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Ragtime Collection

The sheet music selected to be digitized for this online Ragtime Collection has its physical counterparts in four different sheet music collections in the Music Library at the University of Colorado. These collections are the Krolek Collection, the Dry Collection, the Hartke Collection, and the general sheet music or Musicpop Collection. The Krolek and Dry Collections were gifts from the families of Charles K. Krolek and Morris E. Dry, respectively. The Hartke Collection was purchased from Merve and Winnie Hartke, long-time sheet music collectors. The MusicPop Collection is a combination of various sheet music gifts and purchases added to the Music Library since 1980. These collections have many other types of music within them; they are not composed solely of ragtime music. We chose to present the ragtime music as a separate digital collection because ragtime was popular during the early years of Colorado history and continues to have an audience today. All of the titles that are in bold in the following paragraphs are part of the Digital Sheet Music Collection, and you may link to them by clicking on the titles.


Ragtime music has several categories within the genre. According to John Edward Hasse in his book Ragtime: From the Top: "There are four main types of ragtime: (1) instrumental rags, (2) ragtime songs, (3) ragtime or syncopated waltzes, and (4) 'ragging' of classics and other preexisting pieces." Our online collection contains primarily instrumental rags and ragtime songs. We have included at least one example of each of the other types. For an example of a ragtime waltz, see Mandy's Ragtime Waltz. To view a classic that was "ragged," view Paderewski Rag : a travesty on Paderewski's celebrated menuet.


Many modern music critics consider only the piano rags to be true ragtime music but, in the contemporary days of ragtime music, much of the public preferred the ragtime song. In fact, many instrumental rags had words added to them and were republished as ragtime songs, and ragtime songs were also republished in instrumental versions. We have many examples of both the instrumental version and the song of the same title and have included both in this collection. For example, Dill Pickles by Charles L. Johnson, published in 1907, was also published as Dill Pickles : song in 1910 with words by Alfred Bryan.


Ragtime music grew out of music played and sung by African Americans. Songs called "coon songs" had elements of ragtime, and many coon songs were called ragtime. The first songs to be published as ragtime music were All Coons Look Alike to Me by Ernest Hogan, which had a rag chorus, and You've Been a Good Old Wagon But You've Done Broke Down by Ben Harney, both published in 1896. Other types of music of the late 19th and early 20th century, including cakewalks, marches, one steps, and two steps were precursors of or considered as ragtime music and were published as such. We have included examples of all these various types of music in our online collection.


The earliest identified piano score using the term rag is William Krell's Mississippi Rag, published in 18971. There were many composers who wrote ragtime music for the piano, and were famous in their day. This collection contains works by Scott Joplin (see Searchlight Rag), Charles L. Johnson (see Dill Pickles), George Botsford (see Grizzly Bear Rag), James Scott (see Climax Rag), Joseph Lamb (see Bohemia Rag) and many others.


Irving Berlin wrote many ragtime songs. Probably the most famous was Alexander's Ragtime Band. Our collection also contains songs with lyrics by George M. Cohan, Gus Kahn, Jack Mahoney and many others.


Jazz and blues and foxtrots grew out of ragtime music, and the lines between these different types of music and ragtime were blurred as the new types of music evolved. We have included some music in this online collection that is the beginning of another kind of music but was still published as ragtime. This parallels the beginning of ragtime. As ragtime grew out of other popular music genres so other popular music types grew out of ragtime.

1 Edward A. Berlin, Ragtime a Musical and Cultural History, (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1980), 9.