or profit,”[28] J. Johnson Cook saved the advertisement for so long that “it began to yellow” for the hopes that he could buy such a mechanism.[29] In the late 1910s, aspiring pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller had practiced on the player piano to learn how to play music, consequently winning a contest and becoming hired to accompany movies at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem in 1919.[30] Piano roll recording was a source of delight for Waller; his son, Maurice, recounts that his father was so proud of his player piano recordings that he carried a piano roll of his most recent effort in his coat pocket.[31] Recording on a piano roll allowed black musicians to earn a living recording music for white audiences who may not know they were listening to black people play the piano.

Although the player piano had a brief overall popularity, after all, throughout the 1920s, radio broadcasts and Jazz Era music did their part in the decline of the piano, its musical capabilities had a diverse influence. Within the home, mechanical pianos allowed owners of any skill level to perform live music, albeit at the expense of actual musicianship. Businesses created a new stream of revenue by coin-operated player piano and the latest piano roll titles, and mechanical pianos player a part of the early years of silent film during the 1910s. The player piano, or more specifically the limitless capabilities of the piano roll, allowed classical composers an outlet for rhythmic and sonic experimentation. But for American pop song, the player piano introduced novelty ragtime piano piece and the playing styles of African American musicians to a mass commercial audience. This was not an insignificant development, considering the amount of segregation in the music industry during this era. The music of the player piano, a quaint distant memory of music history, certainly impacted numerous areas of the music industry.


Antheil, George. The Bad Boy of Music. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co. 1945.

Chanan, Michael. “The Player Piano.” Contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano. James Parakilas, ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1999. 72-75.

Cheek, Joshua.   Liner notes to George Antheil: Ballet Mécanique. Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. NAXOS, 8.559060. CD. 1999.

Dolan, Brian. Inventing Entertainment: The Player Piano and the Origin of an American Musical Industry. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2009.

Fabrizio, Timothy C. and George F. Paul. The Talking Machines: An Illustrated Compendium, 1877-1929. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing. 1997.

Haskins, James. Scott Joplin: The Man Who Made Ragtime. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company. 1978.

Kirby, F.E. Music for Piano: A Short History. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press. 1995.

“‘Mr. Collins is not a Negro’—Edison Takes on the Rumor Mill.” The Mainspring Press Record Collector’s Blog (blog). Posted 8 March 2013. http://78records.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/mr-collins-is-not-a-negro-edison-takes-on-the-rumor-mill/.

Roehl, Harvey. Player Piano Treasury: The Scrapbook History of the Mechanical Piano in America. Vestal, NY: Vestal Press. 1973.

Roell, Craig H. The Piano in America, 1890-1940. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1989.

Sumner, William Leslie. The Pianoforte. London, UK: MacDonald. 1966.

Tancs, Linda. Understanding Copyright Law: A Beginner’s Guide. New York: Oceana. 2009.

Waldo, Terry. This Is ragtime. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1976.

Waller, Maurice and Anthony Calabrese. Fats Waller. New York: Schirmer Books. 1977.

Walsh, Stephen. Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934. New York: Alfred A Knoff. 1999.

[1] The brand name Pianola is often used as a synonym for the player piano.

[2] James Haskins, Scott Joplin: The Man who made Ragtime, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1978), 109.

[3] Brian Dolan, Inventing Entertainment: The Player Piano and the Origins of an American Musical Industry, (New York: Rownman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009), 138.

[4] Timothy C. Fabrizio and George F. Paul, The Talking Machine: An Illustrated Compendium, 1877-1929, (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1997), 24.

[5] Craig H. Roell, The Piano in America, 1890-1940, (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 59

[6] Roell, 51-52.

[7] Ibid, 55.

[8] Michael Chanan, “The Player Piano,” contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano, James Parakilas, ed, (New Hartford, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 74.

[9] Roell, 59.

[10] Copyright Law of 1909, contained in Linda Tancs, Understanding Copyright Law: A Beginner’s Guide, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), Sect 78(e).

[11] Terry Waldo, This Is Ragtime, (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1976), 83.

[12] Waldo, 84.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Chanan, contained in Piano Roles, 73.

[15] Haskins, 193-194.

[16] William Leslie Sumner, The Pianoforte, (London, UK: MacDonald, 1966), 195.

[17] Igor Stravinsky, qtd in Stephen Walsh, Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934, (New York: Alfred A Knoff, 1999), 282.

[18] Joshua Cheek, liner notes to George Antheil: Ballet Mécanique, Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, NAXOS, 8.559060, CD, 1999.

[19] F.E. Kirby, Music for Piano: A Short History, (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1995), 381.

[20] Igor Stravinsky, qtd in Walsh, 323-324.

[21] George Antheil, The Bad Boy of Music, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Co, 1945), 195-196.

[22] Dolan, 172-3.

[23] Waldo, 82.

[24] Ibid, 84.

[25] Ibid, 85-86.

[26] “Mr. Collins is Not a Negro,” Edison Phonograph Monthly, June 1905, found on The Mainspring Press Record Collector’s Blog (blog), posted 8 March 2013, accessed 25 July 2014, http://78records.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/mr-collins-is-not-a-negro-edison-takes-on-the-rumor-mill/

[27] Dolan, 94.

[28] Advertisement for the Leabarjan Perforator, contained in Harvey Roehl, Player Piano Treasury: The Scrapbook History of the Mechanical Player Piano, (Vestal, NY: The Vestal Press, 1973), 189.

[29] J. Johnson Cook, qtd in Dolan, 135.

[30] Dolan, 136.

[31] Maurice Waller and Anthony Calabrese, Fats Waller, (New York: Schirmer Books, 1977), 46.

Mechanical Reproductions, Pt 1: The Player Piano as Domestic Machine

The player piano owns a particularly strange place in the milieu of not only the Ragtime era, but also of the modern era of musical history generally. The player piano is not an instrument of the traditional sense; it is a machine that just happens to play music, and, like the Phonograph or the Victrola, was another domestic appliance used for entertainment in the home. But with the addition of a new contraption to the home, a new technology which sometimes replaced the traditional manual piano, also came changes in the culture of the piano during the 1910s. The manual piano, after all, required years of training and practice, while the mechanical piano merely was a machine that mechanically reproduced music through the guise of a piano. Playing the mechanical piano only required basic mastery of a few rudimentary controls for tempo, tone and volume as well as the operation of foot pedals to activate pneumatic bellows. While the player piano did not significantly or directly impact the course of pop song history in America, as a new piece of domestic machinery and coin-operated entertainment, it took away the culture of work necessary to play the piano, and instead made live music mechanized, more user-friendly and more available for music consumers in the early twentieth century.

Mechanical instruments which did not require artistic interaction from a musician had long been a tradition in Europe for centuries, but in the 1900s and 1910s, the player piano would capture the attention of music consumers in America. By combining the domestic tradition of the piano with the mechanical spirit of the industrial revolution in the United States, player piano companies built a large business during the 1910s based partly on marketing the ease of using their products. What would eventually become the complete player piano containing the pneumatics and piano action into a single instrument, was far from perfect, and in the business of piano companies and piano roll makers, there had been a complete lack of unity in format, causing a chaotic business environment which hindered growth. But after standards for piano rolls and keyboard range had been approved by manufacturers in 1910, the player piano quickly took a large market share from traditional piano makers, who were themselves eager to get into the suddenly popular mechanical piano trade. As the player piano became the newest domestic appliance to own, the American attitude towards the piano had transformed, so much so that learning to play the instrument, a task cherished by Victorian Age society, fell by the wayside. The player piano eventually fell out of favour as the Jazz Era and eventually the Great Depression drastically reduced relevance in domestic ownership of the instrument. But revived interest in ragtime music during the 1960s and 1970s brought resurgent enthusiasm in the player piano and in the twenty-first century, player pianos have a lucrative place in the American antiques market. The player piano as a machine has had great effects on the musical culture regarding the place of the piano in the home during the 1910s.

