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American Folklife Center Collections: Wisconsin

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting expressive culture in the state of Wisconsin at the Library of Congress.


Jim Leary, collector. DeWain Olby's notebook with handwritten lyrics for "Ironworker Blues." 2011. Cultural Traditions of Ironworkers in America's Upper Midwest (AFC 2011/062). Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center (AFC) collections from Wisconsin document expressive culture from nearly every corner of the state and span more than a century, beginning with the recordings Frances Densmore made of Chippewa singers at Lac du Flambeau in 1912, of Menominee people in 1925 and 1928, and of Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) singers between 1927 and 1932.

Documentation of the musical traditions of the many ethnic groups residing in the state was continued by recordists such as Alan Lomax and Sidney Robertson Cowell and colleagues working for the Resettlement Administration during the 1930s. Interest in occupational lore was evident in the recordings of lumberjack songs from that time period and continues to the present with collections of interviews with ironworkers and teachers.

Particularly noteworthy are the collections made in collaboration with researchers at the University of Wisconsin: Robert Draves and Helene Stratman-Thomas in 1940 and 1941, and then Stratman-Thomas, Aubrey Snyder, and Phyllis Pinkerton in 1946.

Cultural Traditions of Ironworkers in the Upper Midwest

A collection of sound recordings, photographs, logs and transcriptions of 26 interviews with ironworkers conducted between 2011-2013 by James Leary and Clark Halker in Wisconsin and Illinois. The fieldwork and preliminary processing of this collection, which is part of the American Folklife Center's Occupational Folklife Project, was supported by an Archie Green Fellowship.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

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Jim Leary presented his research devoted to a compilation and new edition of folk music recorded during the 1930s and 1940s by Sidney Robertson Cowell, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas in homes, hotels, community halls, church basements, and parks throughout Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Focusing on 175 representative performances by more than 200 singers and musicians—and including biographical sketches and photographs of performers, as well as transcriptions, translations, and annotations for songs in twenty-five languages, the field recordings were published in 2014 under the title "Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest,1937-1946."