The Mary Wheeler (1892-1979) Ballad Collection
0.6 Linear Feet
Overview & Series Description
Series I - Personal / Biographical
Series II - Correspondence
Series III - Printed Materials
Series IV - Photographs
Series V - Music Collecting
Overview of the Collection
These are correspondence, photographs, song texts / tune transcriptions, and
newspaper clippings relating to the work of folk music collector, Mary Wheeler,
mostly during a year in residence (1926-1927) at Hindman Settlement School
in Knott County, Kentucky.
Born in 1892 in Paducah, Kentucky, Wheeler was the daughter of a well-known
attorney. It was part of a young society woman's education to be trained in
music, but she took this training and made it her life's work. She is best
known for two books she authored: Kentucky Mountain Folk Songs (1937)
and Roustabout Songs: A Collection of Ohio River Valley Songs (1939).
At a time when a young woman's training was to prepare her for her "life's
work" of marriage, the music educator became one of the first career women
in her hometown. Wheeler studied in New York and Chicago and in 1925, began
studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Her summers were devoted to
her studies and the other months of the year, she was much in demand as a vocal
performer. She obtained her B.A. in voice in 1933 and her M.A. in musicology
Wheeler taught music at the Hindman Settlement School in Hindman, Knott County,
Kentucky beginning in the fall of 1926. It was during this time that she collected
the tunes she eventually published in the late 1930's. She made many friends
among area residents in the course of her ballad and song collecting. She was
very concerned that she accomplish an authentic documentation of the tunes
she had been entrusted with. Because children at the Settlement School were
from different areas, there were often differing versions of the same ballad
which Wheeler painstakingly transcribed by hand (see Wheeler's Mountain Notebook).
Upon leaving Hindman, Wheeler began to include in her repertoire songs she
collected there, singing them with mountain dulcimer accompaniment - an instrument
native to parts of eastern Kentucky.
In pursuing her master's degree, Wheeler turned to a subject she had been familiar
with all of her life: the Ohio River. Raised within walking distance of the
river, part of Wheeler's childhood included seeing the packet boats and hearing
the music of the black laborers who loaded and unloaded cargo from these boats.
She noticed that paddle boats were disappearing and those most familiar with
this way of life were aging. Wheeler was concerned that as African-American
people as a whole progressed socially, there might not be much of an interest
in preserving this genre of music - the lyrics of which are in dialect and
which spoke of a time some may have preferred to forget.
None of Wheeler's notes from her roustabout songs are in this collection; however,
there are one or two newspaper clippings on the subject of "Negro Music."
Wheeler spent many years as a faculty member of the music department of Paducah
Community College (formerly known as Paducah Junior College).
Related Berea College Archives
J.A. Stucky Papers, SAA 23
2 Manuscript Boxes
Personal / Biographical
This series includes newspaper or journal biographical sketches. Besides personal
information, these materials chronicle her extensive travels to perform Kentucky
traditional music for various clubs and other organizations.
|Box 1, cont.
This series includes job inquiries, letters about song collecting and publishing,
an extensive unsigned description and defense of the condition of eastern Kentuckians
dating from her year in the region, and letters offering folk song material.
|Box 1, cont.
This series includes magazines dealing with mountain life and health issues,
settlement school publications, and music recital programs. The bulk of this
series centers around Wheeler's year-long stay in eastern Kentucky and issues
that came out of her concern for the people there.
|Box 1, cont.
This series includes a photo album / memory book, loose photos mostly relating
to Wheeler's Hindman Settlement School period in eastern Kentucky.
This series includes a wide range of mostly hand written or typed material. Among
these are Wheeler's Kentucky Mountain Folk Song notebook (the original book in
which she kept the typed lyrics of the songs she collected at Hindman), hand-notated
tune transcriptions, handwritten song texts written by Wheeler and others, a
set of loose typewritten song ballads, and both typed and handwritten collection
notes. There are also published folksong collections by musicians other than
Wheeler and clippings related to eastern Kentucky music and African-American "shout" songs.
(A list of song titles concludes the box list.)
- Personal/Biographical: General
- Personal/Biographical: Clippings, 1928-82
- Correspondence, n.d.; 1927-28; 1968-69
- Printed material
- Photograph album
- Folksong Books
- "Notebook of Kentucky Mountain Songs"
- Handwritten Ballad Lyrics
- Typed Ballad Lyrics with Tune Notations
Listing of Songs / Ballads in the Mary Wheeler Collection
|A Cape Boy's Love Song (two copies)
|Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
||The Blind Child
|Careless Love (two copies)
||The Drunkard's Lone Child
||The Dying Message
|Down in the Valley
||The Ill-Fated Lovers
||The Merchant's Daughter
|In the Pines
||The New River Train
|I Wish I was Single Again
||The Pretty Mohea
||The Sailor Boy, two versions
||When the Roses Bloom Again
||Young Men and Maids
|Little Frankie -- version one
|Little Frankie -- version two
||Untitled (by first line)
||And so you have come again...
|Lady Nancy and Lord Lovely
||As I walked out one bright and merry morning
|Little Rosewood Casket
||As I was walking by the new river shore
|London City (two copies)
||As Mary and William down on the seashore...
|Oh, I'll Not Marry At All
||I have just written him a letter
|On the Death of George M. Williamson
||In a cool and shady woodlane
|On Top of Old Smoky (two copies)
||Little sweetheart we are parted
|Over Broad Waters
||My native home is Georgia
||Once there was two cheeks as red...
|Randall, My Song
||Up came the F.F.V., the fastest on the line...
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