The Loeb Music Library holds several artifacts relating to the American pianist and composer Eubie Blake, born February 7th, 1887 in Baltimore.
In this portrait of Blake as a child, he poses on the steps of a Baltimore home with his friend Howard “Hop” Jones and a dog. The original photograph, by an unidentified artist, is thought to have been made in approximately 1899. The Music Library’s gelatin silver print reproduction dates from the 1970s.
We have three unusual dyeline reproductions of Blake’s manuscript scores: a ragtime piece for piano entitled Baltimore Todolo, as well as two songs from Chocolate Dandies, Blake’s moderately successful 1924 production with lyricist Noble Sissles (an earlier Sissles and Blake enterprise, Shuffle Along, was a hit and launched the careers of many significant black performers, including Paul Robeson and Josephine Baker).
Our copy of Baltimore Todolo is inscribed by the composer: “Not so easy to play, but if you practice you’ll like it, E.B.”
And Thinking of You, from Chocolate Dandies, is also inscribed: “Compliments of Eubie Blake to Mrs. Peggie Smith.”
Smith and her husband, William, were fans who became devoted correspondents of Blake’s. Blake’s letters to the Smiths, along with Blake memorabilia the couple collected such as newspaper clippings and concert programs, make up the small and unique collection Eubie Blake Papers. Some letters from Blake’s lifelong collaborator, Shuffle Along leading man Ivan Harold Browning, are also found in this collection, as are first-edition scores, but mainly the papers are a warm and newsy correspondence between Blake and these fortunate fans.
One last extraordinary Eubie Blake item in our library is this one-page note to the composer and arranger William Grant Still.
Isham Memorial Library is the special collections unit within the Loeb Music Library. Many of its materials are in open stacks, with rare and unique items held in the locked Merritt Room. To view Merritt Room materials, use your Special Collections Request Account. As Isham is not always fully staffed it is advisable to wait for a confirmation message from a staff member before you plan your visit.