Academic journal article Notes

Musical Information in a New Land: Immigrant Music Journals in the United States Part One: 1838-1930

Academic journal article Notes

Musical Information in a New Land: Immigrant Music Journals in the United States Part One: 1838-1930

Article excerpt


Between 1838 and 2000, more than 100 music journals were published by and for immigrant communities in the United States. This corpus represents an unexplored documentary resource for the study of musical history of the United States, and for the understanding of identity in immigrant communities. An introductory article explores the genesis, content and significance of the immigrant musical press; an annotated bibliography concludes this paper.


The United States is often described as a "melting pot" or a "mosaic," where multiple cultures, arriving via immigration, come together to form a broader "American" culture. The importance of the immigrant or ethnic press for understanding American history has long been known; this was well expressed by historian Sally M. Miller: "The press is the best source for an understanding of the world of non-English-speaking groups in the United States, their expectations and concerns, their background and evolution as individual communities." (1) Yet, despite the importance ascribed to the immigrant press by political and social historians, the existence of a related immigrant musical press has remained largely unknown.

Between 1838 and 2000, over one hundred immigrant music journals were published in the United States. Generally appearing in the language of the immigrant, and providing a window into the musical cultures of various immigrant communities, these journals represent a significant, unexplored resource for the study of American musical culture. Of the titles I identified, only thirty-two are cited in the "Periodicals" entry of Grove Music Online, (2) which still stands as the most comprehensive published bibliography of music periodicals. Moreover, major histories of American music do not refer to these sources, and are generally circumspect in their treatment of immigrant music in general. (3) More recently, musicological studies of historic immigrant and ethnic communities in the United States have been published by Heinke Bungert, Karen Ahlquist, and Victor R. Greene (4); each draws upon musical writings in the general press, but none explores the wealth of the immigrant musical press. Given the importance of immigrant press sources for the study of history, and the fact that the immigrant musical press has largely been ignored, an examination of this literature is long overdue. This study and annotated bibliography focuses on music journals published between 1838 and 1930; a subsequent article will treat those published between 1931 and 2000.


The meaning of the terms "immigrant" and "ethnic" when describing the press has been the subject of some debate. (5) Use of the term "immigrant" tends to identify those of the first generation, whereas "ethnic" tends to identify whole communities regardless of the generation, and addresses the debate between assimilation and cultural pluralism. In this article, I employ the term "immigrant" based on the recent work of communications scholars Andrea Hickerson and Kristin L. Gustafson, who have shown that theoretical concepts related to immigration and assimilation, originally conceived in the work of Robert E. Park in the 1920s, (6) remain valid today. Moreover, the "immigrant press" is the phrase by which these journals would have been known to contemporaneous readers.

From 1820--the first date in which immigration statistics were collected by the United States government--to 2000, over sixty-five million immigrants arrived and were granted legal status, a figure that does not reflect those who arrived undocumented. (7) During this period, the immigrant population in the United States rose to a peak of 14.8 percent in 1890, falling to a low of 4.7 percent in 1970, only to rise again to 11.1 percent in 2000. (8) Throughout the nineteenth century, Germans constituted the largest non-English speaking emigre population, with arrivals peaking at some 1. …

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