Mills Music Library Special Collections

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Tams-Witmark / Wisconsin Collection

The Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin–Madison, is a research library, which contains 19th- and early 20th-century properties of the libraries of Arthur Tams and Isidore Witmark. We are not agents of the company, nor is this page connected with them in any way.

You can contact the Tams-Witmark Music Library at:

Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.
560 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022
(212) 688-2525 / (800) 221-7196 / fax: 212-826-7121

See Tams-Witmark Materials in the MadCat Online Catalog

About the collection

The Tams-Witmark/Wisconsin Collection, housed in the Mills Music Library, comprises some 37,000 items, representing 1,600 titles from the musical stage in America between approximately 1800 to the 1920s. Materials are from the entire range of the musical stage tradition: grand opera, operetta, musical comedy and revue, minstrel show, and burlesque. Both American and European imprints are present. The collection is particularly strong in the areas of piano-vocal scores and promptbooks, but many titles include orchestral parts, full scores, choral parts, vocal parts, libretti, stage manager guides and dialogue parts, as well as production materials such as scenery, lighting, and costume plots. While a large percentage of the performance material is printed, holographs, manuscripts, and typescripts abound as well. The pervasive presence of annotations—such as cuts, interpolations, stage directions—in the performance instructions, and the ownership stamps and autographs frequently found on items offer scholars and performers a wealth of material from which to construct the history of the American Musical Theater.

History of the Collection

In 1885, Arthur W. Tams (1848–1927), at the time stage manager for the Casino Theater, founded his Music Library. By 1923, it was hailed as the largest circulating music library in the world. Tams built his library through the purchase of such well-known production libraries as the famous Conreid Library, by which means he obtained sole control of all German and English royalty operas that had been played by the Conreid and McCaull Opera Companies. He was the sole purchaser of the entire library of George Henschel, one of the most important orchestral libraries owned by an individual. Tams was also chorus master of the famed Clara Louise Kellogg Opera Company, which put him in contact with an important American operatic tradition.

In 1886, the music publishing house of M. Witmark and Sons was established, also in New York. Under the management of Isidore Witmark (1869–1941), who for much of his 50 years in the music business fostered and encouraged a number of successful stage writers, the company quickly grew to be one of the major popular publishing companies of the country. In 1898, the Witmark firm diversified, incorporating as a rental agency as well as publishing company and offering “Constantly on hand, for sale and to hire, the largest collection of Vocal Concert Numbers and Excerpts in America.” Among the luminaries represented by Witmark were Victor Herbert, Reginald De Koven, Harry T. Burleigh, George M. Cohan, Weber and Fields, Gustave Luders, Sigmond Romberg, and Julian Edwards.

For thirty years, there was an intense rivalry between Tams and Witmark. The two were not on speaking terms and were often involved in legal battles over properties. Through the efforts of Sargent Aborn, the popular producer who had taken over the Tams Library, a consolidation was proposed. The two libraries merged in 1925, bringing together the primary suppliers of rental scores, parts, scripts, and diverse production material to the American musical theater.

In the 1960s, the Tams-Witmark firm dispersed several lots of its old inventory to 5 archives in the United States: The Library of Congress, Eastman School of Music, Westminster Choir College, and the largest group to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, through the initiative of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research and the School of Music.