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James Francis Driscoll collection of American sheet music

Identifier: Driscoll

Scope and Content of the Collection

The Driscoll Sheet Music collection consists of well over 80,000 pieces of sheet music, divided into twenty sections by the collector, with many further subdivisions under each main section. There is considerable overlap between the Sections: one may find the same piece of sheet music in Illustrated Imprints as in History and Politics, and also in “Type” collection, for example. Some sections or parts of sections have been removed from the original groupings and cataloged separately in the Newberry's Online Catalog; they can be searched by author, title, or subject, but not by original grouping. The sections where music has been removed and cataloged separately are: Section 1: Early American Imprints; Section 4: Publishers' Imprints; Section 5: Illustrated Imprints; Section 12: Ethnic and Religious; Section 18: Foreign Imprints; and Section 19: Books. See series descriptions for more specific information.

An additional section in the original acquisition entitled "Duplicates" is not included in this inventory.


  • Creation: approximately 1770s-1959



Materials are primarily in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The James Francis Driscoll collection of American sheet music is open for research in the General Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The James Francis Driscoll collection of American sheet music is the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of J. Francis Driscoll

James Francis Driscoll (1875-1959) was born into a prominent family in Brookline, Massachusetts. He was by profession a civil engineer, but music was always his passion. He was for many years the organist at Boston’s Sacred Heart Cathedral and also its choral director. Having a great interest in history, he lectured before the Brookline Historical Society and the Bostonian Society. As early as the 1890s, however, Driscoll was well on his way to amassing one of the largest collections of American sheet music extant.

Interested in history, fascinated by the graphic arts, and devoted to music, his interest never flagged. His children related anecdotes of the times when as youngsters, they spent many Saturdays trailing after their father as he made the rounds of book dealers, pawn shops, junk yards and auction houses. Driscoll made it his policy to swap less perfect pieces and duplicates in favor of as perfect specimens as could be found. He was famous (or infamous, depending on one’s point of view) among others of the music-collecting fraternity for his sharp bargaining, and his reluctance to part with any of his “highspots”.


20 shelves (426 boxes)


The James Francis Driscoll collection of American sheet music, amassed by engineer and organist J. Francis Driscoll (1875-1959), is one of the largest and most representative collections of its kind. The approximated 80,000 pieces of sheet music and related material were arranged into sections by Driscoll himself, and reflect his collecting interests and preferences. Some of the music is arranged according to imprint information (i.e. American imprints, publishers’ imprints, illustrated imprints, etc.); other sections in the collection are arranged by subjects, such as History and Politics, United States regions and states, Ethnic and Religious, Dance Styles, etc.


Papers are organized in the following sections

Section 1: Early American Imprints, approximately 1770-1835
Box 13 and Newberry Online Catalog
Section 2: American Imprints, 1820 to approximately 1959
Boxes 15-92
Section 3: The “Type” Collection
Boxes 367-426
Section 4: Publishers' Imprints
Boxes 93, 96-97, 101-102, 104, 106-107
Section 5: Illustrated Imprints
Boxes 108-138
Section 6: History and Politics
Boxes 139-171
Section 7: United States - Local
Boxes 171a-200
Section 8: Nature and Calendar
Boxes 201-204
Section 9: Communication and Transportation
Boxes 205-208
Section 10: Composers and Lyricists
Boxes 209-263
Section 11: Dancing and Ballet
Boxes 264-283
Section 12: Ethnic and Religious
Boxes 284-291
Section 13: Minstrels and Blackface
Boxes 292-307a
Section 14: Rarities
Boxes 308-309
Section 15: Sports and Athletics
Boxes 310-311
Section 16: Theatrical
Boxes 312-333
Section 17: Miscellaneous
Boxes 334-356
Section 18: Foreign Imprints
Boxes 357-366
Section 19: Books
Newberry Online Catalog

Collection Stack Location

2 54-55


Acquired: 1968.

Processed by

Bernard E. Wilson, after 1968.

Inventory of the James Francis Driscoll collection of American sheet music, approximately 1770s-1959
Finding aid prepared by Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States