Nov. 1932 (l to r) George Gershwin, Dana Suesse, and Paul Whiteman
The American popular music industry before 1950 was centered primarily on live performance. Thousand of orchestras needed music to play and in the early part of this century, orchestra leaders built large libraries. They were used for hotel and ship orchestras, orchestras in vaudeville theatres, legitimate theatres, and all sorts of places of public and private amusement. As the motion picture industry grew, orchestras were formed to accompany silent films. Many theatres built collections of music, other theatres employed leaders who had their own libraries. As radio started to grow, studios acquired libraries also. Many of these were purchased from theatres and from theatre orchestra leaders.
After the live music industry declined, Jack Bethards acquired some 15 libraries plus thousands of individual pieces, building up one of the largest collections in the United States. He donated this material to the Paramount Theatre in 1987, combining it with Curt Massey's collection, which was already in place. Since then, a number of collections have been donated to the library. Among the largest are those of Henry Buettner, Leo Kailin, ABC Radio orchestras, James Roseveare, Gene Lancelle, and The Family. An especially noteworthy collection is that of Dana Suesse, donated by Peter Mintun. Currently the library contains an estimated 150,000 separate listings, plus many cartons of uncataloged material.