Skip to Main Content

Ragtime: Topics in Chronicling America

Ragtime music exploded in popularity in America starting in the late 1800s. This guide provides access to materials related to “Ragtime” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Paris Has Gone Rag Time Wild." June 10, 1900. The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), Image 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Ragtime music is a popular American style of music known for its syncopated, or "ragged", rhythm. The music style originated in predominately African-American communities and exploded in popularity by the late 1800s, led by artists such as Scott Joplin and Sissieretta Jones. Ragtime expanded its influence in the early 1900s, finding its way to Europe. Ragtime music had a strong influence on early jazz, ultimately becoming a synthesis of African and European music. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


1847 American composer Louis Gottschalk uses African rhythms in his piece "La Bamboula."
1893 Ragtime music is introduced to the American public during the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago’s World Fair).
1894 The terms “rag” and “rag time” are first used to describe the new musical genre.
1897 John Turpin, influenced by his father’s music venue the Rosebud Bar in St. Louis, releases several ragtime pieces, including the Harlem Rag.
1897 First piano rag entitled “Mississippi Rag” is published by W.H. Krell.
1899 Scott Joplin composes Maple Leaf Rag.
1908 Ragtime’s influence in Europe is seen in French composer’s Claude Debussy’s "Golliwogg’s Cake-Walk."
1916 Eubie Blake, Noble Sissie, and James Reese Europe collaborate on the production "Shuffle Along", a musical sensation in 1921.