Before the age of photography, lithographs, engravings and other illustrations provided a crucial way to share stories, promote political candidates, and document everyday life.

Because sheet music scores needed to appeal to a mass audience, they often featured some of the most vibrant, detailed, and technologically-advanced lithographs and engravings of the 16th-18th centuries. This makes sheet music cover images the perfect resource to illustrate media professionals' stories about early American life.

Media professionals can search the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection using a text search on the collection's homepage, or the Advanced Search system. Topics covered include historical events like the American Civil War, specific political campaigns and elections, and depictions of human interest topics including marriage and sports.

Media professionals who wish to use cover images or scores in their work--including news stories, textbooks, television broadcasts, commercial books, periodicals and advertisements--can reach out via the License Cover Images page

Media professionals can also use the Contact Us page for general inquiries about the collection.

Content warning

These songs were collected to document the history of the United States through sheet music. Therefore, users of the collection will find a large number of songs with explicitly racist, xenophobic, sexist, and other offensive content. While this subject matter is in many cases reprehensible, it is preserved here for purposes of research and study. Strong consideration should be given to a song’s history and context prior to a public performance.

More information and resources can be found in the Peabody Institute’s Anti-Racist Teaching and Learning Resources.