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Folk-Songs of America: The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection, 1922-1932

Gordon Collection Photographs

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Adventure Campfire group from Berkeley
The "Adventure Campfire." This group of friends from the Berkeley area took its name from the magazine Adventure. They gathered to listen to the songs Gordon had recorded and to perform folksongs for public functions and on local radio. In this picture, Gordon is on the far left, cigarette in hand, Arthur Brodeur, his lifetime friend, is in the center of the back row, and Frank Kester, the Oakland newspaperman who helped launch Gordon's field recording project, is in the front of Brodeur holding the group's mascot. Ca. 1924. Photo courtesy Mr. And Mrs. Bert Nye.
Gordon on archaeological expedition
Adventure in archaeology. The Campfire group (left) conducted several archaeological expeditions in Marin County, California. Here Gordon poses with a freshly unearthed specimen. Ca. 1923. Photo courtesy J. Barre Toelken, University of Oregon.
Illustration for Gordon's Times article
Folksongs in the Times. This illustration for Gordon's article "The Folk Songs of America: Banjo Tunes" appeared in the New York Times Magazine of January 1, 1928, over the caption, "He Begins with One of the More Characteristic Banjo Songs, Slower in Rhythm and More Lyrical Than Those of the Fiddler." Copyright 1928, New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission.
Enlarged view
Illustration for Gordon's article regarding Black folk culture of the seacoast
The issue of April 24, 1927, carried Gordon's article regarding black folk culture of the Georgia sea coast, "The Folk Songs of America: Negro Shouts." The Caption reads "Every Singer Moves in Time." The Times published 15 installments of "The Folk Songs of America" between January 2, 1927, and January 22, 1928. There is reason to believe that in this illustration, unlike the preceding one, the Times staff artist Van Werveke was guided by a photograph supplied by Gordon. Copyright 1928, New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission.
Enlarged view
RWG feature article regarding Old Songs that Men have Sung
The Adventure column. Robert W. Gordon's feature "Old Songs That Men Have Sung," as it appeared in Adventure, January 30, 1926. The invitation at the end to send in "all the old songs of every variety" was part of Gordon's "great plan" to collect every American folksong. Reproduced from the collections of the Archive of Folk Song.
Enlarged views:
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Mary Mann and pupils
Tidewater informants. Mary C. Mann sang many unusual songs for Gordon while he was conducting field research in Darien, Georgia, between 1926 and 1928. A deaconess in the Episcopal Church, she ran a school that prepared young black girls for work in domestic service. In this picture, Mary Mann stands with a number of her pupils who are apparently weaving traditional, coiled-grass baskets of the Sea Islands. Photo courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Nye.
Gordon field photograph of homemade banjos
Mystery photograph. Although his correspondence makes reference to the documentation of folk culture with the camera as well as the recording machine, only two of Gordon's field photographs have ever been found, this one and the one below of Mary C. Mann. Gordon probably took this picture, identified on the back as "homemade banjos in Western North Carolina," in 1924 or 1925. It reveals an interest in material culture that was all too rare in folklore scholarship in the 1920s. Photo from the Harris and Ewing albums in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. [This caption is from the 1978 liner notes. In 1988 more photographs were located and copied for the Library's collections.]
Banjos, one played by unknown man in western North Carolina, 1924 or 1925
In 1988 more photos taken by Robert Winslow Gordon were found and copies were made for the Library of Congress. This photo shows the same banjos as in the photograph above, with one being played by an unknown man. Western North Carolina, 1924 or 1925. Since he is posed with three similar banjos, he may have been a banjo maker. Photo courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Bert Nye.

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   June 23, 2011
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