This collection, which dates from 1926-1986, documents the output of Moses Asch through the various record labels he founded and co-founded, and includes some of his personal papers. The Asch collection includes published recordings, master tapes, outtakes, business records, correspondence, photographs, and film.
Scope and Contents:
The Moses and Frances Asch Collection measures 841 cubic feet and dates from 1926-1987, with some contemporary, relevant correspondence, clippings, and ephemera added after 1987.
Most of the collection consists of audio recordings (commercial 78 rpm and long-playing records, open reel tapes, acetate discs, and test pressings), correspondence with recording artists and producers, artwork, photographs, ephemera, clippings, record production materials, writings, and business papers relating to Folkways Records. Materials relating to Folkways Records can be found primarily in the Correspondence, Folkways Production, Business Records, Photographs, Artwork, Sound Recordings, and Film series.
The collection also contains some biographical materials and personal correspondence, including materials related to Asch's first business, Radio Laboratories, located in the Biographical Materials series. Correspondence, ephemera, photographs, record production materials, business papers, and recordings relating to Asch's record labels before Folkways Records (Asch Recordings, Disc Company of America, Cub Records) are located in the Early Label Materials series as well as the Audio Recordings and Photographs series.
The collection is arranged in 10 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1942-1987
Series 2: Folkways Production, 1946-1987
Series 3: Business Records, 1940-1987
Series 4: Woody Guthrie papers, 1927-1985
Series 5: Early Label Materials, 1940-1949
Series 6: Biographical Materials, 1926-1987
Series 7: Photographs
Series 8: Artwork
Series 9: Audio Recordings
Series 10: Film
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The son of Yiddish writer Sholem Asch, Moses Asch was born in Poland in 1905. His childhood was spent in Poland, France, Germany, and New York. While young, Asch developed an interest in radio electronics, which ultimately lead him to his life's work, recording the music and sounds of the world. He established several record labels in succession, sometimes partnering with other record companies. Two of his fist record companies, Asch Recordings and DISC Co. of America, went bankrupt. They were followed by his best-known label, Folkways Records, which was founded in 1948 with Marian Distler (1919-1964). He was still working on Folkways recordings when he died in 1986.
Folkways Records sought to document the entire world of sound. The 2,168 titles Asch released on Folkways include traditional and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word in many languages, and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, and current events. Asch's business practices revolved around the commitment to keep every recording issued by Folkways in print, despite low sales. Asch stayed afloat by cutting costs where he could (such as color printing) and offering a high-quality product, meticulously recorded and accompanied by extensive liner notes. In doing this, he could charge a slightly higher price than other commercial outfits. Despite a tenuous relationship with financial solvency, Folkways grew to be not only one of the most important independent record companies in the United States in the 20th century, but also one of the largest and most influential record companies in the world.
Moses Asch's record labels featured famous and lesser known American writers, poets, documentarians, ethnographers, and grass roots musicians on commercial recordings. American folk icon Woody Guthrie recorded on the Asch, Disc, and Folkways labels, and the Asch Collection includes some of his correspondence, lyrics, drawings, and writings. The collection also includes correspondence with other notable musicians and artists such as John Cage, Langston Hughes, Margaret Walker, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, Pete Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Alan Lomax, Henry Cowell, and Kenneth Patchen. Also in the collection are ethnographic field notes and photographs by as well as correspondence with Béla Barók, Sidney Robertson Cowell, Harold Courlander, Helen Creighton, Laura Boulton, and Samuel Charters. Asch hired various prominent artists and graphic designers including David Stone Martin, Ben Shahn, John Carlis, and Ronald Clyne to create album cover art for his recordings. Much of the original art and designs for these covers can be found in the Asch Collection.
Asch's output of recordings on various labels, including published recordings, open reel master tapes, outtakes, and acetate disks, in addition to his business papers, correspondence, photographs, and other files were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution in 1987. The collection came to the Smithsonian with the understanding that all 2168 titles under the Folkways label would be kept available in perpetuity.
Shared Stewardship of Collections:
The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage acknowledges and respects the right of artists, performers, Folklife Festival participants, community-based scholars, and knowledge-keepers to collaboratively steward representations of themselves and their intangible cultural heritage in media produced, curated, and distributed by the Center. Making this collection accessible to the public is an ongoing process grounded in the Center's commitment to connecting living people and cultures to the materials this collection represents. To view the Center's full shared stewardship policy, which defines our protocols for addressing collections-related inquiries and concerns, please visit https://folklife.si.edu/archives#shared-stewardship.
Ralph Rinzler arranged the Smithsonian's acquisition of the Moses and Frances Asch Collection in 1987, beginning with Asch before his death in 1986 and continuing with extensive discussions between Rinzler and the Asch family. Since its acquisition, archivist Jeff Place and others have added contemporary, relevant correspondence with Folkways artists and related individuals.
Access to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is by appointment only. Visit our website for more information on scheduling a visit or making a digitization request. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies.
