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Musicians Collection:

An Inventory of the Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Title: Musicians Collection
Dates: 1727-1981 (bulk 1900-1940)
Extent: Original inventory: 38 document boxes, 10 oversize boxes, 65 oversize folders, 1 rolled item (20.16 linear feet); Addition: 3 document boxes, 1 oversize box, 5 oversize folders (1.68 linear feet)
Abstract: The Musicians Collection consists of materials that are primarily visual in nature and portray approximately 1,700 musicians and musical groups.
Call Number: Performing Arts Collection PA-00062
Language: English, German, Polish, and Yiddish.
Access: Open for research

Provenance: The Musicians Collection is assembled by Theater Arts staff from existing collections and new items and collections as they are acquired. The core of the collection was formed from the Albert Davis, Messmore Kendall, Robert Downing, and John Gassner Collections. The Paul Anka Manuscripts are housed within this collection. Some items were probably originally in the Harry B. Smith, Pat Rooney II, and Hillary Bell Collections and the Houdini Magic File. Although the provenance of the collection cannot be traced prior to its arrival at the Ransom Center, a few patterns of ownership emerge. A number of photographs of classical musicians were once in the possession of the music writer Gustav Kobbé. About ten photographs are inscribed to the violinist Jeanne Franko who was the aunt of Edwin Franko Goldman, a collector of autographed letters and pictures of famous musicians. Several of these photographs are in the "Unidentified" file. In many respects the Musicians Collection and Goldman's collection, which is currently housed at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, are remarkably similar in scope. The similarity may be coincidental, arising from contemporaneity, or parts of the Musicians Collection may have been owned by Goldman or the Franko family at one time.
Processed by: Helen Baer and Antonio Alfau, 1999 Note to Researchers: The finding aid for the Musicians Collection is a conflation of the original inventory created in 1999, and a small addition that was cataloged in 2011. Currently the addition is described only by a Container List which has been incorporated into the original inventory, continuing the box and folder numbering sequence. The scope and contents note and index of correspondents do not make reference to the addition, and the RLIN record for the collection summarizes the material in the original inventory only.

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

The Musicians Collection consists of approximately 5,200 items, 1727-1981 (bulk 1900-1940), which are primarily of a visual nature and portray approximately 1,700 musicians and musical groups: classical composers, conductors, soloists, and ensembles; big bands and bandleaders; bandmasters; impresarios; vaudeville artists, minstrel show performers, and other variety acts; twentieth-century American musical theater composers; and post-1940 popular singers and musical groups, including country singers. Photographs comprise about 95% of the collection. Other formats present are engravings, lithographs, clippings, concert programs, brochures, booklets, sheet music, vocal and instrumental scores, drawings, paintings, postcards, correspondence, posters, and ephemera. The collection is arranged alphabetically by name of person or musical group and housed in folders in standard, oversize, and flat file drawers. (See Notes Concerning the Folder List below for an explanation of how the contents of the folders were described.)
The bulk of the collection consists of publicity photographs, circa 1900-1940, of vaudeville and variety acts, popular singers, jazz musicians, and brass band-type ensembles. Banjo and accordion acts were popular at this time, as were specialty acts such as Miller and Lyles, and Moss and Frye. Musicians who are represented by at least ten items in the collection include Irving Berlin, Ben Bernie, Walter Damrosch, the Flonzaley Quartet, George Gershwin, Victor Herbert, Fritz Kreisler, John Lennon, Vincent Lopez, George Olsen, Benny Meroff, Dave Rubinoff, John Philip Sousa, and Paul Whiteman. African-American and female musicians represent a substantial portion of the figures covered by these files, especially from the late nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century, with notable examples being Brodie and Brodie, Wanda Landowska, Papinta, Fisk University Jubilee Singers, Blind Tom, and Mana-Zucca. A large number of cabinet cards and cartes-de-visite date from this period. The collection also includes a large number of postcards, most of which are only pictorial in scope (without inscriptions).
Previously many of the publicity photographs were in the possession of the Palace Theatre's Photograph and Press Bureau, the R. K. O. Photograph and Information Bureau, and the William Morris Agency, all of New York. Many of the photographs were taken at prominent New York studios: Aimé Dupont, Apeda, G. Maillard Kesslère, Mishkin, Progress, Sarony & Co., Strand, Underwood & Underwood, and White Studio. Most of the photographs are gelatin silver prints.
Other formats include approximately 500 engravings and lithographs of famous composers and classical musicians, 1727-1887 (bulk circa 1800-1860). Of these, Irish musicians are prominent. About a dozen drawings in charcoal, pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor are present, as well as an oil painting of Beethoven. With the exception of a drawing of Alfred Hertz by C. de Fornaro, the artists are unidentified. The great majority of the concert programs in the collection are for classical musicians appearing in New York at Mendelssohn Hall, Aeolian Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Town Hall. Many of the programs for the latter date from late March 1941. Letters in the collection, 1780s-1977 (bulk 1820s-1860s), are chiefly written by classical composers, with three notable exceptions being a letter from Charles Burney to Edmund Malone, a note to Harry Houdini from Irving Berlin, and two postcards from Carl Van Vechten to Robert Downing. Hillary Bell was the recipient of letters from Reginald De Koven, Harry B. Smith, and John Philip Sousa. Some letters are in German. (See the index of correspondents for a complete listing of authors of correspondence.)
The manuscript and printed music includes works by several American musicians, including autograph lyrics and music for twenty-eight of Paul Anka's songs, probably from the early 1960s. Author Annelu Burns is represented by correspondence and manuscript music that chronicle the business arrangements she made in 1919 to write the title song for the silent motion picture "The Amazing Lovers." The song, written with composer Madelyn Sheppard, was dropped by the producer when the movie title changed. Typed lyrics by author and composer Harry C. Benline are present, accompanied by a program from Tony Pastor's Theatre in which Benline and his partner Hetz appeared. Published music includes arrangements and piano and vocal scores for compositions by Victor Herbert and Pietro Mascagni.
Composite portraits are located at the end of the alphabet, followed by Unidentified and Miscellaneous items. A very small number of items pertain to non-musical subjects (painters, actors, etc.). Several items are in Yiddish or Polish.