By the time mechanical pianos in the United States had been patented and marketed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, automated mechanical musical instruments had been in existence for centuries, if not a millennium. Automated organs partly powered by water had been used as far back as eighth century Byzantium.[1] In Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, various forms of peg and pin systems, in which raised protrusions rhythmically strike tuned pegs, became popular including the barrel organ, a mechanical instrument for which famous composers like Mozart, Haydn, Handel and Beethoven wrote compositions specifically for mechanical reproduction.[2] In addition to mechanical instruments, there was a decorative niche for smaller mechanical music automata, music boxes and key-wound trinkets becoming the latest fashionable home accessory including musical snuff boxes, chiming clocks, coin operated peg and pin disc machines, carillon bells, and mechanisms featuring singing birds.[3] The concept of a piano that could play itself was also not new in the 1890s, in fact the slow evolution in developing the complex pneumatic components of the mechanical piano would take decades. Numerous patents had been filed for “self-acting” piano internationally throughout the nineteenth century. Muzio Celementi filed a patent in Britain in 1825, JB Napoleon Fourneaux filed a French patent in 1863 and John McTammany filed an American patent in 1881.[4] Long before the invention and production of player pianos, mechanical music not requiring a musician had already been a well-established pop culture phenomenon.

What would eventually become the player piano as remembered in the twenty-first century, would take over two decades of evolutionary development in America. No single inventor can claim to fully invent the player piano; its complex system of pneumatic components developed slowly and the list of patented pieces of the early mechanical piano player is lengthy.[5] A small sampling of important components include the piano roll and tracker bar function patented by Elias Parkman Needham in 1865, a cam which internally depressed the piano key patented by Merritt Gally in 1881, and the “slide valve wind motor” which allowed the rotation of the paper piano roll developed by George B Kelly in 1886.[6] Early machines using pneumatic systems like the relatively successful Aeolian Pianola, developed by Edwin S Votey in 1897, were separate machines powered by the operator, machines whose owners pushed to the keyboard and whose operation involved pneumatic system activating wooden fingers that physically depressed the keys of already-owned pianos.[7] Early modern self-contained pianos came onto the market in the early 1900s, and as the decade progressed, they surpassed the push-up machines in popularity. Even though initial sales were slow, there was a substantial buzz in music circles and by advertising as the newest thing to have, advertising the “beauty and fashion” captured by the new machines and how such machines “double the value of the piano player” with the addition of new player pianos to the home.[8] Not all opinions were positive for the player piano, the Music Teachers National Association was particularly vocal in opposition to the mechanical piano.[9] The development of the mechanisms for the player piano would take decades to come to maturity by many different inventors, when the new machines came to the market it was another futuristic technological marvel.

With these early machines, there certainly was room for improvement in both the mechanics for the pianos and the business model for compatibility between paper piano rolls and pianos. The Aeolian Pianola had created substantial advertising buzz and some commercial success between 1900 and 1905, but a separate cabinet proved delicate and bothersome. The Pianola and other push-up piano players like the Wilcox and White Angelus oftentimes were cumbersome and clumsy, taking up too much space in the home or even forgotten about entirely and falling into disuse.[10] If the fingers of the machine were not lined up precisely with the keyboard, the result would be an atonal sonic mess. The delicate external fingers sometimes snapped off when moving it back and forth, consequently rendering some notes unplayable. The complete piano which contained the piano, the pneumatic functions and the paper roll tracker bar alleviated the difficulties of the mechanical piano player, but the array of new companies getting into the trade of a new technology brought a lack of cohesion to the industry. With little organization between piano and piano roll companies, there was frequent consumer confusion about which piano rolls to purchase. In addition to the format difficulties, much to the shock of many consumers, not all player pianos produced a full keyboard worth of playability, and while some played all eight-eight notes of a standard keyboard, others produced as few as fifty-eight notes with many other variations on the keyboard range of the player pianos.[11] Sound was also a problem since, as a machine, it reproduced music as one would expect a machine would, without the expression and interpretation of a musician. Even with control functions available on player pianos, many owners of these new mechanical pianos used them like phonographs as passive music, just activating the pneumatic controls or eventually electric start functions and letting the piano play without tending to the tone functions.[12] Despite the technological development of a piano which played itself, there were issues with the early machines and the compatibility between rolls and pianos.

Without a standard for piano rolls, it was not possible to play one company’s piano roll on another company’s machine and, according to Harvey Roehl, “it was an obvious hindrance to the health and progress of the industry.”[13] And so, in 1908 in Buffalo, New York, an agreement had been reached on standards for perforation spacing on the piano roll and key range, consequently, with a unified system of piano roll publications, consumers could purchase any piano roll and play on any machine.[14] After standardization, the player piano swelled in popularity during the 1910s. Between 1909 and 1914, sales jumped from 30,000 player pianos to over 90,000, rising again between 1914 and 1919 to nearly 200,000.[15] Piano roll sales were also brisk, it has been reported that in 1918, 75,000 rolls sold in Philadelphia each month.[16] Various new companies clamoured to produce their own player pianos and a bevy of new models came on the market during the 1910s, each with various themes on other brand names mimicking the famous Pianola. The Technola, Interiola, Concertola, Autotone, Concrtone, Dulcitone, Auto-Grand, Auto-Player and Autola are just some of the names of mechanical pianos. The ways the player piano sounded also improved with reproducer functions provided by companies like Ampico and Duo-Art which automated the sorts of controls including hammer velocity, sustained pedalling and artistic expression, and paper rolls subsequently had the ability to reproduce a live performance recorded on paper piano roll.[17] Following standardization in compatibility and improvements in sound reproduction, a sales boom throughout the 1910s created a big business which translated into sales.

Other than giving music-purchasing consumers a new product to buy, the player piano, and even the push-up piano player of early in the 1900s, changed the relationship between the owner and the keyboard. The player piano, after all was a machine which played live music and in the home it was usually treated as such. While music had been played through the familiar medium of the sounds of the traditional, manual piano, the player piano depresses the keys for the operator, leaving the owner of the instrument to master tone, treble, bass, tempo and pneumatic foot pedals rather than the techniques of piano mastery. There was relatively little skill to operate a player piano and its easy operation was used for the purpose of marketing and advertising. The famous advertising campaign of the Gulbransen Company showed a baby at the foot pedals, suggesting that it was so easy to use that an infant could do it.[18] Even the femininity of the piano was challenged with direct advertising to men, after all, if playing the piano was considered feminine, then operating a machine was considered masculine. During a boom in sales during the 1910s, as player piano sales increased, fewer people were learning the instrument that had been at the heart of Victorian age domestic values. Harvey Reohl observes that “the ease with which even poor-sounding music could be made destroyed the incentive to want to learn to play by manual means”[19] and James Parakilas notes that, “the technology of the player piano could obliterate that obstacle [of learning the piano], eliminating even the choice between learning to read notes and learning to play by ear.”[20] With the popularity of the player piano increasing, it was a futuristic technological step and advertising as an easy machine to operate, leaving the tiresome practice of the Victorian piano culture in the past with more consumers opting for the player piano.

