"In about 1929, I spied in a shop window on Charles street a few illustrated song sheets of the mid-nineteenth century. They looked attractive, and I bought a dozen for fifty cents apiece. I tried them on the piano; the music was a letdown.
Just a few years later, a lady came to see me carrying several bound volumes of popular songs from the early 1800s. I had never seen anything like them before; some were sentimental, some comical, some patriotic. Twenty-five dollars changed hands, and suddenly I was embarked on a project that was to alter my lifestyle."
—Lester S. Levy, Of Hats and Harmonies: The Recollections of Baltimore's Lester S. Levy, p. 122. Baltimore: The Jewish Museum of Maryland, 2005.
And thus began one of the most outstanding collections of American sheet music. It offers an inclusive look at American history and the popular culture of American society beginning with homage to George Washington in the 18th century and continuing to music familiar to us in the late 20th century. The pieces encompass the periods, persons, and events that have formed, inspired, and described the American past.
Mr. Levy enjoyed sharing his collection with others. He wrote or edited eight books on the subject, and gave public lectures on various aspects of American popular music illustrated with highlights from the collection. These musical tours combine Mr. Levy's lectures with images from the collection.