Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

"To Put Beauty into the World": Music Education Resources in the Ladies' Home Journal, 1890-1919

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

"To Put Beauty into the World": Music Education Resources in the Ladies' Home Journal, 1890-1919

Article excerpt

The musical content of general readership periodicals remains a largely untapped resource in spite of the potential for a broader understanding of music education from the vantage point of music educators, music students, and the general public. The Ladies' Home Journal provides a particularly unique lens into the history of music education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As the first American magazine to reach a million subscribers (with thousands of additional copies sold on newsstands), it had the potential for wide impact. (1) Between 1890 and 1919, the Journal contained over two hundred articles specifically on music and music education with hundreds of other articles providing further information on music in the context of daily life. (2) There were also musical advice columns written by the pianist Josef Hofmann, the vocal pedagogue Mathilde Marchesi, and the music critic William J. Henderson, hundreds of pieces of sheet music (both commissioned by well-known composers and submitted by readers in composition contests), and thousands of advertisements for musical products. (3)

Previous studies of the Journal's musical content include research on some of its sheet music, a sampling of Hofmann's advice columns, and biographical studies of important contributors such as Hofmann, Marchesi, and Henderson. (4) Studies of other general readership periodicals include examinations of the Victorian-era Godeys Lady's Book and the Civil War--era children's magazine Our Young Folk. (5)

As previous researchers have noted, the musical content of general readership periodicals is important to examine because of the prevalence of periodicals in the home in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and because active professional musicians and music educators shared their expertise in a variety of print media. (6) Because the Journal's multifaceted musical offerings have not been thoroughly investigated, the purpose of this study is to document, analyze, and discuss the musical content of the Journal between 1890 and 1919, the years under the editorial tenure of Edward Bok. The focus is on the musical content in the Journal, who contributed to the musical content, and how the Journal's content reflected music education trends of the era.


A content analysis was conducted on 369 issues of the Journal from 1890 through 1919. (7) This provided a systematic way to analyze the large amount of material (over twenty-eight thousand pages), quantify findings, and seek trends over time such as "changes in attitudes, topics of importance, or even values." (8) Resources included bound volumes and microfilm obtained from Michigan State University Library and the Kalamazoo Public Library. (9) With the page as the unit of analysis, the briefest possible reading was used to locate all items of interest. Once musical items were located, broad categories of nonfiction articles, musical advice columns, sheet music, and advertisements were systematically examined in a search for more detailed information on music teaching and learning. (10) The content analysis of the magazine was supplemented with archival research into the Curtis Company records. (11)

The Journal was found to contain 227 articles specifically on music or music education as well as 450 nonfiction articles that mentioned music in the context of daily life, public and private school activities, and in the lives of well-known personalities. Along with the articles, there were 154 musical advice columns answering readers' letters, 270 pieces of sheet music (as well as several examples of music embedded within children's plays and nonfiction articles), and over 3,300 advertisements for musical products. Before examining this rich musical content in more detail, an overview of the Journal's early history is provided.

An Overview of the Journal

Publisher Cyrus Curtis founded the Journal in 1883, with his wife, Louisa Knapp, serving as the editor. …

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