Category Archives: Sheet Music Covers

Comments on some special, funny or beautiful covers

From Harem Pants To Bloomers Or Vice Versa

The New Costume Polka‘ by Mathias Keller, published by Lee & Walker (Philadelphia, c1851 ) and illustrated by James Fuller Queen. Source: The Library companion of Philadelphia).

On the cover of The New Costume Polka an elegant woman holds a tiny blue parasol. She wears a corseted coat and wide skirt over her white bloomers. The outfit is trimmed with elegant golden galloons and decorated with blue ribbons. We see other women dressed in bloomer costume on the sidewalk and entering the shop (which is a detailed depiction of the music publisher’s store, see the street address and the model harp above the entrance). The sheet music is dedicated to Mrs. Amelia Bloomer.

‘The Bloomer Polkas’ published by G. H. Davidson (London, sd) and illustrated by S. Rosenthal.

Bloomers first appeared in the 1850s as an alternative to the heavy dresses. They were loose-fitting ankle-lenght trousers, inspired by Turkish pantaloons and worn under a shorter skirt. The garment was named after Amelia Bloomer, an American women’s rights and temperance activist. Amelia Bloomer did not invent the bloomers though, it was another women’s rights advocate, Elizabeth Smith Miller who first wore the outfit. But Amelia Bloomer enthusiastically promoted wearing pantaloons in The Lily, the first American newspaper edited by and for women.

Left: ‘New Bloomer Dances’, by Paul Henrion and illustrated by S. Rosenthal (publisher unknown, sd). Right: ‘The New Bloomer Polka’ by Alfred Mellon and illustrated by J. Brandard, published by Jullien & Co (London, sd).

As most leaders of the women’s rights movement and emancipated women wore the new costume, bloomerism became synonym for an early form of feminism. The bloomers were fiercely mocked by opponents and an avalanche of cartoons and satirical poems followed, criticising those who wore them. The New Bloomer Polka was performed in the London sketch ‘Bloomerism or The Follies of the Day‘.

And so, although Amelia Bloomer dressed for several years in bloomers, in 1859 she dropped the fashion in favour of conventional ankle-length dresses. She gathered that the attention and the ridicule in the popular press became a distraction: “We all felt that the dress was drawing attention from what we thought of far greater importance—the question of woman’s right to better education, to a wider field of employment, to better remuneration for her labour, and to the ballot for the protection of her rights.”

‘Bicyclette-Polka’ by Emile Wesley, published by Emile Wesly (Bruxelles, sd).

The bloomer costume died—temporarily. It was to return much later (in a different form), as a women’s athletic costume in the 1890s and early 1900s. It goes without saying that these cycling trousers, along with women on bikes, were also a target of ridicule.

‘L’étrange valse’ by Maurice Yvain, published by Salabert (Paris, 1922) and Illustrated by Roger De Valerio.

But that wasn’t the swansong of the baggy garnment: the loose-fitting trousers surfaced again in 1911 when couturier Paul Poiret launched his Orientalistic collection and the Style Sultan. Remember that Parisians were at that time enchanted with eastern exoticism and easily dazed by Arabic-Islamic fragrance. From then on the harem trousers, as they became known in the fashion world, would follow the whimsical waves of what is in vogue, and sometimes even be seen as an anti-fashion statement…

Fatme – Orientalisches Foxtrot‘ by Carl Alfredy & Carl Böhm. Illustration by Wolfgang Ortmann. Published by Max Jaschunsky (Berlin, sd)

What Amelia Bloomer and her feminist companions wouldn’t have dared to imagine is that the bloomers or harem pants would, certainly in the Twenties at the height of art deco, become a symbolic attire —admittedly with at least a hint of nudity— to represent women in their most servile condition: that of the harem woman, with no other role than to please men’s sexual fantasies.

Hey, what a perfect excuse to show some interesting sheet music covers in our collection. They use all the stereotypical elements of such imagery, including a languid female, the implicit eroticism, and an ethnographical backdrop.

Soave‘ by Paul Nast, published by Select Edition, Edouard Andrieu (Paris, 1921) and illustrated by Bouvier-Pellat & Co.

And even in the Sixties orientalism had not lost any of its British mystique… You’ll have to imagine your own entrancing rhytm to this silent Pathé film.

