Pity the poor adman at the beginning of the 20th century. No TV. No radio. No color magazines and no recordings. No internet or pop-up ads. What’s an advertising executive supposed to do to sell his client’s music?
Since recordings were, literally, unheard of back then, people had to make their own music. Everyone could use their voice, a banjo, harmonica, guitar, or piano at home. Churches had organs and choirs, and fraternal organizations, firefighting companies, and clubs often had their own small bands. Sheet music was needed so people knew what to play or sing.
Advertisers and artists worked hard to make their music stand out from the competition at the music store or corner market. They found a great way to attract attention even before any music notes were visible — eye-catching sheet-music cover illustrations. The Madison Historical Society has on loan several examples of these colorful advertising solutions, including many from the WWI era.