While the player piano changed the owner’s relationship to the piano, its overall popularity was brief. Despite Alfred Dolge’s assertion in 1911 that the player piano is “destined eventually to displace the piano as the musical instrument in the home,”[21] sales actually peaked between 1919 and 1921, and thereafter dropped precipitously for the next decade; by 1930, the player had become a footnote in the musical history in America.[22] There are a number of plausible reasons why the player piano fell out of fashion. New technology certainly played a part in the mechanical piano’s drop in sales when inventions like radio and electrically recorded music became the latest technology to have in the home during the 1920s. After all, in 1903, the player piano itself was the latest invention in a culture feeling the effects of pop culture in an age of rapid technological change. But there was a change in the piano in culture as well. The changing nature in popular music and musical culture aided the player piano’s drop in sales. During the 1920s, in the thick of the orchestrated band sounds of the Jazz Era, the piano was not necessarily the centre of attention of entertainment that it had been during the Ragtime Era; it should be noted that manual piano companies also experienced decrease in sales. By the 1930s, when the Great Depression gripped American business and American pop culture tuned into the growing number of many popular radio programmes and variety shows,[23] many piano companies, both mechanical and manual had gone out of business.[24] While the player piano did at one time had been the newest technology to have, it was just a fad and by the mid-1930s, the player piano market was a shell of what it had been only a decade before.

Even though the financial crises caused by the Great Depression left many piano manufacturers, both manual and mechanical, bankrupt, a few companies managed to not only survive, but also change with the technology as time progressed. When the American economy recovered at the end of the second World War, a select few piano companies such as Aeolian, Duo-Art and Wurlitzer continuing to sell and market player pianos. Even in 2014, in the heart of the big beats and hip-hop features of the Club Banger Era, there are still companies producing player pianos using digital files to activate the piano action[25] and QRS Technologies, a company in the music business since 1900,[26] still continues to manufacture new paper piano rolls.[27] The player piano also invokes nostalgia for the Ragtime Era and machines have become priceless antiques along the way. During the 1960s and 1970s, when Ragtime had experienced a upsurge in popularity in Marvin Hamlisch’s soundtrack to the movie The Sting (1973) and pop culture expressed by E.L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime (1975), so did the player piano, which had suddenly become a symbol of the culture of the early twentieth century.[28] In the twenty-first century, the player piano still has popularity with a certain crowd as part of the reminiscence for the era; collectors, restoration hobbyists and businesses enjoy their own part of the lucrative antiques trade in mechanical pianos, some restored player pianos fetch prices in the tens of thousands of dollars.[29]Although the player piano has been artifact of the past, it enjoys popularity and value in the twenty-first century.

The purely mechanical functions of the player piano greatly affected the musical ethos of the Ragtime era. Oftentimes, the player piano is remembered most for its raucous piano pieces of irregularly rhythmic music and this sort of nostalgia fuels a greater demand for the instrument among avid collectors and antiques enthusiasts. However, during their time, the player piano, and even the push-up piano player, were revolutionary in their treatment of piano play, redirected from beneath the fingers of many a Victorian Age lady, and placed directly under the direction of an operator who could pump the pedals and thread the paper piano roll across a tracker bar. Consequently as the 1910s progressed, sales of the player piano rose to their zenith while sales in manual piano slowed until, by the time the American economy was in the depths of the Great Depression during the 1930s, both industries were lesser part of the domestic entertainment than, say, record players or radio shows, which were available over the airwaves for free. But, the player piano remains a small part of the music industry, undergoing both modernization in digital technology and older antiques are loved among enthusiasts for its connection with the past of American musical culture, even in the twenty-first century.


Antique Piano Shop. “Player Piano Showroom.”Accessed 10 July 2014. http://antiquepianoshop.com/products/player/.

Burg, David F. The Great Depression: An Eyewitness History. New York: Facts on File. 1996.

Chanan, Michael. “The Player Piano.” Contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano. James Parakilas, ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1999. 72-75.

Dolge, Alfred. Pianos and Their Makers: A Comprehensive History of the Development of the Piano. New York: Dover Publications. 1972.

Good, Edwin M. “The Digital Revolution.” Contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano. James Parakilas, ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1999. 70-72.

“Gulbransen Exhibits at Pageant of Progress.” The Music Trades. 16 September 1922.

“An Introduction to the Aeolian Push Up Pianola.” YouTube video, 7:48. Posted by awardaudio, 24 March 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiYKpUSfC6c.

Isacoff, Stuart. A Natural History of the Piano: The Instrument, the Music, the Musicians—from Mozart to Modern Jazz and Everything in Between. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2011.

Parakilas, James. “Expanding Markets.” Contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano. James Parakilas, ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1999. 283-303.

Pfirrmann, John A. “The Age of the Music Box.” The Passaic County Historical Society. Accessed 14 July 2014. http://www.lambertcastle.org/musicbox.html.

QRS Music Technologies. “The History of QRS Music Technology.” Accessed 13 July 2014.http://www.qrsmusic.com/history.asp.

Roehl, Harvey. Player Piano Treasury: The Scrapbook History of the Mechanical Piano in America. Vestal, NY: The Vestal Press. 1973.

Roell, Craig H. The Piano in America: 1890-1940. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1989.

Sumner, William Leslie. The Pianoforte. London, UK: MacDonald. 1966.

Waldo, Terry. This is Ragtime. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1976.

[1] William Leslie Sumner, The Pianoforte, (London, UK: MacDonald, 1966), 194.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John A. Pfirrmann, “The Age of the Music Box,” The Passaic County Historical Society, accessed 14 July 2014, http://www.lambertcastle.org/musicbox.html.

[4] Stuart Isacoff, A Natural History of the Piano: The Instrument, the Music the Musicians—from Mozart to Modern Jazz and everything in Between, (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2011), 459

[5] For a basic introduction on the mechanical functions of the player piano’s pneumatic systems, see William Leslie Sumner, The Pianoforte, 194-195.

[6] Harvey Roehl, Piano Player Treasury: The Scrapbook History of the Mechanical Piano in America, (Vestal, NY: The Vestal Press, 1977), 4-5.

[7] For a look at the operation of a push-up piano player, see “An Introduction to the Aeolian Push Up Pianola,” YouTube video, 7:48, posted by award audio, 24 March 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiYKpUSfC6c.

[8] Advertisements for the Behr Piano Player and the Apollo Piano Players respectively, contained in Roehl, 12 and 9.

[9] Craig H. Roell, The Piano in America: 1890-1940, (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 53.

[10] Ibid, 41.

[11] Roehl, 12

[12] Roell, 43.

[13] Roehl, 12.

[14] Michael Chanan, “The Player Piano,” contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano, James Parakilas, ed, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 73.

[15] Sales figures found in “Production of all Types of Player Piano in the United States from 1900 to 1931,” contained in Roehl, 53.

[16] Roell, 52.

[17] Ibid, 43.

[18] “Gulbransen Exhibit at Pageant of Progress,” The Music Trades, 16 September 1922, 30.

[19] Reohl, 10.

[20] James Parakilas, “Expanding Markets,” contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano, James Parakilas, ed, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 290.

[21] Alfred Dolge, Pianos and Their Makers: A Comprehensive History of the Development of the Piano, (New York: Dover, 1966), 131.

[22] Roehl, 53.

[23] David F. Burg, The Great Depression: An Eyewitness History, (New York: Facts on Files, 1996), 74-75.

[24] Roell, 219.

[25] Edwin M Good, “The Digital Revolution,” contained in Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano, James Parakilas, ed, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 70.

[26] “The History of QRS Music Technology,” QRSmusic.com, accessed 13 July 2014, http://www.qrsmusic.com/history.asp.

[27] Isacoff, 160.

[28] Terry Waldo, This is Ragtime, (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc, 1976), 183.

[29] Based on price lists of restored player pianos featured at “Player Piano Showroom,” Antique Piano Shop, accessed 10 July 2014, http://antiquepianoshop.com/products/player/.