Primarily research files and notes, subject files, interview tapes and transcripts, correspondence, writings, and other materials compiled by Harmon for a never-published biography of art dealer J.B. Neumann, titled The Art Lover. Found are photocopies of J.B. Neuman's correspondence with Karl Nierendorf, Clifford Odets, Elsa Schmid, and Alfred Stieglitz; photocopies and other materials from the J.B. Neumann Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Center, including photocopies of the magazine published by Neumann titled Art Lover Library, 1930-1957 (volume 1, 1930 is original bound volume), copyprints and photocopies of photographs of Neumann, his family, and of other subjects; interview transcripts and audio tapes with numerous artists conducted in the mid-1980s; research notes and files; and subject files on numerous artists (all photocopies).
Harmon's personal papers include resumes; copies of letters from friends, family, dealers and others; photographs of Harmon's paintings; writings, including poems, excerpts from diaries, autobiographical essays, and her autobiography FREEHAND; photocopies of various mss. drafts of Harmon's biography of Neumann, The Art Lover, and related writings by Harmon, including The Art Dealer and the Playwright, and Synopsis of Art Lover, ca. 1987-1990 ; a transcript of an interview of Harmon conducted by Karl Fortress, 1967; magazine and newspaper clippings; exhibition announcements and catalogs; and miscellany.
Interviewees include: Dore Ashton, Sally Avery, Alfred Barr, Phillip Bruno, Al Copley, Dorothy Dehner, Bettina Drew (about Nelson Algren), Elsie Driggs (also found is a video interview and transcript of Driggs by Merryman Gatch, n.d.), Ben Hertzberg, Leonard Hutton, Lewis Isaacs, Max Kahn, Katharine Kuh, Johanna Neumann Lamm, Frances Manacher, Peter Neumann, Albrecht Neumann, Nolbert Rothbaum, Margarete Schultz, Joseph Solman, Margarete Sapanel, Hugh Stix, Ilse Vogel with Howard Knotts, and Edward M.M. Warburg.
Biographical / Historical:
Painter and sculptor; New York City. Harmon worked for the influential art dealer J.B. Neumann, and spent several years preparing a biography of him which was never published. As an artist, she lived in Europe in the early part of the century, and worked on WPA art projects in the 1930s.
Donated 1983 and 1998 by Lily Harmon.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
The Dale-Patterson family papers, which date from 1866 to 2010 and measure 6 linear feet, document the personal and professional lives of the Dale-Patterson family who came to live in Hillsdale, Anacostia, area of Washington, D.C., in 1892.
Scope and Contents note:
The Dale-Patterson family papers, which date from 1866 to 1990 and measure 6 linear feet, document the personal and professional lives of the Dale-Patterson family who came to live in Hillsdale, Anacostia, area of Washington, D.C., in 1892. The collection is comprised of correspondence, photographs, clippings, and ephemera.
The collection is arranged in four series:
Series 1: Dale-Patterson Family papers
Series 2: Charles Qualls papers
Series 3: Community Organizations
Series 4: Subject Files
The Dale family came to Washington, DC in 1886 when John Henry Dale, Sr., a gifted self-taught man, obtained a position as clerk in the newly contracted Pension Bureau building at 5th and G Streets, NW. First they lived near 13th Street and Florida Avenue, NW, then moved to Howard Road in Anacostia. Dale built a house at 2619 Nichols Avenue, now Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, drawing the plans and supervising the construction. The Dales and only one other family lived in this solidly built house for 100 years before it was sold to a church group and demolished.
Finding Aid Note: This finding aid is associated with a MARC collection-level record.361883
The Dale-Patterson Family collection was donated to the Anacostia Community Museum on April 07, 2013.
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dale-Patterson Family collection is the physical property of the Anacostia Community Museum. Literary and copyright belong to the author/creator or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with the Anacostia Community Museum. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archives.
Pearl Bowser is a filmmaker, producer, author, lecturer, and highly acclaimed scholar of African American film who is recognized as an authority on the works of Oscar Micheaux, a noted writer, director, and producer of race films from 1919 to 1948.
Born Pearl Johnson on June 25, 1931, in Sugar Hill, Harlem, New York, she was named after her mother (also Pearl Johnson), a domestic worker who had been raised in a Catholic nunnery. On occasional Saturdays, the younger Pearl would accompany her mother to work in apartments in lower Manhattan, where she would assist her by folding handkerchiefs for a small allowance. After moving to a lower part of Harlem when she was about four years old, she met Harlem entrepreneur "Bumpy" Johnson, for whom she and other children in the neighborhood did odd jobs such as counting coins or attending to his ice-cream stand. Johnson, who would sometimes give the children joy rides in his Cadillac, occasionally allowed Pearl and the other children to borrow books from his extensive library, provided that they read them and submitted to a quiz.
