Established in 1900 by Tolbert R. Ingram, the Tolbert Ingram Music Publishing Company was Denver's first significant publisher of popular music. While developing his career as publisher and editor in Tennessee, Ingram was himself an amateur musician who also managed concert series for the local opera house in Clarksville, TN. Ingram moved to Denver and took up reporting for the Denver Post in 1900; with a journalist's knack for understanding popular trends, Ingram discovered a strong demand for sheet music in Denver.
For over a decade, the Ingram Music Publishing Company operated both at its main location in Denver and at retail locations in department stores. Ingram shut down the company in 1912, citing the expansion of East Coast publishers and the lower prices created by their economies of scale.
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Tolbert Ingram and his publishing company,
as researched and described by Nancy Carter.
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Lisa Wheeler's encounter with some sheet music from the Ingram Music Company.
Most of the compositions published by this company were typical of the popular music genres of the early 1900s. A large number were songs for voice and piano, featuring lyrics about love, nature, family, home, or longing, set to simple melodies and conventional chord progressions. A fair number of piano solos were also printed--these were usually ragtime pieces, dance tunes, or programmatic pieces meant to depict an image or character, often written for intermediate to early advanced skill level.
One such example is "The Girl You Love," a song by Hattie Green, which was published in 1905. The steady triple meter accompaniment renders the lilting melody even more reminiscent of popular dance tunes, and the piano part doubles the vocal melody, which has two distinct benefits: helping an amateur singer to learn the tune and enabling this song to be performed as a piano solo if a singer is not available. Simple harmonies, accessible lyrics, and repetitive rhythms make this song, like many of the time, memorable and familiar-sounding.
The repertoire printed by companies like Tolbert Ingram's is particularly interesting because it represents not only the kind of music that was available to middle-class households at the time, but also a specific demographic of popular music composers and performers in the early twentieth-century American midwest. These composers were far from the world-renowned European figures from previous centuries, nor were they vying for American representation in art music; often, they were simply aspiring musicians, amateurs, or teachers. Their music represents the trends, themes, and images that much of middle-class America would have experienced and identified with.
Hattie Green (born Harriet Green), the composer of "The Girl You Love," was born in Oshkosh, WI, around 1870, as the eldest child and only daughter in her family. Her father was a railroad engineer and a Mason; her mother, an immigrant from England, kept house. As they grew up, Hattie and her brothers left for other states in search of work. Chicago was the nearest big city, but George Green, a dentist by trade, opened his practice in Ouray, CO. Hattie, by then a music teacher, moved to Denver and occasionally visited her brother.
In 1905, Hattie played at her brother's first wedding, which was quite a spectacle in the mining community of Ouray. (George later divorced in 1920 and remarried in 1921 before moving back to Wisconsin.) At this point, she had been living in Denver for a few years, teaching piano and playing at popular music venues in the surrounding small towns.
1905 was also the year that she published "The Girl You Love" with the Tolbert Ingram Music Publishing Company. This song became a hit, winning a national popular music contest, and the Ingram Publishing Company ended up printing four editions of it. Hattie Green must have enjoyed at least a small measure of popular attention. At any rate, she began teaching in Ouray that summer. On her brother's first wedding anniversary in 1906, she was mentioned in passing by an Idaho Springs newspaper, which described her as a prize-winning composer.
Green followed this widely acclaimed song with another in 1907. Dedicated to her parents, "My Sweetheart Lou" was also a Tolbert Ingram publication. Just like "The Girl You Love," "My Sweetheart Lou" starts with a few measures of piano introduction: a dance-style chordal accompaniment under an uncomplicated and even-paced melody. Although it is a different kind of love song, a tragic one, "My Sweetheart Lou" shares some musical similarities with "The Girl You Love," in that they are both simple in harmony and melodic material, with regular phrases and repetitive motifs; again, the piano carries the melody and some basic chordal layering, such that the verses can be performed without a singer.
The chorus of this song shows a little more independence, as the voice holds long notes over a little rising flourish in the right-hand piano part, while the left-hand part continues its steady chordal accompaniment.
Not much else is known about Hattie Green's time in Colorado, nor about when or why she left the state. When she visited her brother again in 1915, she was living in Chicago, where it is likely that another of her brothers had settled. It is quite probable that she never married. Upon her death in 1925 (the cause of her death was not published), she was buried in the Green family's Riverside Cemetery Masonic plot in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Since she was a music teacher for most of her adult life, it is entirely possible that Green continued to compose and perhaps even publish music after she left Colorado. However, in the absence of documentation that can confirm her whereabouts, the rest of Hattie Green's career remains unknown.
Unlike some of the best-known American women composers, Green was not a key figure in the art music or classical genres; working in the popular music genre and dealing with amateurs rather than professionals, her contributions were nothing like the celebrated, sophisticated works of Mary Turner Salter. Yet in many ways, Green and her contemporaries in popular song--little-known women whose names and works have been largely lost over the past century--were a crucial part of how many communities experienced musical growth and development in various parts of the United States.