Intellectual Products: Copyright and the Founding of ASCAP

In August 2013, a state of emergency was issued by none other than Mother Monster herself, “A pop music emergency is underway,” read Lady Gaga’s Twitter feed, “911 summon the Monster troupes.” [1] The situation involved a disruption in the traditional business model for getting pop songs to the consumer market; highly anticipated new music from Katy Perry and Lady Gaga had been leaked by hackers for public preview online, months before their new albums, Prism and ArtPop respectively, went on sale. Consequently, singles like Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Lady Gaga’s “Applause” were immediately released to the public ahead of their originally scheduled dates.[2] For Lady Gaga, the leaks all but ruined plans for a high-profile, tightly scheduled and choreographed multimedia build-up to the ArtPop album. This self-described “emergency” is only one of many difficulties affecting the commercial pop song trade throughout its history and the business of getting music to a wider audience. A century ago, songwriters, composers and publishers were dealing with their own pop music emergency: they were not getting paid royalties for some public performances of their music.

Besides the musical trends, tech changes and the celebrity associated with pop songs over the years, it is fundamentally a business intent on getting a creative product to the musical market, getting customers to pay for it, while also paying those who produce the product. However, music is not a physical product, but rather an intellectual one that requires special protection under copyright law. Musical copyright law in America has functioned as a protection against unauthorized musical reproduction since 1831, but as technology and culture have changed music in America, so have the laws which control rights to publish titles. However, copyright law does not advance as quickly as technology or culture does, leaving loopholes in protection. After composers and publishers had lobbied Congress heavily for revised laws which would keep apace with technology in 1907 and 1908, Congress passed new copyright laws in 1909, but certain aspects of the new law left their products without certain protections regarding live performance. By 1914, composers and publishers had grown impatient with constant infringement of copyright and a society formed to protect their copyrights, the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers, better known as ASCAP. The society changed the commercial music business forever by creating a system of collecting and distributing royalties while also policing musical performances. ASCAP did not change the law, but rulings from the Supreme Court allowed the society to collect royalties on performances not protected under copyright statutes. If it were not for the actions of founding ASCAP, I doubt there would be a modern business of pop music.

In 1914, the expanding music culture in America had increased the demand for all kinds of music products. American culture was awash in music; even though musicologist Charles Hamm notes that “Tin Pan Alley songs were for white, urban, literate, middle- and upper-class Americans,”[3] rural sales of home pianos and cylinder recordings were increasing. With sales of sheet music brisk and piano sales at their peak, there was not just a vibrant culture of pop music in America, but also feelings that music was a healthy form of recreation; many factories even provided a piano for their employees as a morale booster.[4] By 1910, piano production was at its zenith and instruments were readily available for purchase in the showrooms of department stores and also by catalogue, alongside the latest popular sheet music titles. The theatre provided a plethora of new musical experiences. Broadway musicals were becoming popular, the Vaudeville circuit often featured many new songs and annual revues like Ziegfeld’s Follies and the Passing Show at the Winter Garden Theatre had become spectacular forms of musical entertainment by 1914. A new ragtime dance craze brought a demand for music in urban restaurants, dancehalls, cabarets and nightclubs and the Victrola and its disc records were selling briskly for the home. Silent movies gave even more opportunities for composers to score accompaniments as well. In the early 1910s, a growth in musical products and culture allowed more people in more areas to experience new music.

While music was becoming more and more in demand, the earnings of famous composers and publishers also increased with the popularity of their songs. Having a piece of music popularized and made famous, had some tricky legal repercussions, particularly on how the parties involved get paid for the music’s use. Most composers earned a living through sales of sheet music songs which were readily introduced to the public via the stage. But music is not solely a consumer product, and it is an intellectual and artistic one and copyright law dictates the ownership of its intellectual property. Copyright law allows artists control of how their work is used and reproduced in not just musical products, but also for book publishing, film and even choreography.[5] If a theatre owner, for example, wants to include a particular song in a show, he or she must pay the copyright owner, usually the publisher, the composer or both, a fee, or royalty, to use it. If this exchange does not happen, the theatre owner is in violation of copyright infringement, a crime punishable by law. Copyright for musical composition and sheet music did not exist in America until 1831, but as musical culture and technology changed, so did copyright laws. Copyright law had been amended in 1897 to include public performances in theatres and overhauled completely in 1909, to include sound recordings provided by increasingly popular piano roles, cylinders and records on the market. It seems as though with so much music in American culture and all the legal bases covered, composers and publishers would be content with the legal status of their work and the royalties they were receiving from their songs.

Even though music was experiencing a tremendous growth in popularity and copyright owners were receiving royalties, there were loopholes which rendered the system imperfect. Copyright laws from the beginning had always been slightly behind the times in American musical culture; the 1831 law that included musical compositions did not include public performance or require royalties for composers for example. In fact, popular composer Stephen Foster, whose songs are still remembered fondly in the twenty-first century, died in destitution in 1864 after he sold off the rights for all the songs that were included in the minstrel shows for which he wrote.[6] The updated copyright law from 1897 included provisions for public performances but only for venues that charged a fee for entry such as musicals or vaudeville shows which sold tickets; the law did not include music played in public places which did not charge audiences to hear it like outdoor concerts or dance halls.[7] The system worked well for theatrical settings where copyright was regularly obeyed and royalties paid, the songs of which were well publicized to encourage sheet music sales. Even from their inception, copyright law in America for music had been imperfect to cover all instances where a musician’s work could be used.

Copyright had been behind the times again in 1907, only a decade after Congress had approved an updated law and music publishers were starting to demand a newer law. Mechanical reproduction by talking machines and player pianos was changing the musical culture in America and record companies and piano role manufactures used copyrighted music with abandon, without legal repercussions. In 1907, a lawsuit whose outcome had the potential to change copyright law reached the Supreme Court involving music publisher White-Smith, who argued that player piano company Apollo was producing unauthorized piano roles of their titles, potentially in violation of copyright law. But since copyright did not include mechanical music, the Supreme Court ruled in Apollo’s favour, the decision saying, “we cannot think that [mechanical reproductions] are copies within the meaning of the copyright act.”[8] Existing law was upheld, the music publisher lost the case and the system of copyright continued. Tin Pan Alley musicians, composers and publishing firms led by Victor Herbert and John Philip Sousa actively lobbied Congress for a new updated law following the decision.[9] Composer Charles K. Harris even visited the White House to discuss the matter with president Theodore Roosevelt.[10] Meantime, piano manufacturers and the American Musical Copyright League opposed a new copyright law.[11] The issue was divisive; Senator Alfred Kittridge bitterly described record companies and the like “seize the musical child of the composer’s brain and devote it to their own selfish purposes.”[12] The resulting legislation, the Currier-Smoot Act of 1909 was a compromise; it included mechanical reproduction, but if a composer allowed mechanical reproduction of a certain title, then other companies could also reproduce the same music.[13] The issue of copyright had become so difficult by 1907 that not only was it the focus of a Supreme Court decision, but also congressional debate and a new copyright law.

By 1913 it seemed as though copyright law had still not caught up to music culture in America and the legal technicalities this time were on the intent of establishments to profit on performances of copyrighted music. The copyright law from 1897 did not include venues that did not charge an entry fee like the restaurants, dancehalls and cabarets that were increasingly using music as part of the ambience with the rising demand for social dancing in the 1910s. A theatre for example charges theatre-goes for tickets to see a show or musical and therefore, the venue profits from providing music; royalties then paid to composers dictated by the 1897 copyright law. However, if a business does not charge a fee and played a publisher’s music, copyright law does not cover this scenario since proprietors of such places were not receiving profits directly from music and therefore royalties were not owed to copyright holders. Paul Goldstein notes that such laws would be unenforceable because “to police each infringing performance and file lawsuits against them would likely cost more than any damages that might be recovered.”[14] When popular composer Victor Herbert, a staunch champion in copyright protection, overheard a musician playing a piece of his music in public, for which he knew he did not receive a royalty,[15] he knew that something had to be done by organising a society.

