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- Physical Description:
Original song text, music, drawings, correspondence, and other writings by Woody Guthrie; news clippings, articles, correspondence, and business records related to Woody Guthrie. Date span: 1927-1985. Bulk dates: Guthrie song text, writings, and drawings, 1940-1948; correspondence by and to Woody Guthrie, 1944-1951; correspondence regarding Woody Guthrie, 1956-1977.
Arranged in boxes and map files by type of material. The major groupings are song texts, drawings, correspondence, and clippings.
Woodrow (Woody) Wilson Guthrie (1912-1967) was one of the most important folk composers in American history. Born in Okemah, Oklahoma, Guthrie's name is associated with the common people and those displaced by the Great Dust Storms of the 1930's. He was a prolific songwriter, and his song "This Land is Your Land" is considered by many to be his best known. During the height of his short recording career Guthrie recorded with many of the best-known folk singers and players in the New York area. A one time member of the Almanac Singers with Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Bess Hawes and others, Woody also frequently performed with Lead Belly, Burl Ives, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Guthrie's earliest recordings were done for RCA and came out as a set entitled Dust Bowl Ballads, later reissued by Folkways.
It was Guthrie's association with Moses Asch of Folkways Records which yielded the bulk of Guthrie's recorded legacy. Guthrie was given a stipend by Asch to come by the studio when he felt like recording. A one day session in March 1944, yielded 75 recorded songs alone. His songs were recorded on glass discs which now reside in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections. Much of this material was released by Asch on various Asch, Disc and Folkways recordings, including his classic children's material.
Although known for his music, Guthrie was also an artist. Among the materials that came with the Folkways Records Collection are watercolors and pen and ink drawings. He also was a writer of note, his most famous work being the novel "Bound for Glory". Historians have begun to consider Guthrie an important literary figure of the 20th century. The Woody Guthrie Papers, including typed song lyrics, correspondence, drawings, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous items, were left with Moses Asch, and came to the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections as part of the Moses and Frances Asch Collection. Guthrie died of Huntington's Chorea in 1967 after a long hospitalization.
Anne S. Abaeo, Amy Roberson, and Stephanie Smith
Processing Information note
Prepared by Anne S. Abaeo, Amy Roberson, and Stephanie Smith, 2004, based on the original inventory by Jeff Place and Lori Elaine Taylor.
Encoded by Brittany Dunton, December 2011.
The Smithsonian Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives acquired the Woody Guthrie Papers in 1987 with the purchase of the Moses and Frances Asch (Folkways) Collection. The Asch Collection holds the business papers and original recordings of the Folkways record label. Within these materials Guthrie left behind hundreds of documents, including original typescript and manuscript writings, drawings, correspondence, and clippings, which comprises the Woody Guthrie Papers.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access note
Access by appointment only. Contact the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at 202-633-7322 for additional information.
Conditions Governing Use note
Restrictions may apply concerning the use, duplication, or publication of items in these collections. Rights to the materials created by Woody Guthrie are held by the Guthrie family. Further information is available from Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives, 250 West 57th Street, Suite 1218, New York, NY 10107, tel. 212-541-6230, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please consult the archivists if you have additional questions about the Guthrie materials and their use.
Related Archival Materials note
This collection is part of the Moses and Frances Asch Collection.
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
600 Maryland Ave SW