Mysterious Phenomena In Illustrated Sheet Music – Part 3

Enchantement‘ composed by Jules Massenet, poetry written by Jules Ruelle, and published in ‘Au Ménestrel’ (Paris, ca 1890). Cover illustration by Eugène Grasset.

Welcome back to the enchanting world of printing and publishing. Share with us the quizzical differences, variations or nuances in what could (should?) have been similar copies of sheet music covers. Sometimes these design incidents defy our imagination in how they lead to incongruity, comical twist or hilarious plagiarism. We have invented nothing. Do your own research: have a look, scrutinize and double check!

The grass is always greener on the other print

Das ist das alte Lied von jungen Leuten‘ by Jean Gilbert, Fritz Grünbaum, and Wilhelm Sterk. Both edition published by Rondo Verlag (Berlin, 1922) and illustrated by Wolfgang Ortmann.

The monocle and the shifty eyes

E arrivato l’Ambasciatore!‘, operette by Ettore Bellini, published by Fratelli Curci (Napoli, 1921) and illustrated by L. Pagano.

The trick with the husband

Sheet music covers designed by Leo Baill
LEFT: ‘On n’s’en fout pas‘ by L. Cadin and Arlet Nandem, published at Gaspy Editions (Bruxelles, s.d.). RIGHT: ‘Senorita‘ tango by Jac. Grit with lyrics by Herre De Vos, published by Edition Jacques Polfliet (Bruxelles, s.d.). Both covers designed by Leo Baill.

The exchangeable dance floors

LEFT: ‘Dancing Tambourine‘ by William C. Polla, published by Salabert (Paris, 1927) – copyright Harms (New York, 1927). RIGHT: ‘Ich hab’ zu Haus ein Grammophon‘ by Karel Hasler & Jara Benes, lyrics by Beda. Published by Wiener Boheme Verlag (Vienna, s.d.), source: https://www.notenmuseum.de – Unknown illustrator.

The fairy tale makeover

Rotkäppchen!‘ by Hermann Wenzel, published by Fr. Portius (Leipzig, 1928 (on the left) and s.d. (right)). Unknown illustrator.

The world of enchantment, fantasy, bold imagination and daring fascination… I think I have a little idea on how to musically end this short post.

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Mysterious Phenomena In Illustrated Sheet Music – Part 2

Mystery?‘ – A foxtrot by Joseph A. Cirina. Published by Herman Darewski (London,1919) and illustrated by Lionel S. Reiss.

The world of sheet music illustration never stops to amaze the assiduous collector. She/he has to face up to mysteries that defy the imagination, pictorial challenges to her or his ingenuity. The collector stumbles in an enigmatic world where things become unexplainable and surpass fantasy. Here is the continuation of our popular series on accidentally —sometimes wilfully— assembling duplicates.

The Apparition of the Seaside Resort

Two almost identical covers published by 'Zalig plekje aan zee' composed by A. Van Oest (LEFT) and 'Mooi Zandvoort' by Vorrattie. Both publishe by B H Smit (Amsterdam)
Zalig plekje aan zee‘ composed by A. Van Oest (LEFT) and ‘Mooi Zandvoort‘ by Vorrattie (RIGHT). Published by B H Smit (Amsterdam, s.d.). Illustrator: D. Coene.

The Case of the Blue Hat

Two striking versions of 'Camouflage' sheet music illustration
Camouflage‘, One-Step by James Bodewalt Lamp. LEFT: the 1917 publication by Jerome Remick (NY, Detroit), not in our collection. RIGHT: the redrawn version by Francis Salabert (Paris). Unknown illustrator.

The Subtle Substitution

Fleur de Cerisier‘ and ‘Fleur de Pommier‘. Composed by Adrian de Lorme, published by Duff & Stewart (London, s.d.) and illustrated by William Spalding.

The Instrument Swap

Whistling Rufus‘, a Two-Step Polka or Cake-Walk by Kerry Mills. LEFT: the original guitar publication by Mills, F. A. (New York, s.d., unknown illustrator). RIGHT: the Swedish banjo version published by Carl Gehrman (Stockholm), s.d., illustrated by Nils Ringström.

The Apprentice Twins

Le Petit Mousse Noir‘, a Romance by P. Cheret & Marc Constantin. LEFT: undated publication by Choudens (Paris, s.d.). RIGHT: publication by Mayence (Anvers & Bruxelles, s.d.). Unknown illustrator.

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