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Digital Collections

Wisconsin Sue
Wisconsin Sue by Herbert W. Willett (1914); from Wisconsin Sheet Music Collection, 366

Explore a growing selection of our unique or unusual material, as well as information about collections, that is freely accessible online.

Most of our digitized collections are hosted by University of Wisconsin Digitized Collections under the name Mills Music Library Special Collections. There, you can search the collections globally or individually.

  • Sheet music & scores – thousands of titles, with a focus on Wisconsin and early U.S. publications, including Civil War sheet music and bandbook
  • Discographies & streaming audio – holdings of 2 important Wisconsin record companies and the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings
  • Wisconsin ethnic heritage – photos & streaming audio of folk material collected by Helene Stratman-Thomas and Sidney Robertson Cowell
  • Production material – 19th- & early 20th-century works for the American musical stage

American Sacred Music Collection

Best hymns
Cover of Best hymns (ca. 1874)

The American Sacred Music Collection includes about 500 American imprints dating from 1786 to the early 20th century. Included are works of Isaiah Thomas, Thomas Hastings, Lowell Mason, William Bradbury, Joshua Leavitt, Ira Sankey, and others. Some volumes from this collection are available online.

Extent: 113 volumes
Keywords: sheet music ; scores ; hymns ; hymnals ; English ; 18th century ; 19th century ; 20th century

American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point

Shinichi Suzuki
Shinichi Suzuki

A Suzuki Method in Action consists of video recordings of classes held by Japanese violinist and educator Shinichi Suzuki in 1976 at the American Suzuki Institute at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point. During this time, he gave lectures and demonstrations to teachers and parents, as well as teaching master classes and group classes to students.

Extent: 34 video recordings
Keywords: pedagogy ; music instruction

Americana Sheet Music Collection

World's Exposition march
World’s Exposition march by George Schleiffarth (1889); A01349

The Americana Sheet Music Collection contains some 7,000 songs published in 19th-century America. Principally music from the popular tradition, although that distinction is a blurry one until ca. 1865. Midwest publishers are well represented, as is music by women composers.

Extent: 6,200 titles
Keywords: 19th century ; women composers ; United States ; popular music ; songs ; piano music ; songs with piano


Civil War Band Collection : 1st Brigade Band of Brodhead, Wisconsin

William S. Douglas
William S. Douglas of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 15th Army Corps band (ca. 1870-1880); WHi(x3)35075

The Civil War Band Collection was started when, in 1858, a group of citizens of Brodhead, Wisconsin, decided to form a brass band. They initially called themselves the Brodhead Tin Band, from the set of inexpensive tin instruments that they purchased. Soon, they purchased a set of brass instruments, however, and became known as the Brodhead Brass Band, or “B.B.B.” Under that name, they performed at the debate between presidential candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on 27 August 1858 at Freeport, Illinois. During the Civil War, they served the Union in the 1st Brigade.

The original manuscripts reside in the Department of Special Collections. A microform copy, Civil War band books, can be accessed at the Music Library.

Extent: approximately 675 songs in 19 volumes ; 23 images
Keywords: Civil War ; sheet music ; performance libraries ; brass bands ; photographs

Cuca Records Database

Cuca Records
Cuca Records

The Cuca Records Database provides discographical information for all known LPs and 45s held by the Music Library that were released by Cuca Records of Sauk City, Wisconsin, and its affiliated labels.

Many of these recordings are available in the Music Library.

Extent: over 780 entries
Keywords: discographies ; discography ; sound recordings ; record labels

Ethnic Music in Northern Wisconsin and Michigan

Moquah Dancers
Moquah Dancers performing in Moquah, Wis. (1981)

The Ethnic Music of Northern Wisconsin and Michigan Collection documents traditional music of European immigrant communities in the northern tier of counties in Wisconsin and the western counties of the upper peninsula of Michigan along Lake Superior’s south shore. The collection reflects the mix of musical traditions among the region’s Cornish, Bohemian, Croatian, Finnish, French-Canadian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Irish, Slovenian, Slovak, Swedish, Swiss, and Ukrainian immigrant singers, instrumentalists, dance hall veterans, and home performers.

Related materials: Local Centers/Global Sounds
Extent: 322 sound recordings ; 370 photographs ; 307 documents
Keywords: field recordings ; immigrants ; sound recordings

Local Centers/Global Sounds : Historic Recordings and Midwestern Musical Vernaculars

Local Centers/Global Sounds is an umbrella collection of dance tunes, ballads, lyric songs, hymns, laments, political anthems, and recitations prevalent in the Upper Midwest. Includes 78-rpm recordings produced for immigrant, ethnic, and indigenous audiences by American companies in the first half of the 20th century; and more than 700 hours of original field and home recordings from the 1950s through the 1990s captured in kitchens and parlors, in churches and halls, amidst festivals and in professional studios.Includes extensive interviews of many performers. Collections include audio, photographs, field notes, and tape indices.

Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings

Stella Grand 15011
Stella Grand Record 15011

The Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings is unique in its comprehensive scale and scope. Over 9,000 recorded performances on 78-rpm discs and cylinders include Yiddish theater, popular and traditional music, cantorial songs, klezmer music, poetry, drama, and event ballads from locations as diverse as the United States, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Israel.

The contents offer an unparalleled audio entrée into the vibrant, fascinating cultural practices of early- mid 20th century Yiddish life.

Extent: 2,212 sound recordings

Paramount Records Discography

Paramount 2016
Paramount 2016 “The preacher and the bear” by Arthur Collins (ca. 1905); 304

The Paramount Records Discography contains information about Paramount Records and affiliated labels produced by the New York Recording Laboratories (NYRL) of Port Washington, Wisconsin. All records included in the discography are in the collections of the Wisconsin Music Archives of the Music Library.

Extent: 1,720 entries
Keywords: 78s ; discographies ; sound recordings ; record labels ; Broadway ; Famous ; Puritan


Popular Sheet Music Collection

Ziegfeld Follies

The Popular Sheet Music Collection consists of popular song sheets published in the United States since 1900. Titles are entered into the database on an ongoing basis. Some items in the database include images of the sheets.

Extent: 11,785 titles
Keywords: sheet music ; 20th century ; songs ; songs with piano ; popular music ; piano music ; vaudeville ; musicals

Tams-Witmark/Wisconsin Collection

Carmen: conductor’s score (1870-1919)

The Tams-Witmark/Wisconsin Collection comprises some 37,000 items, representing more than 1,600 titles from the musical stage in America from approximately 1800 to the 1920s. Materials are from the entire range of the musical stage tradition: grand opera, operetta, musical comedy and revue, minstrel show, and burlesque.

The collection is particularly strong in the areas of piano-vocal scores and prompt books, but many titles also include orchestral parts, full scores, choral parts, vocal parts, libretti, stage manager guides, and dialogue parts, as well as production materials such as scenery, lighting, and costume plots.

Scanned images from collection are added to the database on an ongoing basis; the materials are fully cataloged and may be searched in the Library Catalog.

Extent: 5 works in 205 volumes

Visual Materials in Mills Music Library

Music Hall, U.W., Madison, Wis. (ca. early 20th century); photo-S0048

The Visual Materials collection of photographs primarily of musicians and music-related subjects dating from the late nineteenth century to the present. In addition to photographs, there are postcards, lithographic prints, advertising and promotional materials, posters, and other types of ephemera.
New images are added on a regular basis.

Extent: approximately 100 images



Joseph Philbrick Webster Music Manuscripts

Joseph P. Webster

Joseph Philbrick Webster (1819, New Hampshire-1875, Elkhorn, Wisconsin) composed music for ballads, hymns, patriotic drama, and a cantata, and, in all, published fully 1,000 songs.

Among his most popular compositions were “Lorena,” sung by both Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War, and “In the sweet bye and bye.”

Extent: 10 volumes
Keywords: composers ; songs with piano ; patriotic songs

Wisconsin Folksong Collection, 1937-1946

Otto Rindlisbacher and his accordion in Rice Lake, Wis. August 15,
1941; 25416 / PH 2907

The Wisconsin Folksong Database represents materials from two collections housed in three discrete, but closely related, repositories. The Collection reflects and documents the state’s colorful pattern of immigration and occupational development during those years.

It includes Wisconsin field recordings, notes, and photographs made by UW-Madison faculty member Helene Stratman-Thomas as part of the Wisconsin Folk Music Recording Project, co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and the Library of Congress during the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1946. It also contains recordings collected by song catcher Sidney Robertson Cowell during the summer of 1937 for the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Administration.

Related materials: Helene Stratman-Thomas Collection (Mills Music Library, MML 001) ; Leland A. Coon papers, 1923-1961 (UW-Madison Archives, Series 7/24/15/1-3 44N1)

Extent: 752 sound recordings ; 83 photographs ; approximately 350 text documents
Keywords: field recordings ; sound recordings ; ethnic music

Wisconsin Sheet Music Database

On, Wisconsin! (1910); 36

The Wisconsin Sheet Music Collection contains music written by Wisconsin composers, published by Wisconsin publishers, or pieces whose subject matter relates to Wisconsin.

The publications date from the late 1850s, extend to the present, and include principally, but not exclusively, popular music traditions. While the majority of pieces are songs, the database also includes music for piano, instrumental music, and choral music. English, of course, predominates, but a significant number of German language items can be found. Most items are published.

While each item in the index retains a strong Wisconsin connection, many of the titles were published elsewhere in the United States and some were published simultaneously in Germany.

New titles are added on a regular basis.

Extent: approximately 3,000 titles
Keywords: popular music ; 19th century ; 20th century ; songs with piano ; piano music ; choral music