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Major Bowes and the Original Amateur Hour

Using the Collections

Materials related to the Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour are housed in two divisions of the Library of Congress.  The Recorded Sound Research Center of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division serves audio materials, and the Performing Arts Reading Room of the Music Division serves print materials.  The Moving Image Research Center holds television broadcasts of the revival hosted by Ted Mack.

Certain restrictions to use or copying of materials may apply.

Online Catalogs and Finding Aids

The dataset: Recorded Sound reference librarians can also search an onsite dataset for more detailed information on the performers and performances captured on the recordings in the collection. The dataset compiles three previous sources for searching the Amateur Hour materials: application materials from the Music Division, a card catalog in the Recorded Sound Research Center, and a set of notes written by Recorded Sound audio engineers. The dataset makes the process more efficient for librarians and researchers, as well as significantly decreases the handling of fragile paper materials as the physical applications no longer need to be consulted when searching for particular performers. Prior to compilation the applications were accessible only by last name, severely complicating the possibility of locating performers working under alternate names, affiliated with a group, or missing an original application document. Completion of this project has added more than 3,500 previously unsearchable performers to the total group of Amateur Hour participants represented in the collection – now over 13,000 individuals.

Please contact Recorded Sound reference staff for a search of the dataset.

Listening Procedures & Guidelines

Underwood and Underwood. [Woman with headphones listening to radio]. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Listening Appointments

Appointments are required for listening to most of the material in our collection. Recordings do not circulate. Listeners can telephone the Research Center at (202) 707-7833 or submit an email request through [email protected].

A growing number of our recordings have been digitized and are available for listening on demand. All others will take at least two weeks for our engineers to digitize for your listening appointment. Special arrangements are required for requests of more than five items at one time. Certain audio formats will require more time to digitize and will necessitate a longer wait. Please contact the Research Center as soon as possible with large requests or to identify previously digitized recordings.

Patrons are able to use the Research Center without appointment to access the catalogs, reference books, archival collections, microfiche, microfilm and other reference sources.

Listening Requests

Requests to listen to materials are submitted to our reference librarians. Be sure to include the name and title of the items requested, the call numbers (e.g. RWD 3214; LWO 5599 gr12 r2a1-3b, NCPB 5434, Decca 12-1401), and your personal contact information so we can confirm your appointment. Our engineers can typically prepare 8 items for a listening session. Please contact the Research Center if you have a longer list of items.


Recording equipment of any type is not allowed in the Research Center. Photographing images from the screen for reference purposes will be permitted only when authorized in advance by our reference staff.

Reader Identification Card

All users of the Library's research areas, including the Recorded Sound Research Center, are required to have a Reader Identification Card issued by the Library.