National Museum of the American Indian

Geoffrey O'Hara collection

Collection ID:
O'Hara, Geoffrey, 1882-1967
Physical Description:
1 Linear foot
45 Photographic prints
3 Sound discs (vinyl)
This collection includes documents and photographs related to Geoffrey O'Hara's work as a music instructor between 1913-1957. This includes material from his appointment as "Instructor of Native Indian Music" among the Navajo Nation (Diné) in 1913 as well as his correspondence with ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
Series 1: Navajo Indian Agency includes 45 photographic prints and .25 linear feet of documents from 1913-1914. Documents include correspondence between O'Hara and various officials in the Indian Affairs office, such as Acting Commissioner, Frederick H. Abbott. Much of this correspondence includes requests for funds, supplies and an interpreter for his work. The photographic prints include images made in the Navajo Nation, likely in 1913, at Fort Defiance, Arizona, Hubbell Trading post in Ganado, Arizona among other unidentified locations in Arizona and New Mexico.
Series 2: Correspondence with Frances Densmore and Others includes .6 linear feet of correspondence between Geoffrey O'Hara and Frances Densmore from 1926 to 1957. The majority of the letters are from Densmore to O'Hara, though some copies of responses from O'Hara are included as well. There are also several articles, bulletins, journals and other works written by Densmore that she sent to O'Hara through the years. In addition to written materials, there are three audio recordings (LPs) produced by the Library of Congress edited by Densmore.

Arranged into two series. Series 1: Navajo Indian Agency has two subseries, 1.1: Photographs and 1.2: Documents, arranged by subject. Series 2: Correspondence with Frances Densmore and Others is arranged chronologically.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Geoffrey O'Hara (February 2, 1882 – January 31, 1967) was a Canadian American composer, singer and music professor. O'Hara was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. He initially planned a military career. He moved to the United States in 1904, the same year he began performing in Vaudeville. He began recording for Edison Records in 1905. In 1913 O'Hara was appointed as "Instructor of Native Indian Music" by the Acting Commionner of Indian Affairs of the United States. He was recorded on phonograph cylinder lecturing about the complexity of the music as well as singing and playing several types of Navajo (Diné) traditional songs in 1914.During World War I, he was a singing instructor of patriotic songs for American troops.
O'Hara lectured on music and songwriting, and held positions at Teachers' College of Columbia University (1936–37), Huron College and the University of South Dakota, where he later received and honorary Doctor of Music degree in 1947. He lectured for the remainder of his life. In 1920, O'Hara helped organize The Composers' and Lyric Writers' Protective League. He also was a board member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), was the president of the Composers-Authors Guild, and served in the United Service Organizations (USO).
In 1919, he married Constance Dougherty from Massachusetts, and together they had two children; the same year, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. O'Hara composed over 500 popular and patriotic songs, and hymns. He had some moderate popular music hits in the 1910s with songs such as Your Eyes Have Told Me What I Did Not Know (1913), Tennessee, I Hear You Calling Me (1914), The Old Songs, and Over the Top: Military March (1917). His one huge hit was his song K-K-K-Katy (1918), one of the most popular tunes of the World War I era. It was sung in both World War I and World War II, occasionally as "K. K. K. K. P."
[Redacted and edited from Wikipedia entry.]

Rachel Menyuk
Custodial History
This collection had originally been processed with the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation records (NMAI.AC.001). The original box/folder numbers were Box 263, Folder 3 to Box 264, Folder 4.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Geoffrey O'Hara's daughter Nancy O'Hara to the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation in 1986.
Processing Information
Processed by Rachel Menyuk, Processing Archivist, 2022.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions/Access: Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email:
Conditions Governing Use
Conditions/Use: Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. Please submit a written request to For personal or classroom use, users are invited to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not modified in any way, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian. For more information please see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use and NMAI Archive Center's Digital Image request website.
Preferred Citation
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Geoffrey O'Hara papers, NMAI.AC.287, Box and Folder Number. National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Geoffrey O'Hara Cylinder Recordings and Lantern Slides of Navajo Indians. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (WA MSS S-2625).

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Diné (Navajo) Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arizona -- Fort Defiance Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chelly, Canyon de (Ariz.) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anthropology -- Ethnomusicology Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Densmore, Frances Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Museum of the American Indian
4220 Silver Hill Rd
Suitland, Maryland 20746-2863