Collection inventory

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Clark Music Company Records

An inventory of its records at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: FED
Date: Mar 1971

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of the Clark Music Company are the records of the retail trade in musical instruments and materials which was carried on from 1889 to 1960 by a family-owned firm in Syracuse, N.Y. Melville Clark (1883-1953) managed the company for many years, lending to the business his considerable fame as a harpist and musical inventor and collector. This collection contains material on the changing musical tastes of America over a span of seventy-one years, as well as information on the development of modern techniques of advertising and selling. The papers date from 1889 to 1960, with the bulk falling in the years after 1900. They have been organized in four sections: Correspondence, Memoranda, Merchandising and Financial Records, and Miscellany.

Correspondence (boxes 1-24), which dates from 1889 to 1960, has been arranged chronologically by year and month. One important correspondent was Thomas Mott Osborne, noted prison reformer from Auburn, N.Y. His letters date from 1910 to 1915. Osborne's interests as an amateur musician led to his acquaintance with Melville Clark, and various members of the Osborne family purchased a considerable amount of stock in the firm. The correspondence generally provides a wide-ranging description of the business contacts and methods of operation of Clark Music.

The Memoranda (boxes 24-25) date from the last years of the 1950's. These have also been arranged chronologically. They relate primarily to problems of internal company organization and management.

The Merchandising and Financial Records section (boxes 25-30), dating from 1894 to 1960, contains all manner of material on musical instruments and their sale, as well as financial records of company operations. This section contains colorful detail on player pianos, harps and talking-machines, as well as the first radio and television. Of special interest are the subsections on advertising and sales promotions, which provide information on the development of modern marketing methods. Also included are: bank statements, records, dealership agreements, guarantees, inventories, ledgers, personnel records, price lists and catalogs, repairs records, shipping and receiving registers and time purchasing contracts. The materials are arranged chronologically within each subsection.

Miscellany (boxes 30-31), 1893-1958, contains various types of ephemera which are related largely to musicians, concerts, and social events. There is also some biographical material on the Clark family, as well as assorted newspapers, magazines, clippings and separates.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings

Corporate Bodies

Clark Music Company (Syracuse, N.Y.) -- Archives.
Clark Music Company (Syracuse, N.Y.) -- Records and correspondence.


Music -- 20th century.
Music trade -- New York (State) -- Syracuse.
Musical instruments -- Manufacturers' catalogs.
Musical instruments -- Marketing.

Genres and Forms

Bank statements.
Ledgers (account books)
Price lists.
Sales catalogs.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Clark Music Company Records,
Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Dorothy Clark, July 1965

Table of Contents



Merchandising and financial records