M. Witmark & Sons

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M. Witmark & Sons was a leading publisher of sheet music for the United States "Tin Pan Alley" music industry.

The firm of Marcus Witmark & Sons was established in New York City in 1886. The father, Marcus Witmark, was the legal head of the company; but from the beginning it was run by his sons Isidore, Julius, and Jay, who were under legal age when the company started (ranging in age from 17 to 14 years old). They started out publishing their own compositions. They were adept at plugging songs, and within a few years were publishing the works of such composers as Victor Herbert, George M. Cohan, Ben Harney and John Walter Bratton.

Witmark originated the practice of giving free "professional copies" of their new music to famous and established singers and bands, which proved so successful an advertising method that it was copied by the rest of the music publishers.

When the International Copyright Law was passed in 1891, Witmark pioneered publishing versions of British music in the United States and arranging for American hits to be published in the UK.

Family[edit]

Witmark Family
Relationship Name Birth Death Notes
Father Marcus
Witmark
1834
Prussia
Mar. 29, 1910
Manhattan
Married Peyser Oct. 4, 1866
Mother Hennrietta Witmark
née Peyser
1840
Prussia
Dec. 14, 1906
Manhattan
Son Isidore
Witmark
1869
Manhattan
Apr. 19, 1941
Manhattan
Son Julius ("Julie") Peyser
Witmark
1870
Manhattan
June 14, 1929
Manhattan
Son Jacob ("Jay")
Witmark
Mar. 31, 1872
Manhattan
Feb. 1950
Manhattan
Son Frank Morris
Witmark
1875
Manhattan[1]
Aug 3, 1948
Weehawken, NJ
Son Edward
Witmark
1877
Manhattan
Daughter Frances Klein (Mrs. Joseph A. Klein) née Witmark 1877
Manhattan
1957
Manhattan
Married Klein Jan. 11, 1905
Manhattan
Son Adolph S.
Witmark
1882
Manhattan
July 15, 1926
Manhattan

Succession of ownership[edit]

Tams-Witmark

In 1922, Sargent Aborn (1867–1956), brother of Milton Aborn (1864–1933), both of the Aborn Opera Company, acquired the Arthur W. Tams (1848–1927) music library,[2] a collection that had become the largest circulating music library in the world — and by extension, Witmark's biggest competitor in the music-rental field. In January of 1925, M. Witmark & Sons acquired the music Tams library, ending 30 years of intense rivalry. The combined Tams-Witmark library, operating as the Tam-Witmark Music Library Inc. (a New York corporation) secured its position as the largest source of musical-comedy and operatic music for amateur and professional productions.[3] Sargent Witmark was president of Tams-Witmark from its founding until his death in 1957. In 1942, Sargent Aborn and his son, Louis Henry Aborn (1912–2005), acquired the rights to the Tams Library. As of 2014, the co-chairmen were Robert Aborn Hut (born 1935) and Sargent Louis Aborn (born 1948) and the executive vice-president was Peter Aborn Hut (born 1940). All three are grandchildren of Sargent Aborn.
In the 1960s, Tams-Witmark donated several lots of its old inventory to the special collections of 5 libraries known for music research: the Library of Congress, the Eastman School of Music, Westminster Choir College, and the largest part of its inventory to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, through the initiative of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research and the School of Music.
The consolidation of Tams and Witmark mostly affected operatic music and musical theatre. It did not affect the separate concern of M. Witmark & Sons, music publishers, who continued publishing popular and classical music.[4]

Warner Bros.

In 1929, M. Witmark was purchased by Warner Bros.[5] Warner Bros. merged its music publishing companies (which included Witmark, Remick, and Harms) into one company, Warner Bros. Music (now Warner/Chappell Music).

Alfred Music

In 2005, Alfred Music purchased Warner Bros. Publications — acquiring the rights to Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. and the EMI Catalogue Partnership. Through this deal, Alfred Music gained the print rights of publishers that include M. Witmark & Sons, Remick Music Corp., and T.B. Harms, Inc. Among the EMI holdings are the Robbins and Leo Feist catalogs, plus film music from United Artists, MGM, and 20th Century Fox.

See also[edit]

Competitor music publishing firms in Tin Pan Alley

External links[edit]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music: Composers and Their Music (Witmark in Vol. 3 of 3), by William H. Rehrig, Westerville, OH: Integrity Press (1991); OCLC 24606813
  2. ^ The Oxford Companion to American Theatre, 3rd ed., by Thomas S. Hischak, Oxford University Press (2004), pg. 4; OCLC 53138731
  3. ^ American Popular Music and Its Business: The First Four Hundred Years — Volume 3: From 1900 to 1984, by Russell Sanjek, Oxford University Press (1988), pg. 101; OCLC 16228327
  4. ^ "Music Libraries End 30-Year War", New York Times pg. E5, January 11, 1925
  5. ^ The Story of the House of Witmark: From Ragtime to Swingtime, Isidore Witmark & Isaac Goldberg, New York: Lee Furman, Inc., New York (1939); OCLC 1988112