The main entrance to the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center is now open. Van Pelt Library and the Fisher Fine Arts Library are currently open to Penn Card holders, Penn affiliates, and certain visitors. See our Service Alerts for details.

Keffer Collection of Sheet Music

The Keffer Collection of Sheet Music contains 2,531 scores ranging in date from ca. 1790 to 1895.

Image of Ben Franklin's Grave-Keffer Box 27 no2.jpg

Collection Overview

The Keffer Collection of Sheet Music contains 2,531 scores ranging in date from ca. 1790 to 1895. The great majority of the items were published in the United States and approximately 1,150 items were produced by publishers in Philadelphia. The musical content of the collection consists largely of American popular songs and piano music, but also includes works by famous European composers published in the United States.

The Keffer Collection was originally bequeathed to the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, whose records are held in the Penn Libraries,  in 1933. It was donated by the Society to the University of Pennyslvania 1993.

Accordion List

American sheet music of the nineteenth century provides a fascinating historical record of contemporary social concerns, issues, events, celebrities, and tastes. This record is further enhanced by the prevalent use of illustrations for title pages, including portraits, landscapes, and scenes of battles or local sites of interest. Many of the most significant American lithographic artists of the nineteenth century provided illustrations for sheet music and a substantial number of their works are included in this collection.

Works by prominent Philadelphia composers, such as Benjamin Carr, Benjamin Cross, William Henry Fry, Francis Johnson, Alexander Reinagle, and Septimus Winner are to be found here. The collection also contains items for which Philadelphia served as the subject of either the music or illustration.

The collection was compiled by Edward Iungerich Keffer, a Philadelphia dentist and noted amateur musician. An 1883 graduate of the Penn School of Dental Medicine, Keffer was for fifty years one of Philadelphia’s most devoted music patrons. He took a leading role in the formation of the Philadelphia Orchestra and served as the concertmaster of the Philadelphia Symphony Society from 1893 to 1900. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he was also renowned for hosting weekly chamber concerts in which the city’s most highly regarded musicians participated. Dr. Keffer's affection for the city is reflected in the holdings of his collection with its strong representation of the arts in Philadelphia.