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John F. Smith Traditional Music Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: BCA 0006 SAA 005

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of traditional music collected by John F. Smith in 1915 from Berea College Normal School students enrolled in his English course entitled, "Composition and Rhetoric".


  • created: 1915-1940
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1940


Conditions Governing Access

Records can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no restrictions on the collection other than federal copyright regulations.


1.20 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



John F. Smith taught in the Berea College Normal School.  As part of his Composition and Rhetoric course, Smith asked students to write down the names of banjo and fiddle songs and tunes known to them in their home districts of eastern Kentucky and Tennessee.  The results are a large, varied body of material that includes ballads, songs, fiddle and banjo tunes, and games.  Several students also included lists of musical instruments present in their home communities and descriptions of music related social events such as house dances and singing schools. Smith’s students came from a part of Kentucky and Tennessee located on the western edge of Appalachia. The area includes Garrard, Lincoln, Casey, Pulaski, Madison, Estill, Wolfe, Owsley, Breathitt, Magoffin, Floyd, Clay Leslie, and Knox counties in Kentucky and Sevier and Marshall Counties in Tennessee. Taken as a whole, their lists offer valuable insights concerning the kind of songs being sung and the repertory of traditional musicians in this region prior to the changes in musical tastes brought about by radio and phonograph records beginning in the 1920s.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged in three series:

1. Ballad and Song Texts

2. Tune Transcription Notebooks

3. Fiddle and Banjo Tunes, Musical Events, Instruments, and Games

Source of Acquisition

Mrs. John F. Smith

Appraisal Information

The collection was given to Berea College by Mrs. John F. Smith after the death of her husban in 1940.

Related Materials

Appalachian Ballad and Folk Music Collection

Talitha Ethel Powell McClure Ballad Collection

James Watt Raine Ballad Collection

Other Descriptive Information

Note: See Appendix to John F. Smith Traditional Music Guide (attached in PDF format as On-line Images/Records) listing known contributors to this collection.

Collection Number: BCA 0006 SAA 005

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Berea College Special Collections and Archives Repository

Hutchins Library
100 Campus Drive
Berea Kentucky 40404 US