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Collection Woody Guthrie and the Archive of American Folk Song: Correspondence, 1940 to 1950

Timeline of Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

  1. 1912

    July 14

    Born in Okemah, Oklahoma.

    [Woody Guthrie's birthplace, Okemah, Oklahoma.] Photograph by Walter Smalling, October 1979. Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division. Call Number: HABS, OKLA, 54-OKE.V, 1-2.
  2. 1919


    Death of older sister, Clara, in fire.

  3. 1927

    Mother sent to Central State Hospital for the Insane in Norman, Oklahoma.

  4. 1929

    Joined father and extended family in Pampa, Texas; focused on learning to play guitar and harmonica.

  5. 1930

    Death of mother.

  6. 1933

    Married Mary Jennings, Pampa, Texas (later divorced).

  7. 1935

    Prepared typed songbook of original songs, "Alonzo M. Zilch's Own Collection of Original Songs and Ballads."


    Began to compose songs about the Dust Bowl following the Great Dust Storm.

  8. 1937

    Moved to Los Angeles, California; began performing on radio station KFVD.

  9. 1938


    Traveled to investigate the living and working conditions of the migrant workers on assignment for The Light newspaper; wrote "Dust Bowl Refugees."

    Migrants' tents are a common sight along the right of way of the southern pacific. Near Fresno, California. Photograph by Dorothea Lange, February 1939. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USF34-019044-C
  10. 1939

    Began writing "Woody Sez" column in People's World.

    Met actor Will Geer and began traveling with him to migrant camps to perform.

  11. 1940


    Moved to New York City; wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in reaction to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."


    Performed at "Grapes of Wrath Evening," organized by Will Geer to benefit the John Steinbeck Committee for Agricultural Workers; met Alan and Elizabeth Lomax, director Nicholas Ray, and folk singers Aunt Molly Jackson, Leadbelly, and Pete Seeger.

    Recorded four hours of songs and stories for the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song in the Department of the Interior recording lab.

    Began to write autobiographical novel, Bound for Glory.


    Began to appear on CBS radio programs.

    Recorded Dust Bowl Ballads for Victor Records in Camden, New Jersey (released in July).

    Elevated structure and buildings. Lower Manhattan. Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, December 1941. Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USF34-024346-D.
  12. 1941


    Commissioned by the U.S. Department of the Interior to write songs promoting the building of the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River in Washington state; composed twenty-six songs in thirty days.


    Joined the Almanac Singers in New York for cross-country summer tour; recorded Deep Sea Chanteys and Whaling Ballads and Sod-buster Ballads with the Almanacs for General Records.


    Moved to Greenwich Village, living and performing with the Almanac Singers.


    In the wake of Pearl Harbor, began writing pro-war songs with the Almanac Singers.

  13. 1942


    Narrated and played music for Folksay modern dance, choreographed by Sophie Maslow and featuring Marjorie Mazia as a dancer.

    Signed contract with E. P. Dutton publishing house for book.

    Began dating Marjorie Mazia.

  14. 1943


    Bound for Glory published (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.).


    Joined the Merchant Marine; shipped out on first of three voyages with Cisco Houston and Jimmy Longhi.


    Returned to New York; moved to 3520 Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island.

  15. 1944


    Met Moses (Moe) Asch and began to record in his studio in New York: the first recording of "This Land Is Your Land" and well over one hundred other songs.

  16. 1945


    Released album of recordings made for Moe Asch through collaboration with Herbert Harris's Stinson Trading Company.


    Inducted into the Army.


    Married Marjorie in New York while on furlough (divorced July 1953).


    Discharged from the Army.

  17. 1946

    Began writing children's songs and recording them for Moe Asch's label.

    Named to the board of directors of the newly formed People's Songs collective.

  18. 1947


    Death of his and Marjorie's daughter Cathy Ann in fire.

  19. 1950

    The Weavers (Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Pete Seeger) recorded Guthrie's "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You."

    Music publisher Howie Richmond offered to publish and promote more of Guthrie's songs.

    [Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, facing front, playing guitar]. New York World Telegram and Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-120588.
  20. 1952


    Diagnosed with Huntington's Chorea.


    Moved to Topanga Canyon, California; met Anneke Van Kirk Marshall.

  21. 1953


    Married Anneke Van Kirk (divorced summer 1956); returned to New York.

  22. 1954


    Pete Seeger began touring college campuses, introducing Guthrie's songs to new audiences.


    Checked into Brooklyn State Hospital.

  23. 1956

    Launch of Guthrie Children's Trust Fund: Pete Seeger, Harold Leventhal, and Lou Gordon served as trustees overseeing Woody's estate, with Arlo, Joady, and Nora (Woody and Marjorie's children) as beneficiaries.


    Benefit concert for Guthrie Children's Trust Fund held at Pythian Hall in New York.


    Voluntarily checked out of Brooklyn State Hospital.

    Involuntarily checked into Greystone Park in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

  24. 1958

    Kingston Trio scored popular success with folk ballad "Tom Dooley," signaling the beginning of an urban folk revival.

  25. 1959

    Bob and Sidsel Gleason began hosting Guthrie in their home in East Orange, New Jersey, every Sunday; folksingers gathered to play and pay homage.

  26. 1961


    Visited by Bob Dylan.


    Transferred to Brooklyn State Hospital.

  27. 1964

    Release of 1940 Library of Congress recordings as three-record set on Elektra (New York: EKL-271/272).

  28. 1965

    Publication of Born to Win, a collection of writings (New York: Macmillan).

  29. 1966


    Commended by U.S. Department of the Interior for Columbia River songs, presented with Conservation Service Award, and honored by having substation of Bonneville Power Authority named for him.

    [Construction of Washington Shore Fish Ladder at downstream end of Bonneville Dam.] 1 May 1937. Historic American Buildings Survey, Prints and Photographs Division. Call Number: HABS, ORE,26-BONV, 2-F-90.
  30. 1967

    Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease (CCHD) formed by Marjorie Guthrie.

    October 3

    Died, Brooklyn State Hospital, New York.

  31. 1971

    Posthumously inducted into Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

  32. 1977

    Posthumously inducted into Nashville Songwriters Foundation, Inc.

  33. 1988

    Posthumously inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  34. 1996

    Posthumously awarded Lifetime Achievement Award by North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance.