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Inventory of the California Folk Music Project records, 1938-1942
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Remarks:
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Colections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: California Folk Music Project Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1938-1942
    Collection number: ARCHIVES WPA CAL 1; MUSI TS11 v.1-12
    Creator: California Folk Music Project
    Extent: Number of containers: ARCHIVES WPA CAL 1: 12 boxes, 6 drawings, 79 original glass sound discs

    MUSI TS11 v.1-12: 12 v. (16 tape reels, some duplicates)
    Repository: The Music Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Gift to the Department of Music by the local Works Projects Administration in 1942.


    Collection is open for research except for original glass sound discs which are restricted. Permission of the Librarian required for use.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Music Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], California Folk Music Project records, ARCHIVES WPA CAL 1; MUSI TS11 v.1-12, The Music Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    The California Folk Music Project (also cited as the Archive of California Folk Music) was conducted under the auspices of the Work Projects Administration (W.P.A.) during the years 1938-42. Sidney H. Robertson, later Mrs. Henry Cowell, was the general supervisor. Offices of the Project were located at 2108 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California. When the Project disbanded in 1942 the residue of the work in progress was donated to the Department of Music, University of California, Berkeley. Nothing has been added since 1942.
    Two statements of work accomplished and in progress were issued by Sidney H. Robertson. These are important historical documents, and appear as items 1 and 2 in this inventory.
    The Project published one volume under the title Check List of California Songs (Berkeley, California, January, 1940), 160 pp. The Check List indexed by title and first line of text the contents of songsters and broadsides pubblished between 1851-92, mostly in San Francisco and Sacramento. These songs contain references to California. For a list of sources, see the Check List, pp. 157-60.
    A second volume (or volumes) was projected, but never published. These volumes were to have contained the full texts and tunes. It is evident from this collection that these volumes were near completeion when the Project was terminated. If a scholar ever intended to edit a collection of California folk music, it would be important to consult these materials.
    This collection contains translations from German and Spanish of important studies on folk music. Also included are a substantial number of field recordings (north of Fresno). Information about these performances includes: name of performer, place and date of performance, photograp of performer, drawings of some of the folk instruments used, card files, typed lists, and miscellaneous information.
    There are photostats of important California mission music manuscripts, particularly those held by Stanford University. It is evident that litlle research was done on these sources by members of the Project.
    It appears that the collection of migratory labor songs collected in 1936 (item 201) and the indexes of several hymnals (items 243-46) were somewhat subsidary endeavors of the Project.
    A substantial amount of correspondence must have been generated by the Project. Very little survives in this collection.
    Speaking from a personal standpoint, form the vantage point of April, 1985, the W.P.A. Folk Music Project must be considered a unique and heroic effort. The scholarship evidenced in this collection of folk song materials is uneven, and represents the standards of the time. Some materials still remain of great value, others give the impression of busy work. Before making any value judgements, it is essential to bear in mind that the Project was terminated in mid-stream by the beginning of World War II. What we have here is unfinished research.
    John A. Emerson

    Music Library

    U.C. Berkeley

    April 2, 1985

    Persons who worked for the W.P.A. California Folk Music Project, and who are identified in the collection.

    • 1. Sidney H. Robertson [Cowell], general Supervisor of the Project.
    • 2. Anne Andrews, worked with the California songsters.
    • 3. Alice Avila, worked with the Portuguese materials.
    • 4. M. Bausch (first name unknown), translated most of the German articles.
    • 5. Dave Berger, translated some German articles.
    • 6. K. Bering (first name unknown), worked with the California songsters.
    • 7. Ara Dorr, worked with the California songsters.
    • 8. Francis Frenna, worked with the Spanish materials.
    • 9. Joseph H. Handon, Research Assistant Draftsman, made the instrument drawings.
    • 10. Joseph Jelovich, translated some German articles.
    • 11. Carman Mell, worked with the Spanish materials.
    • 12. Miss Sirvart Poladian, assistant to Sidney H. Robertson, and author of A Study of Variants (1939).
    • 13. Miss A. C. Winchell (first name unknown), collected folk tunes from published secondary sources.
    • 14. Project photographer (name unkown).
    • 15. Professor Edward B. Lawton, Faculty Advisor, University of California, Berkeley.

    Scope and Content

    Collection includes administrative documents; English translations of articles on folk music; material on music in the California missions; lists of California songsters and hymnals; song texts with references to California; material on Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin American folk songs; sketches, scale drawings, and tracings of folk instruments; sound tape reel copies of performances, and original glass sound discs.
    Included also are 3x5 card file indexes of known recordings, photographs of performers, instruments, songsters, hymnals, and bibliographies.
    Types of Materials:
      folders containing typescript and hand-copied data.
      photostats of published songsters and manuscripts.
      drawing of musical folk instruments.
      boxes of index cards.
      field recordings.
      tape copies of the recordings.

    Related Colections

    • Glass sound discs: on deposit at Archives for Recorded Sound, Standord University; Standord, Calif.
    • California gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties; Americna Folklife Center, Libraray of Congress, Washington, D.C.

      URL: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/afccchtml/cowhome.html/