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Alex Steinweiss, Album Cover Art Pioneer, Dead at 94

Artist designed first sleeves for Columbia Records in 1939

Alex Steinweiss
Benny Goodman album cover by Alex Steinweiss
Bing Crosby album cover by Alex Steinweiss
Jazz Then Till Now album cover by Alex Steinweiss

Alex Steinweiss, the man credited with creating the record album cover [see addendum which disputes this], died July 17 at age 94, in Sarasota, Fla. When Steinweiss was hired by Columbia Records in 1939 as an ad designer, he took a more artistic approach to the packaging that housed recordings than had been taken before, adding artwork to the sleeves that contained the 78 RPM records.

According to an obituary in The New York Times, “His first cover, for a collection of Rodgers and Hart songs performed by an orchestra, showed a high-contrast photo of a theater marquee with the title in lights. The new packaging concept was a success: Newsweek reported that sales of Bruno Walter’s recording of Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ symphony increased ninefold when the album cover was illustrated.”

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