As a child, Bowser had several racist encounters. For example, one of her white kindergarten teachers at her elementary school wore gloves in the classroom as to not touch Black pupils. She was also occasionally teased for having a gap between her teeth but felt insulated from sustained bullying because she had several older brothers who sometimes protected her. On a separate occasion, when she was about nine years old, her mother sent her on a trip from New York to the South to visit relatives. Although her mother had purchased tickets for her to be in a Pullman car, when she changed trains in Washington, DC., she was forced to ride in the car behind the engine, which left her covered in soot.
An avid reader, Pearl excelled in elementary and high school and received a scholarship to attend Brooklyn College, where she majored in biology. She supplemented her income by recording the numbers in one of Bumpy Johnson's shops. Disappointed with the quality of the education she was receiving, Bowser withdrew from Brooklyn College, eventually landing a job at CBS where she worked on a team that analyzed Nielsen ratings.
In 1955, Pearl married fellow New Yorker LeRoy Bowser. By the mid-1960s, although Pearl and LeRoy Bowser had separate interests, they both were working simultaneously in the civil rights movement. While LeRoy was active in Brooklyn CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and went to the South in the summer to teach for what was the beginning of HeadStart, Pearl, along with other production activists, took to the streets documenting African American culture and issues—working to bring these films to schools. Additionally, Bowser wanted to write a cookbook to earn funds for Brooklyn's CORE organization. She was approached by David Davis, the editor of Tuesday Magazine. Tuesday had distribution in the Herald Tribune across the country as a Sunday supplement. As the urban-world magazine exploded in Black communities, "Joan" Bowser's two-page pictorials on Southern cooking with a set of recipes became very popular in the five years she wrote them. Bowser retained copyrights to the articles, and easily completed her cookbook a short time later.
Bowser's colleague at ABC, Charles Hobson, found a used book written by Peter Noble about Black films and Oscar Micheaux. The volume was slim and contained what little information contained in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) files. Hobson and his colleagues wanted to write a book about the topic, and they assigned Bowser to begin the research. As part of the project, Bowser went to California to interview actors who may have been in early Black films or may have worked with Micheaux. What she learned began her intensive scholarship into Micheaux and his fellow filmmakers.
In 1971, she organized her first film festival, the Black Film History Series. In 1979, she organized the nation's first American women's film festival in New York City. She also presented a major retrospective, Independent Black American Cinema 1920-1980, which toured the country during 1981 and 1982. She also directed the Journey Across Three Continents film and lecture series, which toured the country from 1983-1985. Bowser also served as president of the prestigious Flaherty Film Seminar in 1987. In 1989, she, alongside Grant Munro, programmed the 35th Flaherty Film Seminar, which featured films such as Finzan, Zajota and the Boogie Spirit, Daughters of the Dust, and many more. She has also been a judge at the world-renown Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESCPACO) in Burkina Faso (formerly known as Upper Volta).
In the 1980s Bowser was awarded an independent artists grant by the Ford Foundation to travel west and collect oral histories from individuals in Oscar Micheaux's orbit, loosely following the route he would have travelled decades earlier. Stopping in cities such as Roanoke, Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Jackson, Mississippi, she collected dozens of oral histories from actors, actresses etc. that knew Oscar Micheaux. Through this research she became an eminent figure in the Black independent film industry. Working as a programmer, she travelled around the United States and the world showing films by domestic and Black filmmakers within the Diaspora.
Despite her wealth of experience working as a programmer, it wasn't until the 1990s that Bowser made her directorial debut with the documentary film Midnight Ramble. Funded by American Experience, the film looks at African Americans and Hollywood movies from 1910 through the 1950s. In 2000, she, along with Louise Spence, co-authored Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Audiences, a book about the pioneering filmmaker. Additionally, she is founder and director of Chamba Educational Film Services, a film distribution company that specialized in distributing films by African American filmmakers. In the early 1980s, she renamed her company/collection as African Diaspora Images, a collection of historical and contemporary films documenting Black film history. She subsequently joined Third World Newsreel, where she was director of their theater department.
In 2012, Pearl Bowser donated her extensive collection of books, sound cassettes, films, film memorabilia, and papers to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
1940 United States Federal Census; New York, New York, New York, population schedule, p. 61B, house number 1486, family 195, Pearl Bowser; Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012 accessed: 10 Sept 2022); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm: m-t0627-02665
Bowser, Pearl. Pearl Bowser Oral History. Interview by Tuliza Fleming and Jennifer Lyon, July 21, 2011.
Acquired as a donation from Pearl Bowser in 2012.
Collection is open for research. Access to collection materials requires an appointment.
1 Film reel (Duplicate (25 min.), sd., col., 16 mm.)
Scope and Contents:
Motion picture made in cooperation with the Michigan Foundation for the Arts and the support of the Michigan Council for the Arts. The film documents the sculpture project undertaken by David Barr, an invisible tetrahedron spanning the inside of the Earth with the outer four corners just protruding from the crust of the Earth. The visible corners are located in Easter Island, South Africa, New Guinea, and Greenland. Barr chose the locations as areas untouched by Western technology and in remote areas in order to bridge diverse cultures. Also included is a cassette and transcript of a portion of the sound portion of the film, and a summary of the project by Barr.