During a time when more and more businesses were building dance floors and hiring orchestras as part of the environment, copyright holders were growing increasing impatient with the public performance copyright situation, and in Progressive Era America if any improvement in society were needed, there were organizations formed to address such issues. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People founded in 1909 is a well-known example of such a society. The Progressive Party Platform from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 election bid reads like a labour movement manifesto, calling for an end to child labour, an eight-hour work day, a day off from work, and social insurance,[16] just to name a few social issues of the time. Even the national pastime, baseball was organized with the short-lived player-centric Federal League.[17] It was in this kind of setting where the concept of a society to protect ownership of copyright grew necessary to ensure that proper royalties get paid to the proper people. On 13 February 2014 at the Claridge Hotel in New York City, a group of songwriters, publishers and artists gathered and founded what would eventually become the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers, better known as ASCAP, whose goal was to be “the most powerful organization in the world” as announced from the front page of the New York Times.[18] The early association was a who’s who of influential music industry names like publishers J. Whitmark, Joseph Stern, Walter Waterman and writers like Irving Berlin, John Philip Sousa, Gus Edwards, Victor Herbert, and Harry B. Smith, and the society immediately offered “several hundred applications for immediate membership,”[19] annual membership costing $10.[20] Even though African-American composer James Weldon Johnson was a founding member, Thomas Morgan and William Barlow note that many other African American composers were excluded from ASCAP.[21] With the need for action regarding outdated copyright law, ASCAP had been founded as part of the organizational culture of the Progressive Era to address the concerns.

The goals of the new society were straightforward, to ensure that public performances would be monitored for use of copyrighted music and to create a method of collection and distribution of royalties from all sources, whether profitable public performance or mechanical reproduction. An earlier licensing organization, the Authors’ and Composers’ League of America, failed partly because its president Victor Herbert and vice-president Reginald de Kovan despised each other.[22] Spokesman for the new organisation, George Maxwell said that, “the Society has not been formed to make a fight upon any one or to stir up trouble…now we are going to enforce [or rights].”[23] Licensing societies had been in existence for decades in Europe already, in France, an organisation had been established in 1851;[24] in America, members of ASCAP looked to the European system for guidance. The scheme involved licensing music, collecting fees and paying copyright owners for intellectual products. By selling “blanket licenses” to cover entire catalogues of a composers or publishers works, for example, cabarets, dancehalls and other such public places could purchase a whole catalogue of music for a flat fee and their establishments could use any songs from these catalogues they wished. Once these fees for public performance had been collected, along with those collected from record companies, the royalties are then divided up among the members. While copyright law remained somewhat out-of-date for the times, composers and publishers took their own initiative to create a system of royalty payments and copyright enforcement.

But ASCAP’s founding did not change the law; the original 1897 copyright law specifically mentions “performance[s] and representation be wilful and for profit”[25] and that only such places would be responsible for paying a royalty. This left the question of whether or not the society could technically sue such places for copyright infringement. Victor Herbert had learned that the expensive and well-known restaurant Shanley’s, “The World’s Wonder Cabaret,”[26] had been playing selections from his comic opera Sweethearts and, with support from John Philip Sousa, filed a test lawsuit against the restaurant in 1914. After a couple of years of legal limbo and initial defeats, Herbert and his lawyer Nathan Burkan appealed enough times to reach the Supreme Court. In the decision, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that “The object is a repast in surroundings that to people having limited powers of conversation, or liking the rival noise, give a luxurious pleasure not to be had from eating a silent meal. If music did not pay, it would be given up. If it pays, it pays out of the public’s pocket.”[27] Meaning, music was a selling point of attracting the public’s attention regardless of entry fee and therefore, the business had financial gains due to music in the environs and should pay royalties. By decision of the Supreme Court, ASCAP officially was able to ensure that the owners of copyright were paid royalties for publically performed pieces of music in venues that did not charge patrons an entry fee. The Herbert v Shanley decision remained the standard for public play lawsuits for over half a century, according to Glynn Lunney.[28]

With the legal precedent set, the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers quickly became influential in the music industry and popular among those involved in it. It also changed the business structure by unifying the royalty system under a single organization and ensured that intellectual property would be protected under copyright law. During the 1920s and 1930, when broadcasting became the new technology for consumers, ASCAP and a rival organization, Broadcast Music Incorporated or BMI, guaranteed royalties for music played over radio. In 2014, ASCAP had more than 400,000 members of all levels of the music industry and all genres ranging from classical to hip-hop to country. ASCAP fees are collected to give permission for popular music such as background music at stores, television commercials, symphonies, all of which pay fees. In 2013, ASCAP paid out royalties totalling about $851M[29] its to members. The consequences do not just affect pop song history, but all of music industry generally, ASCAP and the licensing structure provides continued protection of the intellectual property of popular music and created the foundations of modern musical business structure.

Even though copyright law may not appear like it is a part of pop song history, its inclusion is paramount in understanding the nature of the product, how song is viewed legally and how these legal issues reflect music’s presence in popular culture. While songs can be sold and purchased, their actual intellectual property remains in the hands of those artists and publishers who hold the right of publication and reproduction under copyright law. The various changes in these laws, no matter how outdated some can seem, reflect the ways in which the public is exposed to music whether on stage, in a dance hall or by recordings. But when it seemed as though some composers were not receiving the royalties they felt they were entitled, they took the Progressive Era approach and in 1914, formed their own society, ASCAP, to regulate the performances and royalty structures that were part of their rights as holders of copyright, rights which were affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United states. The ramifications of this structure and the society reach well into the twenty-first century and continue to be influential in the modern music industry with hundreds of thousands of members from all strata of the music business and nearly a billion dollar exchanged in royalties.


“ASCAP Reports Strong Revenues in 2013.” The American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers. ASCAP.com. 12 February 2014. http://www.ascap.com/press/2014/0213-2013-financials.aspx.

Emerson, Ken. Doo-Dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1997.

Goldstein, Paul. Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. 2003.

Gould, Neil. Victor Herbert: A Theatrical Life. New York: Fordham University Press. 2008.

Lady Gaga. “Pop Music Emergency.” ladygaga.com. http://www.ladygaga.com/news/pop-music-emergency.

Lunney, Glynn. “Copyright Collective and Collecting Societies: The United states Experience.” Contained in Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights, Daniel J Gervais, ed. Boston, MA: Wolters Kluwer. 2010. 339-380.

Monde, Chidereah. “Katy Perry’s New Single, ‘Roar,’ Leaks Online Ahead of Official Release.” NY Daily News. 11 August 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/listen-katy-perry-new-single-roar-leaked-online-article-1.1423927.

Morgan, Thomas L and William Barlow. From Cakewalks to Concert Halls: An Illustrated History of African American Popular Music from 1895 to 1930. Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark Publishing. 1992.

“Progressive Party Platform” (1912). Contained in The Annals of America, vol 12, “1905-1915: The Progressive Era.” Toronto, ON: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. 1976. 347-355.

Rader, Benjamin G. Baseball: A History of America’s Game. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. 2008.

Roell, Craig. The Piano in America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1989.

Stempel, Larry. Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2010.

Tancs, Linda. Understanding Copyright Law: A Beginner’s Guide. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009.

“Today in History: February 13.” Library of Congress. Last updated 15 October 2010. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/feb13.html.

“Trust for Control of Music Business,” New York Times, 14 February 2014.

