Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Ben Heiman Folklore Collection

Accession Number: 62
Ben Heiman Folklore Collection, 1891-1988
Bulk Dates, 1972-1988
5.2 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Series Description
Series I - Articles and Journals
Series II - Audio-Visual
Series III - Books and Manuscripts
Series IV - Folktales
Series V - Indexes
Series VI - Personal Works

Access and Use

Access: No restrictions other than Federal Copyright laws on published materials.

Provenance: Ben Heiman’s wife donated his papers to Loyal Jones, who then donated them to Berea College Special Collections & Archives.

Preferred Citation: Ben Heiman Folklore Collection, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.

Related Archives


The Heiman collection includes journals, articles, books and indexes devoted to folklore, tapes (audio and video) of storytellers and folklorists, a few manuscripts, clippings, a plan for teaching story-telling, correspondence, and many folktales. Folktale categories range from broad topics, such as fairytales, folktales, and ghost stories, to very specific topics, like log cabins or services for the dead. Many of the materials in this collection are copied from other sources.


Ben Heiman (1914-1988) told mostly Appalachian stories to thousands of children in Alabama through the library and school systems, and fostered story-telling by children. A Lieutenant Colonel in the US Airforce, Ben Heiman concluded his career at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. He and his wife Bobbie had one daughter, Lori. After retiring in 1972, Heiman worked fulltime for volunteer organizations, specializing as a story-teller with the Huntsville libraries and the city and county school systems. Eventually a dial-in system was set up so that children could hear taped stories by "Mr. Ben" as well as hear him in person. He encouraged the children in his audiences to become storytellers themselves. Many of the stories he collected and told are Appalachian, but he also collected Afro-American and international stories and traced parallel types.

Series Description
13 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Articles and Journals Boxes 1-3

Materials in this series consist of published articles and journals. The articles cover a variety of topics, including fairy tales, storytelling, teaching, and crafts. The journal section has sporadic copies of the Journal of American Folklore from 1891-1972 and the North Carolina Folklore Journal (1977-1988), among other titles.

Series II Audio-Visual Box 4

This series consists of audio and videotape of folklorists and storytellers. People interviewed in this series include Richard Chase, Maude Long, and Hattie Presnell, Connie Reagan and Ray Hicks. There are numerous Jack Tales on these tapes.

Series III Books and Manuscripts Boxes 5-7

This series contains books and manuscripts concerning folklore and folktales. The manuscripts are Cheryl Oxford's Jack Tales as Told by Traditional North Carolina Storytellers and John Ramsay's Dog Tales. Leonard Roberts' I Bought Me a Dog and Folktales of the Southern Mountains are original publications. This series has photocopies of books by James Aswell, Elizabeth Cook, John Greenway, Maria Leach, Eric Sloane and Stith Thomson, among others.

Series IV Folktales Boxes 7-12

This series consists of copied folktales. The folktales are arranged by subject, such as the type of story or the country or region of origin. There are folktales from Africa, Ireland, Spain, Finland, and numerous other countries. Black folktales, ghost stories, scary stories, Jacktales, and unusual deaths are a few of the types of stories in this series.

Series V Indexes Box 13

This series contains reference material for further research into folktales. In this series are bibliographies, notes, tables of contents, and indexes Mr. Heiman found in his reading. Many of the bibliographies, etc. were copied from books that were the sources for the folktales in the collection.

Series VI Personal Works Box 13 cont.

This series consists of the personal papers of Ben Heiman. Correspondence is limited; however there are letters concerning Tarheel Tales Theatre and the folktale "Which is Witch." Included in this series are clippings about his performances and notes on an index Mr. Heiman was compiling. A copy of Mr. Heiman's original work, Folktales: A Window to the World is also in this series. The largest section of the series consists of folktales told by Mr. Heiman. There are typewritten copies of his own versions and copied versions of the stories, arranged alphabetically by title. Obituaries have been added.

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