A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 05, 2004
Tin Pan Alley (West 28th Street)
"Tin Pan Alley" was the name of the music publishing area of Manhattan on 28th Street, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. Music publishers came to the area in the 1880s and began to leave by the 1910s and 1920s.

The name "tin pan alley" -- a pun on "tin panny" (a cacophony of tin pans), and possibly "timpani" (kettledrums) and "ten pin alley" (bowling) -- was first published in The Morning Telegraph (New York, NY) on January 16, 1903: "William Morris, the vaudeville agent, has taken a lease of the offices under those of Doty & Brill, in West Twenty-eighth street, more commonly known as 'Tin Pan Alley,' from the multiplicity of song publishers' pianos."

The term "Tin Pan Alley" probably first appeared in The Morning Telegraph columns of American vaudeville critic Epes W. Sargent (1872-1938) in November-December 1902, but these newspapers have not been preserved. Robert Duiree, of the Orpheum circuit, claimed that he had suggested the name to Sargent, but Sargent denied this in 1933.

The World (New York, NY), in an article by Roy L. McCardell (1870-1961) on May 3, 1903, did an extensive article on "Tin Pan Alley." It's sometimes claimed that Monroe H. Rosenfeld (1861-1918) coined "Tin Pan Alley" in the New York (NY) Herald as the title of an article, but there is no documentary evidence to support this.

There was a "Tin Pan Alley" in New Haven, Connecticut, from at least the 1880s, but it's not known if this had any influence on the New York City street name.

"Melody Lane," "Harmony Row" and "Ragtime Rialto" are other names for West 28th Street. Someone who worked on the historical Tin Pan Alley on West 28th Street, or who works with a Tin Pan Alley-type of music publisher, or is a fan of Tin Pan Alley-type music is called a "Tin Pan Alleyite."

Wikipedia: Tin Pan Alley
Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The name originally referred to a specific place: West 28th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in the Flower District of Manhattan; a plaque (see below) on the sidewalk on 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth commemorates it.

The start of Tin Pan Alley is usually dated to about 1885, when a number of music publishers set up shop in the same district of Manhattan. The end of Tin Pan Alley is less clear cut. Some date it to the start of the Great Depression in the 1930s when the phonograph, radio, and motion pictures supplanted sheet music as the driving force of American popular music, while others consider Tin Pan Alley to have continued into the 1950s when earlier styles of American popular music were upstaged by the rise of rock & roll, which was centered on the Brill Building.

The origins of the name "Tin Pan Alley" are unclear. One account claims that it was a derogatory reference to the sound of many pianos (comparing them to the banging of tin pans). Others claim it arose from songwriters modifying their pianos to produce a more percussive sound. After many years, the term came to refer to the U.S. music industry in general.

Origin of the name
Various explanations have been advanced to account for the origins of the term "Tin Pan Alley". The most popular account holds that it was originally a derogatory reference by Monroe H. Rosenfeld in the New York Herald to the collective sound made by many "cheap upright pianos" all playing different tunes being reminiscent of the banging of tin pans in an alleyway. This article has not been found.

14 October 1842, Vermont Mercury (Woodstock, VT), "A Sworn Anti-Tyler Man," pg. 2, col. 5:
... and the tears began to run down his cheeks like balls down a tin-pan alley, ...
("Ten pin alley" was possibly intended. -- ed.)

6 June 1874, Marengo (IL) Republican, "Personal, Impersonal and Otherwise," pg. 3, col. 3:
There is a little more room in Tin Pan Alley for a few more tin cans, stove pipe, old pails, boilers, etc.; ...

Chronicling America
20 August 1888, Morning Journal and Courier (New Haven, CT), "Patient Women," pg. 1, col. 5:
The former got very drunk and going to his wife in "Tin Pan" alley, a little court which runs west from Wallace street near Walnut, was remonstrated with by his wife for being in such an intoxicated condition.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
16 January 1903, The Morning Telegraph (New York, NY), pg. 7, col. 5:
Vaudeville Agent Morris Goes to
"Tin Pan Alley," and That Move
Means Much.

William Morris, the vaudeville agent, has taken a lease of the offices under those of Doty & Brill, in West Twenty-eighth street, more commonly known as "Tin Pan Alley," from the multiplicity of song publishers' pianos.

He will move from his present quarters on East Fourteenth street as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made.

His departure will mark the final passing of East Fourteenth street as an active vaudeville Rialto, and marks another step in the uptown trend of the business movement generally. James J. Armstrong will be left the sole representative around Union Square, and he will probably follow the others uptown.

3 May 1903, The World (New York, NY), pg. 4M (Metropolitan section on Sunday):
A Visit to "Tin Pan Alley," Where the Popular Songs Come From.

"Tin Pan Alley?"—It's Twenty-eighth Street Between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, the Centre of the Song Publishing Business in This Country, and it Gets Its Name from the Jangling of Pianos That Are Banged and Rattled There Day and Night as New Songs Are Being "Tried On." Every Day You'll See Noted People in the Musical Comedy World Hunting in the "Alley" for Songs That Will Add to Their Fame—Paula Edwardes, Marie Cahill, Blanche Ring, Dan Daly, Marie Dressler and Lew Dockstader Active in the Hunt.