Waters, Edward. Victor Herbert: A Life in Music. New York: Macmillan. 1995.


[1] Lady Gaga, “Pop Music Emergency,” ladygaga.com,accessed 12 June 2014, http://www.ladygaga.com/news/pop-music-emergency.

[2] Chidereah Monde, “Katy Perry’s New Single, ‘Roar,’ Leaks Online Ahead of Official Release,” NY Daily News, 11 August 2013, http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/listen-katy-perry-new-single-roar-leaked-online-article-1.1423927.

[3] Charles Hamm, qtd in Larry Stempel, Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2010).

[4] Craig Roell, The Piano in America: 1890-1940, (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 27.

[5] Linda A Tancs, Understanding Copyrights Law: A Beginner’s Guide, (New York: Oceana, 2009), 29.

[6] Ken Emerson, Doo-Dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 264.

[7] Glynn Lunney, “Copyright Collective and Collecting Societies: The United states Experience,” contained in Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights, Daniel J Gervais, ed, (Boston, MA: Wolters Kluwer, 2010), 345.

[8] White-Smith Music Publishing Company v Apollo Company, 209 U.S. 1 (1908).

[9] Neil Gould, Victor Herbert: A Theatrical Life, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008), 214.

[10] ibid, 216.

[11] Edward Waters, Victor Herbert: A Life in Music, (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 338.

[12] Senator Alfred Kittridge, qtd in Gould, 214.

[13] The Copyright Act or 1909, or An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Acts Respecting Copyright, 60th Congress, 2nd Session (1909) contained in Linda Tancs, Understanding Copyright Law: A Beginner’s Guide, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

[14] Paul Goldstein, Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 54.

[15] “Today in History: February 13,” Library of Congress. Last updated 15 October 2010, accessed 13 June 2014, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/feb13.html.

[16] “Progressive Party Platform” (1912), contained in The Annals of America, vol 12, “1905-1915: The Progressive Era,” (Toronto, ON: Encyclopaedia Britannica, IN, 1976), 348-349.

[17] Benjamin Rader, Baseball: A History of America’s Game, (Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 112.

[18] George Maxwell, qtd in “Trust for Control of Music Business,” New York Times, 14 February 2014, 1.

[19] ibid.

[20] Ledger book, 1914, ASCAP foundation Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress, Digital ID #as0001, accessed 13 June 2014 http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/ascap-100-years-and-beyond/early-years.html.

[21] Thomas L Morgan and William Barlow, From Cakewalks to Concert Halls: An Illustrated History of African American Popular Music from 1895 to 1930, (Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark Publishers, 1992), 49.

[22] Gould, 318.

[23] George Maxwell, qtd in “Trust,” New York Times.

[24] Gould, 317.

[25] Copyright Act (Public Performance of Musical Compositions,) Washington, DC (1897), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L Bently & M. Kretschmer, contained on The University of Texas Tarlton Law Library, accessed 15 June 2014, http://copy.law.cam.ac.uk/cam/tools/request/showRecord?id=record_us_1897.

[26] Booklet advertising Shanley’s restaurant (1917) qtd in Gould, 216.

[27] As federal judge Oliver Wendell Homes asserted in Herbert v Shanley Co, 242 U.S. 591 (1917), found on FindLaw for Legal Professionals, Thomson Reuters, ip.findlaw.com, accessed 14 June 2014, http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=242&invol=591.

[28] Lunney, contained in Collective Management of Copyright and Related Rights, 346.

[29] “ASCAP Reports Strong Revenues in 2013,” The American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers, ASCAP.com, 12 February 2014, accessed 15 June 2014, http://www.ascap.com/press/2014/0213-2013-financials.aspx.

1910s Pop Trend: The Ragtime Dance Craze

As long as music has existed, even from the mists of antiquity, there have been dances to accompany it. The period of the pop song in America has had some dance trends which define entire musical eras. The popularity of “The Charleston” (1923) “perfectly reflected the defiance, freedom and turmoil of the Jazz Era,”[1] Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” (1961) partly defines the sounds and styles of the Rock ’n’ Roll Era and Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” (1975) helped to usher in the Disco Era of the 1970s. Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” (1996) was not only the most popular song of the year,[2] but it also launched a manic dance fad of that summer thanks to the choreography of its music video. The Club Banger Age of the twenty-first century has experienced its own dance fads like the Chicken Noodle Soup (2006), the Soulja Boy (2007), the Dougie (2010), the Harlem Shake (2012) and the Twerk, a word so popular that it was a runner up the word of the year in 2013, as selected by none other than the Oxford English Dictionary.[3] Songs of the era like ‘Nsync’s “Bye Bye Bye” (2000), Britney Spears’s “Oops…I Did It Again” (2000), Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” (2008) and Psy’s “Gangnam Style” (2012) became dance floor phenomena partly due to the influential choreography featured in their music videos. During a wave of new dance fads during the 1910s, the foxtrot, perhaps the most popular social dance after the waltz was becoming its own cultural phenomenon during the Ragtime Era.

During the second half of the Ragtime era in the 1910s, social dancing had suddenly consumed American culture, and numerous new ragtime dance crazes become fashionable and trendy. The new American dancing fads brought popular culture away from the Victorian age ideals of perpetual toil, work and duty and into the Progressive Age of the twentieth century. New dance floors in cabarets, night clubs and restaurants were abuzz with dozens of new dances and a revived pulse of the Ragtime era. But the new dance steps were not without controversy; in some places certain dances were outlawed and dancing became restricted to permitted areas. But by 1917, most dance crazes faded out of memory, but one dance, the foxtrot, whose rhythms reflected a new blues influence on ragtime music, became part of the American dance canon and part of the musical lexicon for decades. The foxtrot not only became one of the few such dances to continue to have popularity beyond the Ragtime Era, but also lent its name to a musical genre on sheet music and on record labels.

Dancing had been popular in America long before the trend in social dancing happened in the early 1910s; the American public had been introduced to a number of dance fads in the nineteenth century, albeit presented from the theatre stage. People were not necessarily partaking in social dancing in public until well after the Civil War, and even then, most dance occasions like balls were held in private homes.[4] Some theatrical shows of the nineteenth century prominently featured new dance steps, for example, the “Victorian Extravaganza” The Black Crook from 1866 created a sensation with its popular, yet critically maligned, combination of song, dancing and statuesque show girls. By 1895, it had been revived eighteen times in New York alone.[5] Minstrel shows introduced theatre-goers to the cakewalk dance step which concluded such shows and when Coon Songs became a pop trend in the 1890s, the cakewalk consequently became marketing fodder for music publishers indicate the genre on the covers of the plethora of rags during the time. The song “Chocolate Drops” from 1902 had been advertised as “Harry Von Tilzer’s great Cake Walk hit” and “Suitable for March, Cake Walk or Two Step.”[6] The technologically advanced stage of the New York Hippodrome Theatre, opening in 1905, featured a unique theatrical and sensational dance experience with grandiose ballets and legions of up to 150 chorus dancers to entertain audiences.[7] Before the ragtime dance fad began, American had already been exposed to numerous iterations of spectacular theatrical dancing in the pop culture of Victorian Age America.

