American Popular Music in the Age of Ragtime and Jazz Exhibition

This exhibition is no longer on display at the William H. Hannon Library – this post is maintained for historical purposes.

The sixth annual student-curated exhibition of works from the William H. Hannon Library’s Archives and Special Collections opens this summer at the Terrance L. Mahan, S.J. Gallery. “American Popular Music in the Age of Ragtime and Jazz” features selections of popular music from our Clara Jane Nixon Sheet Music Collection.

Curated by LMU students, the exhibition opens on Monday, May 21, and continues through July 27. The gallery is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“We are so excited to display the Clara Jane Nixon Sheet Music Collection for the first time!” says Librarian in Residence and exhibition curator Rachel Deras. “Working with our library student workers to curate the exhibit was an extremely rewarding adventure and gave us a diverse selection of sheet music to display. Many students reflected on how the cover art of the sheet music made them think and feel about the time period and how they felt transported to the early 1900s. While the exhibit will certainly be visually stunning, we hope that those who see it will also reflect on the messages shared in each piece and how they compare or contrast to life in 2018.”

The Clara Jane Nixon Sheet Music Collection offers a view into the world of popular music in the United States from the 1890s to the 1950s. Beyond the often light-hearted music, the lyrics and cover art reveal societal attitudes toward women, people of color, and life during World War I. Eighteen library student workers explored the collection and shared their thoughts about the art and history reflected in selected pieces. This exhibition showcases how, in 2018, contemporary audiences relate to popular music from earlier centuries.

About the Clara Jane Nixon Sheet Music Collection

The Clara Jane Nixon Sheet Music Collection collection consists of sheet music dating chiefly from the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most of the sheet music was produced at “Tin Pan Alley,” the New York street (West 28th Street) that was the center of American music and songwriting. Types of music include ragtime and songs for Broadway musicals. Composers and lyricists include Irving Berlin, Al Jolson, Clare Kummer, Ray Henderson, and George M. Cohan. A small sampling of the titles includes “You’re in Style When You Are Wearing a Smile,” “Over There,” “That Old Irish Mother of Mine,” “Tres Moutarde (Too Much Mustard),” and “Uncle Sammy, Take Care Of My Girl.” This sheet music collection was originally the personal collection of Clara Jane Nixon (1919-2013), sister-in-law of President Richard M. Nixon.