Notes Concerning the Folder List

In processing this collection, musicians were often identified from handwritten and printed notes on the back of photographs and verified in reference sources whenever possible. When the handwriting was hard to read, questionable words are given in brackets, as are names which are suspect due to logical inconsistencies.
Because many orchestras were chiefly known for their conductors, materials depicting bandleaders and their orchestras are filed under the bandleader's last name, as in "Arnheim, Gus, and Orchestra." When the name of the group contains a possessive, as in "Al Kaplan's Kings of Harmony," the entry is filed under the forename and cross-referenced to the surname.
For each musician, the following folder list indicates the quantity, format, date (when known), and location of items. When a folder contains undated photographs, the word "photo" is omitted and the number of items is given in parentheses. When a single undated photograph is present, no number is indicated. For example, if the name of the performer is given without any information about quantity, format, date, or location, the folder contains one undated photograph in a standard size folder. Photographs that date from before 1880 are photographic images of artwork rather than of the subjects themselves. Engravings and lithographs are referred to generically as "prints"; they should not be confused with items produced via photographic processes, which are referred to as "photos" except in the case of copy prints. (The date of a print may refer to when the printing plate was made, when the item was printed, or when a photographer took the daguerrotype upon which the subsequent plate and print were based.)
The musician's area of performance is also stated when ascertainable, but researchers should know that in the case of the more obscure musicians, the area given may not be the one for which he or she is best known.
For many of the concert programs listed, additional information is given in parentheses regarding venue, date, and works performed.
Abbreviations used in the folder list and index of correspondents are as follows:
  • ALS--autograph letter signed
  • AMs--autograph manuscript
  • ANS--autograph note signed
  • APCS--autograph postcard signed
  • MsN--manuscript note
  • pp--pages
  • PC--postcard
  • TD--typed document
  • TLS--typed letter signed

Researchers may also wish to consult the Sheet Music Collection and the Music Collection.


Anka, Paul
Burns, Annelu, 1889-1942
Dupont, Aimé, photographer
Kesslère, G. Maillard (George Maillard)
Sarony, Napoleon, 1821-1896, photographer
Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964
Apeda, photographer
Palace Theatre
Strand, photographer
Underwood & Underwood
White Studio, fl. 1900-1936
William Morris Agency


Bauer, Harold, 1873-1951
Benline, Harry C.
Berlin, Irving, 1888-1989
Bernie, Ben, 1891-1943
Blind Tom, 1849-1908
Bull, Ole, 1810-1880
Calloway, Cab, 1907-1994
Casals, Pablo, 1876-1973
Crawfords, Jack
Damrosch, Walter, 1862-1950
Dunham, Alanson Mellen
Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974
Elman, Mischa, 1891-1967
Gabrilowitsch, Ossip, 1878-1936
Gérardy, Jean, 1877-1929
Gershwin, George, 1898-1937
Gilmore, P.S. (Patrick Sarsfield), 1829-1892
Godino, Lucio
Godino, Simplico
Goldman, Edwin Franko, 1878-1956
Grainger, Percy, 1882-1961
Guilmant, Alexandre, 1837-1911
Handel, George Frideric, 1685-1759
Herbert, Victor, 1859-1924
Joseffy, Rafael, 1852-1915
Kahn, Roger Wolfe, 1907-1962
Kreisler, Fritz, 1875-1962
Lennon, John, 1940-1980
Levitzki, Mischa, 1898-1941
Lhévinne, Josef, 1874-1944
Liszt, Franz von, 1851-1919
Lopez, Vincent, 1894-
Mascagni, Pietro, 1863-1945
Menotti, Gian Carlo, 1911-2007
Meroff, Benny
Meyerbeer, Giacomo, 1791-1864
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791
Myers, Doris Mae
Olsen, George, 1893-1971
Paderweski, Ignace Jan, 1860-1941
Ponce, Dorothea
Ponce, Ethel
Powell, Maud, 1867-1920
Reeves, Sims, 1818-1900
Rolfe, B.A. (Benjamin A.), 1879-1956
Rosenthal, Moriz, 1862-1946
Rossini, Gioacchino, 1792-1868
Rubinoff, Dave, 1897-1986
Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828
Sinclair, John, 1791-1857
Sissle, Noble, 1889-1975
Sondheim, Stephen
Sousa, John Philip, 1854-1932
Spalding, Albert, 1888-1953
Toscanini, Arturo, 1867-1957
Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901
Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883
Wharing, Fred, 1900-
Whiteman, Paul, 1890-1967
Ysaye, Eugene, 1858-1931
Flonzaley Quartet
Miller & Lyles
Pennsylvanians (Musical Group)


Big Bands--Photographs--1920-1940
Conductors (Music)--Photographs--1890-1960

Document Types

Sheet Music