The Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection contains first editions and imprints of sheet music pertaining to a variety of subjects, including the American Civil War (particularly the Confederacy), politics and presidents, wars, ships and shipping, sports, minstrels, and comic songs. The collection has more than 20,000 pieces of music, most of which was acquired by the Tennessee State Library and Archives prior to 1956. The remainder of the collection was bequeathed in 1956.

TSLA has chosen to display a portion of the Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection for greater accessibility and exposure. These particular images were chosen for their historical significance, song lyrics and cover art, the era represented, and/or their connection to Tennessee. Many of these lithographs depict images relating to the Civil War, including, but not limited to, Confederate President Jeff Davis, Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Battle of Shiloh. Also included are images relating to patriotic songs published during various historically significant events. Within these images, patriotic symbols such as Uncle Sam, the United States flag, and various United States Presidents are portrayed. The images contained in TeVA are only a small sample of the approximately 20,000 imprints and first editions contained in the Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection.

Note: This collection includes historical materials that reflect the beliefs and perspectives of their times, some of which may be offensive to users. The Tennessee State Library and Archives does not endorse the views expressed in these materials.

"Mr. Rose was in especially fine form and played with the skill to which the admirers of his art have long been accustomed, and the beauty of his tone, the ease of his bowing, the nimbleness of his fingers, and the effectiveness of his interpretations won the plaudits of his listeners." (Nashville Tennessean, February 16, 1948.) Kenneth Rose’s love, admiration, and understanding of music permeated his life in all respects. Not only was Rose an accomplished violinist, but he was also an educator, historian, and collector of music. Rose oversaw the violin department at Ward-Belmont College and was one of Nashville’s preeminent musicians. He was also among a handful of collectors that laid the path for the future of sheet music collecting. For Rose, what began as an almost serendipitous discovery in 1935 eventually transformed into a "casual interest," and then "into an intimate, living adventure." (Tennessee Historical Quarterly 15, no. 4, December 1956, p. 356.)

Prior to collecting sheet music, Rose became involved in the art of book collecting. Then, while on an excursion to Indiana in 1935, he made a visit to a small bookstore. It was at this bookstore where Rose first spotted a beautifully bound album of sheet music. At first blush, Rose could sense the historical significance that lay therein. Even though at that moment he could not possibly comprehend the extent to which this new pursuit would take him when purchasing this album, he laid the path to a challenge that would help define the art of sheet music collecting. After acquiring this album, Rose eventually discarded his book collection and directed his efforts toward this new pursuit. It was during this time that the "living adventure" of music collecting took form for Rose.

Rose focused on Tennessee and its history as a starting point in his collection. The Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection contains one of the premier groups of sheet music imprints related to Tennessee. As the collection grew, Rose expanded the focus of the collection from Tennessee to include items pertaining to American popular culture and history.

Although the popularity of music in and of itself has been long-standing, it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that appreciation and interest in American sheet music gained in popularity. This trend continued to flourish throughout the first half of the twentieth century. During this time, the significance of popular music in American life was reflected in the manner in which sheet music was displayed in private collections. Sheet music was often placed into albums, as one would place photos, surrounded by reflective inscriptions. These inscriptions, along with artfully designed sheet music covers, exemplified the rise in the popularity of sheet music which, in turn, led to the hobby of collecting.

Unfortunately, the widespread interest in sheet music did not last, as technology evolved and enthusiasm toward recorded music began to increase. Yet, despite its decreasing popularity, sheet music remains an important element of America’s musical tradition.

Although present-day historians take into account the importance of sheet music, the value of such items was not always noted on a national scale. What had previously been a localized interest that began with a few private collectors and within a few libraries and universities started to escalate during the twentieth century, as the appreciation of sheet music as a historical resource began to grow. What emerged, in a sense, was a belief that the study of sheet music could ultimately provide insight into the lives of yesterday’s citizenry -- politically, socially and culturally. Today, this increased interest in sheet music collecting allows us to examine and study pieces and periods of Americana.

  • Morrissey, Ralph G. "In the Air and on the Shelves." Nashville Tennessean Magazine (December 15, 1946): 28-29.
  • Rose, Kenneth. 1941. Pioneer Nashville: Its Songs and Tunes, 1780-1860."
  • Rose, Kenneth. "The Story of a Music Collection." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 15, no. 4 (December 1956): 356-363.
  • Rose, Kenneth. Vertical File at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Rose, Kenneth. Gift of Musical Imprints From Kenneth Rose dated July 18, 1956.
  • Wiggers, Alvin S. "Kenneth Rose Presents Annual Violin Recital." Nashville Tennessean (February 16, 1948).