The 1910s would see spectacular changes in not just dance as an art form in America, but also American attitudes towards social dance. In an era when American culture was beginning to shake off the notions of constant toil and prudence of the Victorian Age, the entire nation began to embrace novelty dances in social situations. The waltz was an older style of dance by this time and was falling out of favour; the public’s reception of new dance style was high. Many trace the beginning of the ragtime dance craze to saloons and beach resorts of San Francisco; at the club Parcell’s, dances like the Texas Tommy and the Turkey Trot were fashionable as early as 1910.[8] Mark Knowles points out that insurance money from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake disaster helped to rebuild the city with new dancehalls and amusements.[9] The George Botsford and Irving Berlin song “Grizzly Bear” from 1910 references the popularity of dancing in San Francisco.[10] New animal ragtime dances were becoming socially diffused and fashionable on a national scale, including the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug, Bunny Hop, and the Camel Walk as well as variations on old themes like the oddly-metered Hesitation Waltz and exotic dances like the Brazilian Maxixe and eventually the Tango. Almost immediately, the country was swept up in dance fever; so much so that there are reports of throngs of couples dancing the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear in public along sidewalks of cities.[11] It was a time to shake off the Victorian ideals and the waltz and embrace dances that were new, fresh and daring during the “Age of Progress,” capturing Americans’ spirit of the early 1910s.

While the American public were embracing social dancing trends, of course there were also record companies and Tin Pan Alley composers encouraging and capitalizing on the new dance trends by producing a new wave of fashionable ragtime music detailing instruction of new dances. In 1909, composer Harry von Tilzer and lyricist Vincent Bryan published “The Cubanola Glide,” a forerunner of the dance craze, and a song whose raggy and dialect lyrics offer dance step instructions by “rag-a-dag to de left den to de right/Shake it up, shake it up, side by side.”[12] Botsford and Berlin’s instructional song “The Grizzly Bear” (1910), created its own Grizzly Bear dance craze when popular actress Sophie Tucker introduced the song and dance on the vaudeville circuit in 1911.[13] Other Irving Berlin songs from 1911 also perpetuated the growing enthusiasm for dancing. “Everybody’s Doin’ It Now,” a song whose lyrics describe seeing a new dance performed by “a couple over there, Watch them throw their shoulders in the air,”[14] is a song whose sole purpose is to describe a dance fad; its title subsequently became a catch-phrase for the dance fads. Berlin’s tremendously influential song “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was about specifically seeing ragtime entertainment, and revived the ragtime name that had been in a slow state of decline. Talking machine and record companies were also marketing to consumers for dance purposes, one advertisement claims that “nothing will aid to your dancing ability more than practice at home to the music of Victor Records or Rythmodik Piano roles.”[15] In 1911, Ragtime was enjoying a revival in its popularity when it had become marketed for dancing purposes rather than just “novelty music”[16] that it had been classified in the early 1900s.

One dance in particular, the foxtrot, would become the most popular dance of not only the 1910s, but the entire first half of the twentieth century. Animal dance fads fell out of fashion when songs slipped from popularity, and new dances came at such a fast pace that oftentimes it was tough work to keep with the new steps.[17] But by 1915, the foxtrot became the dance that represented both popularity of Ragtime Dances and changes in ragtime music. The history of the Foxtrot is disputed. According to Thomas L. Morgan and William Barlow, the foxtrot originated when James Reese Europe’s adapted W.C. Handy’s “Memphis Blues” for Vernon and Irene Castle to perform a new choreographed dance.[18] Other sources give credit to Vaudeville actor Henry Fox, whose surname lends its name to the dance.[19] But Eve Golden notes that an early form of the foxtrot had already been in existence as a syncopated trot step as early as 1905.[20] By 1914, the foxtrot became the latest popular dance craze in a long line of social dances but something else was also happening with the foxtrot name—it was beginning to appear on sheet music as an indicator of musical genre to advertise dance music. Names like waltz and two-step had been used as musical genre in the past, but foxtrot genre shows changes in the rhythms of ragtime music. By 1913, ragtime music was changing from a syncopated style to a more swinging style of “dotted ragtime” partly influenced by the growing popularity in numerous blues songs of the early 1910s.[21] Many blues songs like W.C. Handy’s “The St. Louis Blues” were labelled as rags, after all, and not constituting their own genre in this early stage. An early example of the foxtrot genre, “Ballin’ the Jack” has, in fact two versions of the sheet music, the first, published in 1913 and credits James Reese Europe with composition and only features the title of the song without a genre, while a second vocal version from 1914 indicates that the song is a “Fox Trot” and the cover features dancing couple Arria Hathaway and Joe McShane in a foxtrot dance pose.[22] Other Fox Trot songs and “dotted ragtime” followed, The James Reese Europe composition “The Castle House Rag” from 1914 is labelled both as a rag and as a foxtrot.[23] The foxtrot became the brand of ragtime with a unified dance and a genre for the changes in ragtime music.

The dance fads of the 1910s had a number of repercussions in American society. Dancing not only revitalized the popularity in ragtime music, but provoked a growing demand for social spaces like night clubs, restaurants and cabarets, which could allow people to practice the newest dances. Julie Malnig notes that originally, cabarets were a “wholly American phenomenon that combined dinner, drinks and floorshow.”[24] Restaurants and clubs began offering afternoon thé dansants to entice customers with a new dance floor, no matter how small and unable to accommodate many people. Stylish ballroom dance couples like Maurice Mouvet and Florence Walton and Vernon and Irene Castle became celebrities admired for their grace, forward-thinking fashions and elegance. Vernon and Irene Castle had their own critically and commercially successful Broadway show Watch Your Step in 1914 which featured their dancing style.[25] The new dance trends also changed American fashion, the Victorian style of long dresses, corsets and wide hats limited movement on the dance floor. New styles like the hobble dress with shorter hemlines and plunging necklines, shoes with “Louis heels” and taller ostrich feather hats became the fashion styles during this era.[26] The new dance craze was changing many areas of American culture from celebrity to entertainment to fashion.

But the dances of the times had created a divisive culture war between those embracing a new cultural development and those who found the dances too provocative. In a time when it was law to remain nine inches away from your dance partner, if found dancing too close, a bouncer would eject dancers from the dance floor by a bouncer, according to Irene Castle,[27] songs which encourage “snug up close to your lady,”[28] and “Get away closer hon, Squeeze me tight”[29] were shocking and their associated dances were considered by some to be immoral. There was a grave fear that particularly single American women would lose their morals to the social new dances. Race may have also played a part in the hysteria, since many of these new dances had black origins and Reynolds and McCormack note that “as ragtime and jazz invaded ballrooms and the stage…black style became the basis for a bevy of new social dances.”[30] Social Reformers during the Progressive Era began to push back against the new and provocative dances, looking to change municipal laws for dancing by outlawing some of the animal dances and regulating where dance could happen. So-called “wiggly dances” were banned in places like New Haven, Dallas and Chicago[31] and in New York, dancing became illegal in establishments which did not hold special cabaret licenses. The reaction against the ragtime dances was even international. In 1913, the New York Times reported an Austrian soldier in Geneva Switzerland challenged an American man to a duel after the soldier found his daughter performing the Turkey Trot in a hotel that had banned “American dances.”[32] While the changes brought on by ragtime era dancing had been part of a new form of entertainment, there were genuine concerns that such provocative dancing could lead to loosening morals.

While the Foxtrot as both dance fad and musical genre was approaching its zenith, social changes were bringing the ballroom trend to an abrupt hiatus and musical tastes transitioned from Ragtime to a new style called Jazz. In 1917, the United States entered the Great War in Europe and two million American servicemen travelled across the Atlantic to participate in the war effort.[33] Vernon Castle had begun training as a pilot as early as 1915 and American bandleader James Reese Europe became involved in the war 1918 by providing music to the troops on the battlefield.[34] The war left American culture focused on war production, sales of war bonds and thrift and less on amusements like social ballroom dancing and dance fads. American pop song performers and songwriters reacted by producing patriotic and rousing songs about the War, departing from novelty songs in ragtime tempos in favour of marches like George M Cohan’s “Over There,” Irving Berlin’s “Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” and Jean Schwartz’s “Hello, Central! Give Me No Man’s Land” and sentimental songs like M.K. Jerome’s “Just a Baby’s Prayer at Twilight (For Her Daddy Over There).” By 1920, the disruptions in American social life had begun to resolve themselves, including social adjustment following a devastating Flu Epidemic in 1918 and recent Prohibition Laws outlawing alcohol. By the time Americans returned to pop culture, a new style of music was on the rise, Jazz, and the various popular orchestras of Paul Whiteman, Art Hickman, Ted Lewis and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band became popular, leaving the pop song styling of the Ragtime Era behind.

