Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the D.K. Wilgus Folklore Collection
 

Accession Number: 67
D.K. Wilgus Folklore Collection, 1918-1989
5 Linear Feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Overview & Series Description
Biography
Series I - Biographical
Series II - Teaching Materials
Series III - Writings
Series IV - Reference Material
Series V - Subject Files
Series VI - General Folklore Collections
Series VII - Field Recordings Indexes and Transcriptions
Series VIII - Student Folklore Collections
Series IX - Josiah Combs Folklore Collection
Series X - Herbert Halpert Folklore Collection
Series XI - Lynwood Montell Folklore Collection
Series XII - E.C. Perrow Folklore Collection
Series XIII - Leonard Roberts Folklore Collection
Series XIV - D.L. Thomas Folklore Collection
Series XV - Newspapers - Folklore and Local History
Series XVI - Ohio Valley Folk Research Project Publications
Series XVII - Kentucky Superstitions Card Archive

Overview of the Collection

These are correspondence, ballads, songs, stories, sayings, and legends collected by folklorist D.K. Wilgus (1918-1989). They were deposited in Berea’s Southern Appalachian Archives by Eleanor Long-Wilgus in 1991.

The Wilgus collection is an important resource for the continued study of many aspects of Kentucky folklore. It includes material that Wilgus collected directly and via students while teaching at Western Kentucky State College (now University) 1950-1962. Also included are a sizable body of folksong, ballad, and other material that Wilgus obtained from such earlier folklore scholars as Josiah Combs, Herbert Halpert, and E.C. Perrow, whose study of Kentucky folklore date to the turn of the nineteenth century.

Biography

D.K. Wilgus was a native of Columbus, Ohio, and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Ohio State University (1941-1954). His Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898 remains the definitive overview of the history of folksong scholarship in America. Wilgus was the first to plead “hillbilly” music’s case for academic respectability. He was a pioneer in the teaching of Anglo-American Folksong as a rigorous academic subject, in identifying the blues ballad as a separate folksong genre, and developing the “narrative theme” approach to ballad classification.

Wilgus taught at Western Kentucky University (1950-1963), where he founded and edited the scholarly journal, Kentucky Folklore Record. The remainder of his academic career (1963-1989) was spent at UCLA, where he established and served as first chairperson of that university’s Department of Folklore and Mythology.

Related Berea College Archives

Josiah Combs Collection, SAA 71, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives
Bradley Kincaid Collection, SAA 13, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives
Leonard Roberts Collection, SAA 57, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives 

Related Archives at Other Institutions

D.K. Wilgus Collection, Folklife Archives, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY.
D.K. Wilgus Papers, Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
D.K. Wilgus Folksong Collection, Ethnomusicology Archive, University of California Los Angeles.

Series Description
11 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Biographical Box 1

This series consists mostly of tributes and commentaries on Wilgus’s scholarly achievements published on the occasion of his death.

Series II Teaching Materials Box 1

This series consists of lecture notes, bibliographies and tests used by Wilgus while teaching at Western Kentucky State College (now University).

Series III Writings Box 1

This series consists of rough draft typescript material relating to the folklore bibliographies and folksong syllabus that Wilgus published in Kentucky Folklore Record,1955-1962.

Series IV Reference Material Box 1

This series consists of bibliographical and discographical listings of published and archival sources that document various aspects of Kentucky folklore and music.

Series V Subject Files Box 2

This series consists of correspondence, printed material, and clippings relating to a wide variety of subjects and individuals. There is also an index card file of sayings and other spoken lore.

Series VI General Folklore Collections Boxes 3-5

This series consists of folklore narrative and song texts collected either directly by Wilgus or via his students and other associates. Narrative subject areas include customs, ghost stories, jokes, riddles, sayings, similes, and superstitions.

Series VII Field Recordings Indexes and Transcriptions Box 6

This series consists of content records for approximately 148 audio field recordings of folk music and narrative recorded by Wilgus and others, 1955-1965. For several there are also typed transcriptions of song texts heard on the recordings. The recordings are housed at the Western Kentucky University Folklife Archives. There are also copies at the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive.

Series VIII Student Folklore Collections  Box 7

This series consists of student folklore collections that include such subject areas as ballads, games, legends, local history, recipes, remedies, and superstitions.

Series IX Josiah Combs Folklore Collection Box 8

This series consists of correspondence, ballad and song texts conveyed to Wilgus by native Kentucky folklore scholar, Josiah Combs. Much of the material was obtained in connection with Wilgus's 1961 publication of Combs’ early 1900s-era ballad collection in the Kentucky Folklore Record. Also included is the original manuscript of Combs' Some Kentucky Highland Stories.

Series X Herbert Halpert Folklore Collection Box 9

This series consists of ballad and song texts collected from students during the middle 1940s by folklorist Herbert Halpert, while he was teaching at Murray State College (now University). 

Series XI Lynwood Montell Folklore Collection Box 9

This series consists of ballad and song texts collected 1958-1970 by Western Kentucky State College Folklorist, Lynwood Montell. 

Series XII E.C. Perrow Folklore Collection Boxes 9-10

This series consists of correspondence, song texts, and folklore narrative material collected from students by folklore scholar E.C. Perrow, while he was teaching at the University of Louisville during the early teens of the 1900s. Narrative subject areas include anecdotes, games, riddles, rhymes, and superstitions. 

Series XIII Leonard Roberts Folklore Collection Box 10

This series consists of song texts and folklore narrative material collected from eastern Kentucky students in the 1960s by folklore scholar Leonard Roberts. Narrative subject areas include jokes, rhymes, riddles, sayings, superstitions, tall tales, and tongue twisters. 

Series XIV D.L. Thomas Folklore Collection Box 10

This series consists of song texts and folk speech material collected from various persons by Centre College faculty member D.L. Thomas during the early teens of the 1900s.  

Series XV Newspapers - Folklore and Local History Box 10

This series consists of folklore and local history writing from both small town and city newspapers. Included are several pieces by such well known Kentucky columnists as Allen Trout, Joe Creason, and Nevyle Schackelford. 

Series XVI Ohio Valley Folk Research Project Publications Box 11


This series consists of folklore and local history publications of the Ohio Valley Folk Research Project conducted in the late 1950s by the Ross County Historical Society, Chillicothe, Ohio. They appear to be limited edition booklets and are quite distinctive in that the covers of each booklet are made of wallpaper.

Series XVII Kenutcky Superstitions Card Archive Small Boxes 1-31


The Kentucky Superstitions Card Archive includes thousands of notecards that record specific sayings, idioms, and anecdotes relating to local folklore, superstitions, and general beliefs. Compiled by D.K. Wilgus with the assistance of Eleanor Long-Wilgus, the Card Archive is organized by subject. Topics include signs of health and illness, folk remedies, weather signs, and superstitions related to relationships, birth and death, bodily functions and disease, farming, and nature.

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