STRANGE are the ways of Tin Pan Alley. Great is the influence of Tin Pan Alley upon our country's songs. For here they are conceived, originated, brought forth and spread broadcast.

Tin Pan Alley is that part of Twenty-eighth street that lies between Broadway and Sixth avenue. Here centre the song-publishing houses of New York.

It gets its name from the tin-panny sounds of pianos that are banged and rattled there by night and day as new songs and old are played over and over into the ears of singing comedians, comic-opera prima dinnas and single soubrettes and "sister teams" from vaudeville.

Now, "Tin Pan Alley" is considered a term of reproach by the Tin Pan Alleyites. They prefer to designate it as "Melody Lane." But that is a poetic fancy that those who go down that way to hear the "new, big, screaming hits" do not indulge in.

Tin Pan Alley contains all the music publishing houses of note save four—Joseph W. Stern & Co., in East Twenty-first street; Whitmark & Sons, on Twenty-ninth street, off Broadway; Howley, Haviland & Dresser, on Broadway at Thirty-first street, and Sol Bloom, in the New Zealand Building, a little higher up. These act as outposts for Tin Pan Alley. (...)

10 May 1903, St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch, pg. 9B, col. 2:
(The same article as in The World on May 3, 1903. -- ed.)

Chronicling America
11 November 1905, The Evening World, (New York, NY), "The Son Claque Nuisance" by Charles Darnton, pg. 9, col. 4 illustration caption:

OCLC WorldCat record
Tin Pan Alley
Author: Porter Emerson Browne
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 1908]
Edition/Format: Print book : English
Notes: Separated from Broadway magazine, Oct. 1908.

27 November 1930, Lincoln (NE) Evening Journal, pg. 6, col. 3:
Tin Pan Alley is a mythical bypath, and it is one of the more romantic bypaths of this city. It is the workshop of the songwriters, and from its whanging pianos come all the jazz and blues and "mammy" tunes. In his book, "Tin Pan Alley," Isaac Goldberg tells whence came the name. It originated in the office of Harry Von Tilzer, the man who wrote "I Ain't a-Goin' to Weep No more." It was, as the story goes, Von Tilzer's custom, when playing the piano in his office, to achieve a queer effect by weaving strips of newspaper thru the strings of his upright piano. It gave a wispy, mandolin-like effect and blurred the music just enough to accentuate the rhythm. Monroe H. Rosenfeld was a frequent visitor, not only as a composer and jingleman, but as a newspaper writer in quest of material. He had just finished an article upon the music business and was seeking a title for the piece.

When he came in the office, Von Tilzer was at the piano and the tune had that tingling "panny" sound.

"There's my name," Rosenfeld exclaimed. "Your piano sounds exactly like a tin pan. I'll call the article Tin Pan Alley."

30 June 1933, Carmel (CA) Pine Cone, pg. 13, col. 1:
Robert H. Duriee, who despite a considerable accumulation of years is one of Carmel's most aggressive civic leaders, is the man who named a certain New York street “Tin Pan Alley,” which appellation has stuck to it during more than a third of a century. It happened back at the beginning of the 1900’s, when Bob Duriee, known then under his stage name of Robert D. Girard, of the famous acrobatic team, the Girard Brothers, was in New York as eastern representative of the Orpheum circuit.

With Epes W. Sargent, Duriee was strolling over 28th street. Sargent, the first editor of Variety, was then a writer on the Morning Telegraph, with a column under the name of Chicot. As the two came into the block on 28th street between Broadway and Sixth avenue, their ears were assailed by numerous pianos from the many music publishing houses that lined both sides of the narrow street. Said Duriee, "It sounds like tin pans in an alleyway."

"Good!" cried Sargent. "That's just the name for it! Tin Pan Alley!"

In the next morning’s Telegraph Chicot’s column first named the block on 28th street by the title that it has borne ever since. Of course Duriee wasn't given the credit but nobody could expect that.

4 August 1933, Carmel (CA) Pine Cone, pg. 13, col. 1:
A few weeks ago we ran the story of how Bob Duriee of Carmel gave Tin Pan Alley, the most musical street in America and New York city's music publishing headquarters, its name a quarter of a century ago. (...)

Now, from the office of Variety, New York, comes a letter from Epes Winthrop Sargent of that magazine to Bob Duriee, stating, "My memory is in pretty good working order for an oldster of (A line might be missing. -- ed.) Pan Alley" at the time you suggested the name, and if you hold to the contrary it is your senility. The article is distinctly libelous of me."

6 October 1935, Chicago (IL) Sunday Tribune, pt. 1, pg. 20, col. 2:
Carmel, Cal., Oct. 5. -- (AP) -- Robert H. Duiree, 70, widely known theatrical man who said he named New York's song writing colony "Tin Pan Alley," died at his home here today.