Despite the rapid changes in American society after the First World War, by 1920, the other animal dances faded but the Foxtrot dance and the Foxtrot genre would continue to evolve and take their modern forms. Many records like Paul Whiteman’s “Whispering” and “The Japanese Sandman” (both from 1920) and Ben Slevin’s Novelty Orchestra’s “Dardanella” (1919) were classified as Foxtrots. The Foxtrot would become a favoured dance of the Swing years of the Jazz Era, taking a slower form for the lush, orchestrated sounds of Big Band Music. The foxtrot label as a musical genre continued until the early Rock ’n’ Roll Era beginning in the mid-1950s In fact, 45s of Bill Haley and His Comets’s “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” of 1955 were labelled as a “novelty foxtrot,” when it was clear that Decca Records did not know what to call the music. The record sold 25 million copies, making the song, technically a Foxtrot, the most successful Foxtrot in American history,[35] four decades after its introduction. While the Ragtime Era faded and the Jazz Era began, the foxtrot continued to be popular in dance and in music for decades afterwards, even included the popular television show Dancing with the Stars. The dance fads of the 1910s had permanent contributions to American culture in not only Americans’ interest in dance, but also in the music which encouraged dancing’s popularity.


Berlin, Edward A. Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1980.

Billboard Magazine. “The Hot 100—1996 Archive.” Billboard.com. http://www.billboard.com/archive/charts/1996/hot-100.

Castle, Irene. Castles in the Air. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company. 1958.

“Challenges a ‘Trotter.’” New York Times. 10 July 1913.

Golden, Eve. Vernon and Irene Castle’s Ragtime Revolution. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky. 2007.

Knowles, Mark. The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage and Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. 2009.

Kynaston, David. Family Britain: 1951-1957. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 2009.

Malnig, Julie. “Two Stepping to Glory: Social Dance and the Rhetoric of Social Mobility.” Contained in Moving History/Dancing Culture: A Dance History Reader. Ann Dills and Ann Cooper Albright, editors. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press. 2001. 271-287.

Mendes, Valerie and Amy de la Haye. Fashion Since 1900. 2nd edition. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 2010.

Morgan, Thomas L. and William Barlow. From Cakewalks to Concert Halls: An Illustrated History of African Americans Popular Music from 1895 to 1930. Washington, DC: Elliot & Clark Publishing. 1992.

Oxford University Press. “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013: Runners-up.” Ofxordwords Blog (blog). Published 19 November 2013. http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/11/word-of-the-year-runners-up/.

Reynolds, Nancy and Malcolm McCormick. No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2003.

Tindal, George Brown and David Emory Shi. America: A Narrative History. 8th Ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2010.

Waldo, Terry. This is Ragtime. New York: Jazz at Lincoln Center Library Edition. 2009.

1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue: A Treasured Replica from the Archives of History. Northfield, IL. 1971.

Songs Cited

Berlin, Irving. Alexander’s Ragtime Band. New York: Ted Snyder & Co. 1911.

——-. Everybody’s Doin’ It Now. New York: Ted Snyder Co. 1911.

Botsford, George (music) and Irving Berlin (lyrics). The Grizzly Bear. New York: Ted Snyder & Co. 1910.

Europe, James Reese. The Castle House Rag. New York: Jos Stern Co, 1914.

Von Tilzer, Harry. Chocolate Drops (A Darktown Improbability). New York: Harry von Tilzer Music Publishing. 1902.

Von Tilzer, Harry (music) and Vincent Bryan (lyrics). The Cubanola Glide. New York: Harry Von Tilzer Music Pub. Co. 1909.


[1] Mark Knowles, The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage at Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2009), 135.

[2] Billboard Magazine, “The Hot 100-1996 Archive,” Billboard.com, http://www.billboard.com/archive/charts/1996/hot-100, (accessed 8 June 2014).

[3] Oxford University Press, “Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013: Runners-up,” Oxfordwords Blog (blog), published 19 November 2013, http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/11/word-of-the-year-runners-up/, (accessed 2 June 2014).

[4] Knowles, 36.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Harry Von Tilzer, Chocolate Drops (A Darktown Improbability), (New York: Harry von Tilzer Music Publishing, 1902), contained in Terry Waldo, This is Ragtime, (New York: Jazz At Lincoln Center Library Edition, 2009), 48.

[7] Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormack, No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), 676.

[8] Knowles, 63.

[9] Ibid.

[10] George Botsford (music) and Irving Berlin (lyrics), The Grizzly Bear, (New York: Ted Snyder Co, 1910).

[11] Irene Castle, Castles in the Air, (Garden City, NY: Double Day & Company, 1958), 85.

[12] Harry von Tilzer (music) and Vincent Bryan (lyrics), The Cubanola Glide, (New York: Harry von Tilzer Music Pub. Co, 1909).

[13] Terry Waldo, This is Ragtime, (New York: Jazz at Lincoln Center Library Edition, 2009), 130.

[14] Irving Berlin, Everybody’s Doin’ It Now, (New York: Ted Snyder Co, 1911).

[15] Julie Malnig, “Two Stepping to Glory: Social Dance and the Rhetoric of Social Mobility,” contained in Moving History/Dancing Cultures: A Dance History Reader, Ann Dils and Ann Cooper Albright, ed, (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001), 279.

[16] “List of Columbia P Records,” Sears Roebuck Catalogue, Catalogue No 117 (1908), reprinted as 1908 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue: A Treasured Replica from the Archives of History, (Northfield, IL: DBI Books, Inc, 1971), 200.

[17] Knowles, 71.

[18] Thomas L Morgan and William Barlow, From Cakewalks to Concert Halls: an Illustrated History of African American Popular Music from 1895 to 1930, (Washington, DC: Elliott & Clark Publishing, 1992), 71.

[19] Knowles, 99.

[20] Eve Golden, Vernon and Irene Castle’s Ragtime Revolution, (Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 101.

[21] Edward A Berlin, Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History, (Los Angeles, AC: University of California Press, 1980), 160.

[22] Based on a search of Ballin’ the Jack on Johns Hopkins University Library, JScholarship, Levy Sheet music Collection, https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/search?scope=%2F&query=ballin+the+jack&rpp=10&sort_by=0&order=DESC&submit=Go, (accessed 7 June 2014).

[23] James Reese Europe, The Castle House Rag, (New York: Jos. Stern Publishing, 1914), contained in Terry Waldo This is Ragtime, 105.

[24] Malnig, contained in Moving History/Dancing Culture, 282.

[25] Golden, 126

[26] Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye, Fashion Since 1900, 2nd ed, (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc, 2000), 40-41.

[27] Castle, 85

[28] Botsford and Berlin, The Grizzly Bear.

[29] Von Tilzer and Bryan, The Cubanola Glide.

[30] Reynolds, 678.

[31] Knowles, 93.

[32] “Challenges a ‘Trotter,’” New York Times, 10 July 1913, 7.

[33] George Brown Tindal and David Emory Shi, American: A Narrative History, 8th ed, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), 998.

[34] Morgan and Barlow, 71.

[35] David Kynaston, Family Britain: 1951-1957, (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009), 605.