Chicago, Illinois U. John Steiner, jazz collector, record producer, chemist. The John Steiner Collection contains sheet music, articles, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, interviews, ephemera, and publications. The collection spans years and documents Chicago jazz and blues, musicians, clubs, printed music, recording companies, and recording technology.
Researchers will need to consult with staff before requesting material from this series. The remainder of the collection is open for research.
Citation When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Steiner married Nina Davis in Steiner's interest in music began as a young child. When he was twelve, he became the hat check person at his father's music lodge in Milwaukee. He also took piano lessons and while a student at the University of Wisconsin - Madison he took lessons from Jessie Cohen. He also attended Axel Christianson's music school. As a teenager, Steiner fixed his friends' radios and would hear a variety of music, which prompted him to spend many hours listening to music broadcasts.
The interest expanded when his aunt Julianna, who worked at a music store, would bring home chipped phonographs for him to listen to, during the era when not everyone owned a phonograph player. One record that made an early impression was the Dixieland Jazz Band. Steiner was heavily influenced early on by Chicago music, partially because of its proximity to Milwaukee; it was more difficult for New York music to make its way to the Midwest.
He later said that Duke Ellington and Bix Beiderbecke were his top favorites. It was in the s that Steiner started visiting the South Side clubs. His first was the Grand Terrace in where he saw Earl Hines. During this time he wrote for Tempo magazine and was also a correspondent for Jazz Information. In the mids, Steiner moved to Chicago and from he worked at Miner Laboratories, after which he became the Director of Chemical Research Laboratories.
Steiner's interest in recording was prompted mostly through the people he knew, such as his next door neighbor Paul Edward Miller, a writer for Downbeat.
Davis worked for Seeburg, the jukebox company, and had access to equipment for pressing records. Around , Steiner and Davis started recording music in the clubs. As part of the new business, Steiner also started a "record exchange" for collectors interested in rare jazz records.
Their focus was on new artists as well as reissuing records from the s and s, many of them from Paramount Records. After Davis' departure, Steiner moved the headquarters to the Uptown Playhouse Theater, where he worked as their promoter and also lived. Steiner also managed New York Recording Laboratories in and became owner in During his time in Chicago, Steiner worked with many musicians and often hosted them at his apartment on Ashland and later at his renovated house on Greenview formerly the Kosciuszko Public Bath for social events and recording sessions.
He recorded some of these musicians for the Paramount Records label and over time he also interviewed many of them. In , Steiner met Charles Sengstock and a few years later began the massive project of going through microfilmed copies of the Chicago Defender at the Chicago Public Library to create an index of clubs, venues, performances, musicians, and all instances of jazz mentioned in the paper.
Steiner also started teaching chemistry at the University of Illinois-Chicago in In the s, Steiner helped found the Chicago Jazz Institute, which started as a series of concerts at places such as the Field Museum. Later, he was a founding member of, and very active in, the Jazz Institute of Chicago.
Steiner retired from his position as a chemistry professor from University of Illinois-Chicago in , at which time he and Nina moved back to Milwaukee. He continued to stay involved in the Chicago jazz scene. For nearly eighty years, Steiner collected material about jazz music, musicians, recording companies, and many other topics of interest.
He was internationally known as an expert on jazz and especially Chicago jazz and often acted as a source or consultant for articles, books, dissertations and theses, documentaries, and other productions of jazz history. John Steiner died in Milwaukee in June 3, Scope Note The John Steiner Collection contains sheet music, articles, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, interviews, ephemera, and publications.
The main focus of the collection is jazz and Chicago jazz, but the collection also documents other music styles such as blues, swing, boogie woogie, minstrel, and rag. The John Steiner Collection is organized into twelve series: Much of the original arrangement and description by Steiner was retained in the guide. Researchers will notice a certain amount of topical overlap between series.
See each individual series description for more detail. Series I, Personal and Professional, contains correspondence, addresses, a stamp collection, academic appointment letters, and documents about the renovations of the Kosciuszko Public Bath into a house.
There are also research notes and articles, reports, correspondence, and other material that documents his career as a chemist. Series II, Correspondence, contains letters with family, friends, musicians and their relatives, students, researchers, authors, editors, producers, collectors, and record dealers, and may include manuscripts, invitations, photographs, advertisements, announcements, and articles.
Most correspondence is between Steiner and jazz researchers. There are also catalogs, correspondence, and material about other record companies. Series IV, Musicians and People, contains articles, research notes, and ephemera about musicians and other people related to the music industry, including record producers, composers, songwriters, conductors, bandleaders, accompanists, singers, dancers, writers, actors, comedians, radio and television programmers and producers, instrument makers, jukebox repairmen, club and ballroom owners, disc jockeys and announcers, agents, record shop owners, architects, collectors, authors, and others.
Series V, Clubs, Events, and Ephemera, contains articles, reviews, publications, maps, advertisements, pluggers, postcards, fliers, programs, playbills, tickets, correspondence, matchbooks, brochures, invitations, research notes, and other ephemera about clubs, club memberships, restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, lounges, theatres, dance halls, ballrooms, hotels, buildings, schools, universities, concerts, performances, festivals, cruises, and other jazz venues, neighborhoods, events, and people in Chicago and the surrounding area.
Series VI, Photographs, contains photographic prints, negatives, and slides of musicians, clubs, locations, and other subjects. Steiner's research notes contain documentation or attempted verification of musicians' names, where they played and who they played with, as well as where clubs were located, moved to, and who played there.
Series VII, Subject Files, contains articles, fliers, brochures, book reviews, radio schedules, directories, catalogs, correspondence, cartoons, ephemera, essays, book chapters, and research notes.
The material documents the history of jazz, Chicago jazz, and other musical styles such as gospel, blues, swing, rock and pop, boogie woogie, country, hillbilly, minstrel, and bluegrass. The majority of the music is for piano, but also saxophone, banjo, and ukulele. Series IX, Publications, contains magazines, newspapers, and journals primarily about jazz but also the entertainment industry.
Series X, Artifacts, contains print blocks, souvenirs and other jazz related objects, electrical items, and science equipment. Series XI, Audio-Visual, contains an audio cassette, 8 and 16 mm film, a videocassette, microfilm, and product sample records. Series XII, Oversize, contains artwork, articles, posters, ephemera, advertisements, records lists, album and sheet music images, and photographs.
Related Resources University of Chicago. Committee on Social Thought.