Marks was born in Ireland in 1843, and was living with his family in Cincinnati in 1850 at age 7. It is unknown what role, if any, he played in the Civil War, but Civil War records list several men named Peter Marks as having served in Ohio regiments. By 1880, he headed his own household with his wife Emma and two sons and listed himself as a music teacher. He seems to have owned a music store in Cincinnati around this time. He died in February 1883. Evidently, during the 1860s-1870s he played the harp on the Midwestern minstrel circuit.
The collection documents Marks's years as a harpist on the Midwestern minstrel circuit. It includes sheet music and song books, theater programs, posters announcing minstrel shows, newspaper articles and advertisements.
Peter Marks Minstrelsy Collection, ca. 1861-1883, Archives Center, National Museum of American History