New Yorkers gathered on a recent Saturday at the corner of Broadway and West 28th Street to place a sign officially commemorating the street known as Tin Pan Alley. City Council Member Eric Bottcher and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine were in attendance, as well as several historians and members of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Tin Pan Alley’s significance comes from the group of Manhattan songwriters who congregated there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The origins of the nickname are disputed; a possibly apocryphal story says that it refers to the cacophony of many musicians playing different tunes at once on the same street. Others say the name derives from the banging of cheap pianos, which sounded like the crashing of tin pans.
Whatever the origins of its name, Tin Pan Alley is known today for its contribution to the nascent American popular music industry of the time. As songwriters and publishers began to work together to create and sell original music, a flourishing music scene and business developed around them. While earlier in the 19th century classical music dominated music publishing, now talented songwriters were able to make money selling popular music as well.
Scott Joplin, George Gershwin and Hoagy Carmichael were among the many notable musicians and songwriters associated with Tin Pan Alley. Some of the songs composed there are instantly recognizable to most Americans — particularly New Yorkers — today, such as “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and “Give My Regards To Broadway.”
The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership shared a photo of the new street sign on their Instagram, thanking George Calderaro and the Tin Pan Alley American Popular Music Project for their “tireless advocacy for this historic site.”