Duiree, apparently having a premonition of his death, carefully prepared an obituary a few hours before he died and asked his wife to give it to newspapers.

His description of the manner in which "Tin Pan Alley" received its name was:

"He it was who coined the appellation 'Tin Pan Alley' for West 28th street, New York, where at one time all the music publishing houses were located.

"Passing through the street with Epes W. Sargent, dramatic critic of the New York Morning Telegraph, he remarked, 'Listen to those pianos banging -- this is a regular tin pan alley.' Sargent grabbed the significance of the remark and the next day used it in his paper. It has lived and will outlive its author."

OCLC WorldCat record
Tin Pan Alley : an encyclopedia of the golden age of American song
Author: David A Jasen
Publisher: New York ; London Routledge, 2003.
Edition/Format: eBook : Document : Biography : English

New York (NY) Times
Streetscapes/West 28th Street, Broadway to Sixth; A Tin Pan Alley, Chockablock With Life, if Not Song
The term Tin Pan Alley -- meaning a concentration of songwriters and music publishers -- is often applied to this block. The etymologist Barry Popik says that the earliest identified published use of the term is in an article ''A Visit to Tin Pan Alley, Where the Popular Songs Come From'' published in The World on May 3, 1903, by Roy McCardell. But West 28th did not retain its title long.

Although an 1897 city directory listed the publishers Julius and Jay Witmark at 51 West 28th Street, by 1907 they and most of the major music publishers, perhaps all, had moved up to the West 30's and beyond.

OCLC WorldCat record
The American song book. The Tin Pan Alley era
Author: Philip Furia; Laurie Patterson
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2016]
Edition/Format: Print book : English
The American Song Book, Volume I: The Tin Pan Alley Era is the first in a projected five-volume series of books that will reprint original sheet music, including covers, of songs that constitute the enduring standards of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, and other lyricists and composers of what has been called the "Golden Age" of American popular music. These songs have done what popular songs are not supposed to do-stayed popular. They have been reinterpreted year after year, generation after generation, by jazz artists such as Charlie Parker and Art Tatum, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra began recording albums of these standards and was soon followed by such singers as Tony Bennet, Doris Day, Willie Nelson, and Linda Ronstadt. In more recent years, these songs have been reinterpreted by Rod Stewart, Harry Connick, Jr., Carly Simon, Lady GaGa, K.D. Laing, Paul McCartney, and, most recently, Bob Dylan. As such, these songs constitute the closest thing America has to a repertory of enduring classical music. In addition to reprinting the sheet music for these classic songs, authors Philip Furia and Laurie Patterson place these songs in historical context with essays about the sheet-music publishing industry known as Tin Pan Alley, the emergence of American musical comedy on Broadway, and the "talkie" revolution that made possible the Hollywood musical. The authors also provide biographical sketches of songwriters, performers, and impresarios such as Florenz Ziegfeld. In addition, they analyze the lyrical and musical artistry of each song and relate anecdotes, sometimes amusing, sometimes poignant, about how the songs were created. The American Songbook is a book that can be read for enjoyment on its own or be propped on the piano to be played and sung

AM New York
Tin Pan Alley on West 28th Street could become an NYC landmark
During its heyday between 1893 and 1910, the area was the center of the sheet music publishing industry.

By Lisa L. Colangelo and Ivan Pereira
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) @lisalcolangelo
Updated March 12, 2019 7:36 PM
Tin Pan Alley, the name given to a humble stretch of West 28th Street where American popular music was born, could finally become a New York City landmark.

On Tuesday, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission officially started the process of reviewing five buildings on the Manhattan street to determine whether their exteriors should be protected from future development.

“I’m elated!” said George Calderaro, a preservationist and member of the 29th Street Neighborhood Association, who has lobbied for years to get Tin Pan Alley landmarked. “You see all the development going on there. It would be a tragedy to have it replaced by another hotel.”

8 January 2022, Wall Street Journal (New York, NY), "Word on the Street: Where Songwriters Once Banged Away On Cheap Pianos" by Ben Zimmer, pg. C3:
So who first dubbed the street "Tin Pan Alley"? One popular story has it that the journalist Monroe Rosenfeld heard the name from the songwriter Harry von Tilzer and then used it in his writings about popular music for the New York Herald. But Mr. Popik and other researchers have scoured the archives of the World and found no evidence to support this theory.

Another possible originator is Robert H. Duriee, who worked as the New York representative of the San Francisco-based Orpheum Circuit of vaudeville theaters. In 1933, Duriee's hometown paper in Carmel, California, recounted how, three decades earlier, he had strolled along West 28th Street with Epes W. Sargent, drama critic for the New York Morning Telegraph, and remarked, "It sounds like tin pans in an alleyway." Sargent reportedly embraced the name "Tin Pan Alley" and put it in his column. When Duriee was on his deathbed in 1935, he wrote his own obituary repeating his claim, and the Associated Press picked up the story. Whoever came up with the name, the boisterous racket reverberates today.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Monday, July 05, 2004 • Permalink

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