World History Sources Logo

Keyword Search Graphic

Advanced Search GraphicAdvanced Search Go Button

California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties

Library of Congress, American Memory Project

Web Review Icon

This site features 35 hours of folk and popular music sound recordings from several European, Slavic, Middle Eastern, and English- and Spanish-speaking communities. The Work Projects Administration California Folk Music Project collected these 817 songs in Northern California between 1938 and 1940. Songs are in 12 languages and represent 185 musicians. The collection also includes 168 photographs of musicians, 45 scale drawings and sketches of instruments, and numerous written documents, including ethnographic field reports and notes, song transcriptions, published articles, and project correspondence. The materials are organized by subject, audio title, performer and 18 ethnic groups, including Icelandic, Assyrian, and Finnish. The bulk of the material is classified as Anglo-American and includes popular songs from the Gold Rush and Barbary Coast eras, medicine show tunes, and ragtime numbers. Organized for the New Deal by folk music collector Sidney Robertson Cowell, this was one of the earliest ethnographic field projects to document folk and popular music of such diverse origin in one region. The site also includes short essays describing the California Folk Music Project, the ethnographic work of Sidney Robertson Cowell, and a glossary of musical instruments.

finding world history | unpacking evidence | analyzing documents | teaching sources | about

A project of the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University,
with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
© 2003-2005 center for history & new media