Hunleth Music Store Sheet Music and Photograph Collection, ca. 1880-1986
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Brief Description:

Consists of unsold published sheet music and method books that were part of the Hunleth Music Company (St. Louis, MO)'s unsold stock when the store closed in 1974. It documents the types of published music typically sold to musicians and band ensembles in the U.S. Midwest during the first half of the 20th century. Also includes a small number of collector photographs documenting Midwestern classical music and opera performers at the turn of the 20th century and records related to local music teacher Robert Lehrmann (1879-1948) and the Gibson School of Music (1889-1937).

The University of Illinois purchased nearly 750,000 pieces of unsold sheet music and unsold 78-rpm sound recordings after the Hunleth Music Co.'s closure in 1974. This collection reflects only a portion of the store's unsold inventory.

Held at:
The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
236 Harding Band Building
1103 South 6th Street
Champaign, IL 61820 6223
Phone: 217-244-93093
Fax: 217-244-8695
Email: schwrtzs [at]
Record Series Number: 12/9/123
Created by: Hunleth Music Company (1901-1974)
Volume: 39.5 cubic feet
Acquired: 02/01/1974.

Organized in ten series: Series 1: Autographed Prints, ca. 1880-1950; Series 2: School Wind Band Music Octavos, ca. 1880-1970; Series 3: Mandolin Sheet Music and Method Books, 1888-1969; Series 4: Banjo Sheet Music and Method Books, 1900-1960; Series 5: Hawaiian and Steel Guitar Music and Method Books, 1898-1970; Series 6: Guitar Sheet Music and Method Books, 1891-1969; Series 7: Autoharp and Zither Sheet Music and Method Books; Series 8: Gibson School of Music Records, 1889-1937; Series 9: Accordion, Bandonian, and Concertina Sheet Music and Method Books. Series 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 are organized in two sub-series within each series, Sub-series 1: Sheet Music and Sub-series 2: Method Books. Content of all Series 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 arranged alphabetically with untitled materials at the beginning. Series 8: Gibson Music School is organized alphabetically by title for sheet music and method books. Correspondence, advertisement, and minutes have been placed at the beginning. Series 9: Accordion, Bandonian, and Concertina Sheet Music and Method Books is organized alphabetically by composer. Series 10: Silent Film Sheet Music arranged in numerical order as assigned by the Hunleth Music Co.

The original order is no longer evident, except for Series 10. Series containing music have been structured to mimic a music store model in which sheet music and method books are separated by principal instrument. Series order listed in order of processing.

Biographical Note for Hunleth Music Company (1901-1974) :

After 27 years as proprietor of the Standard Pulley & Foundry, Frank J. Hunleth, sold his shares in the company and opened the Hunleth Music Company in 1901, at the encouragement of his son, Joseph F. Hunleth. Frank J. Hunleth purchased a building located at 9 South Broadway, Saint Louis, Missouri, which was previously owned and occupied by A. T. Walo's Music Company. In 1908, Frank J. Hunleth's sons, Joseph F. Hunleth and Alois J. Hunleth, assumed management of the store. The Hunleth Music Co. moved to a larger building at 516 Locust Street in 1915, where it remained for nearly 40 years. Joseph F. Hunleth traveled to Europe yearly to buy music and instruments for the Hunleth Music Co., introducing Midwest musicians to music published outside the country. He bought sheet music in such a high volume that U.S. publishers would show him scores before deciding whether to publish them to guarantee sales. After the Locust building was purchased by First National Bank in 1952, the store moved to 415 North Broadway, where it remained until it closed in 1974. Joseph and Alois Hunleth operated the company as partners until Alois's death from a heart attack in 1959. Joseph continued to operate the company as sole owner until his death in 1968, when ownership of the company passed to Joseph's widow, Violet B. Hunleth. She retained ownership until the company's closure in 1974. The building housing the music company was demolished to make way for the Mercantile Center between 1975-1979, a redevelopment project that was never completed.

The Hunleth Music Company's store consisted of five floors of music instruments and sheet music, making it an important hub for the music trade in the Midwest. Hunleth Music Co. also dealt in rare instruments and specialized in imported violins from makers in Germany, Italy, and France. It carried Victor, Columbia, and Brunswick sound recordings; Victorolas; and radiolas; and it had its own radio department, indicating that the store not only served musicians but also music listeners. The store also sold tickets for concerts and performances for acts like Bily May and Count Basie at the Casa-Loma Ballroom in Saint Louis connecting the store to St. Louis local music scene. Hunleth Music Co. was the gathering site for musicians both unknown and well-known, such as Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman, Yehudi Menuhim, and Rudolph Ganz. According to a long-time employee, it had "the gemutlicheit of the easy-going business" that attracted customers to the "wonderful family-like organization." In its heyday the Hunleth Music Co. held over a million copies of sheet music and the largest collection of 78-rpm sound recordings in St. Louis.

Subject Index
Autoharp music
Bands (Music)
Banjo music
Business Records
Guitar music
Hawaiian guitar music
Mandolin music
Music stores
Teaching Methods
Zither music
Genres/Forms of Material
Sheet music
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
Russian [rus]
German [ger]
Spanish;Castilian [spa]
Italian [ita]
French [fre]
Acquisition Notes: J. F. Hunleth Music Store.  Purchase of unsold stock upon closure of the J. F. Hunleth Music Store, 415 N. Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri. The band octavos were transferred from the Press Building basement to the Center in November 2017, and the banjo, mandolin, Hawaiian and steel guitar, zither, and autoharp sheet music was transferred from the Press Building on April 16, 2018. The accordion, bandonian, and concertina sheet music and method books were transferred from the Press Building on December 6, 2018. The silent movie music was transferred from the Press Building on January 8, 2019.