Biographies John Stark, 1841-1927

Image of John Stillwell Stark (detail from unamed publication).
John Stillwell Stark, [n.d.]. Misc. Iconographic Collection, Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

John Stillwell Stark was born in Kentucky in 1841. His family moved to Indiana, where he grew up on a farm.

As an adult, Stark moved his own family to Sedalia, Missouri, in 1882--in retrospect, a fortunate move, for it put him in the right place at the right time. Stark opened a small music shop; within a few years, he was able to purchase a local music publishing firm which he renamed John Stark & Son. As serendipitous as his relocation to Sedalia was his decision to publish "Maple Leaf Rag," a song by a local composer, Scott Joplin. Within 10 years, Joplin's piece had sold more than 500,000 copies, making Stark's fortune and Joplin's reputation.

Works such as Joplin's made Stark well known as a music publisher. In time, Stark & Son added other ragtime composers to their catalog, among them James Lamb, Arthur Marshall, and Scott Hayden, all protégés of Joplin. Stark's insistence on "classic ragtime" not only matched Joplin's artistic philosophy but also helped to make the concept of African-American saloon music palatable to white middle-class audiences. "We mean to advertise these as classic rags and we mean just what we say," stated Stark & Son publicity. "They have lifted ragtime from its low estate and lined it up with Beethoven and Bach."

Because of business disagreements, Joplin eventually left Stark for other publishers. Nevertheless, Stark was successful enough to move to New York where he competed with the myriad publishers of Tin Pan Alley. After a profitable career as a ragtime publisher, Stark returned to St. Louis, where he died in November 1927.

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About this Item

Title
John Stark, 1841-1927
Subject Headings
-  Stark, John -- 1841-1927
-  Popular Songs of the Day
-  Songs and Music
-  Progressive Era to New Era (1900-1929)
-  Biographies
Genre
biography
Online Format
online text
Description
Biography. Biography. Because of business disagreements, Joplin eventually left Stark for other publishers. Nevertheless, Stark was successful enough to move to New York where he competed with the myriad publishers of Tin Pan Alley. After a profitable career as a ragtime publisher, Stark returned to St. Louis, where he died in November 1927.
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Items included here with the permission of the rights holders are indicated as such in the bibliographic record for each item.

In some cases, the Library was unable to identify a possible rights holder and has elected to place some of those items online as an exercise of fair use for strictly non-commercial educational uses. The Library of Congress would like to learn more about these materials and would like to hear from individuals or institutions that have any additional information or know of their history. Please contact:  Performing Arts Reading Room.

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Chicago citation style:

John Stark, 1841 to 1927. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035817/. (Accessed October 18, 2017.)

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John Stark, 1841 to 1927. [Online Text] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035817/.

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John Stark, 1841 to 1927. Online Text. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/ihas.200035817/>.