Guide to the Frank Clyde Brown Papers, 1912-1974


English professor, Duke University, and folklorist, of Durham, N.C.

Records collected by Brown as secretary of the North Carolina Folklore Society, largely relating to folklore in the state but containing a small amount of material from other parts of the U.S. and Canada; together with correspondence, financial records, and notes, relating to the editorial project which published the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (Durham, N.C., 1952-1964).

Descriptive Summary

David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Brown, Frank Clyde, 1870-1943.
Frank Clyde Brown papers 1912-1974
Language of Material
70 Linear Feet, 54,000 Items
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

This collection includes Brown's personal papers, part of which are the items of the Folklore Collection, and the papers of the editorial project which published much of the folklore in seven volumes as (The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, 1953-1964. Also included are the research notes of Charles Bond, a graduate student who dealt with the collection in 1970, the original cylinders and discs made by Brown and re-recordings thereof on 78 r.p.m. records produced by the Library in 1944-1945 for the editorial project.

The collection is divided into the following series: Personal Papers, General Editors' Papers, Associate Editors' Papers, Charles Bond's Research Material, Cylinders and Discs, Re-recordings of the Cylinders and Discs.

The Personal Papers series includes all items gathered by Brown, as taken over in 1943 by Dr. Newman Ivey White, who served as first general editor of the project from its inception then until his death in 1948. Brown's personal correspondence related to his folklore study is filed alphabetically. It includes an alphabetical index and a chronological card index, both prepared for the editorial project. Correspondents include local folklorists and fellow professors. Other papers include composition books with fragmented transcriptions of folklore findings, draft of a talk on folklore, photographs of Brown, and some printed material. The folklore collection itself is filed alphabetically by contributor (the person who passed the folklore to Brown, not necessarily the person who knew the "lore" submitted to begin with) and also includes anonymous contributions. These "manuscripts," as Newman White labeled them, are the earliest extant record of the contributions, ranging from scrawled pencil notes on scrap pieces of paper to typescripts made by Brown and others from memory or made for one of his many efforts to publish a portion of the collection at various points in his life. Occasionally such a typescript will hold contributions of more than one person, and in such a case it is filed with one of the contributors, with cross-references. Especially prominent among the contributors is Maude Minish Sutton, a fellow folklorist, who gave Brown the use of her large findings of songs and games, among other contributions, along with her often voluminous notes on these items. Part of the folklore collection are folders of clippings gather by Brown which have been arranged according to Brown's Classification Scheme, described below. Another portion of this series is the Papers, Articles, Etc subseries, which contains auxiliary folklore information collected throughout Brown's effects by White and arranged in rough alphabetical order. These materials include specialized bibliographies, student papers, and printed items.

The General Editors' Papers include items which were related to and produced by the work of Newman Ivey White, who served as general editor from 1943 until his death in 1948, and Paull Franklin Baum who assumed duties then and saw the project through to its completion in 1964. Drafts of publication are included of the table of contents, title page, etc., for Volume 1 and of the general introduction, as well as other miscellaneous materials. Successive progress reports on the project include the Classification Scheme, where White sets out an extended version of Brown's sixteen-point system of folklore classification by which White organized the folklore contributions and determined the various groups of items: husbandry, omens, tokens, luck-signs, folk-medicine, magic, divination, housewifery, folk-sermons, pseudoscience, words, place-names, riddles and sayings, children's sayings, games, customs, legends, ballads, and songs. The series also includes newspaper and magazine reviews, correspondence, financial papers, and administrative materials. Finally, the series includes typescripts, both original and carbon copies, of each item in the collection, arranged according to the Classification Scheme. These were prepared by White.

The Associate Editors' Papers have been organized by editor, with H.M. Belden and A.P. Hudson being grouped together. Belden and Hudson's volumes on songs and ballads include editorial drafts for Volumes 1 and 3, as well as early drafts for Volumes 2 and 3. Paul Brewster's subseries includes returned typescripts for games and rhymes. Wayland D. Hand's subseries includes returned typescripts for superstitions. Claire Leighton's subseries includes typescripts for her to reference in creating woodcut illustrations for the volumes. Jan Schinhan's subseries includes lists of scores and songs. Archer Taylor's subseries includes typescripts and drafts for riddles. Stith Thompson's subseries includes typescripts of tales and legends. Bartlett Jere Whiting's subseries includes typescripts for proverbs. George Wilson's subseries includes typescripts of folk speech.

The Charles Bond's Research Material Series stems from the work of Charles Bond, a student of Professor Holger O. Nygard of Duke University. Bond opened the collection in 1970-1971, and prepared both an outline as well as a Tabulation of Unpublished Items in the collection. This series also includes correspondence, an index, and card files.

The Recordings Series includes original wax cylinders and aluminum discs (these are unable to be played); re-recordings of the cylinders and discs; and supplementary material.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

In addition, original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use. Some use copies are available in the collection. Otherwise, Research Services staff need to produce use copies before contents can be accessed.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Personal Papers

(69 boxes)
Personal correspondence related to folklore study, filed alphabetically
Box 1-6
Chronological Card Index
Box 7-8
Alphabetical Index
Box 9
Miscellaneous papers
Box 9
Brown's Master Bibliography of Folklore
Box 9
Index to the Journal of American Folklore
Box 9
Notebook containing recording field notes and notations
Box 10
Biographical sketch of Brown
Box 10
Frank C. Brown Folklore Collection
Box 11-34
Frank C. Brown Folklore Collection: oversize clippings
Box 148
Papers, Articles, Etc., which include auxiliary folders and information
Box 35-69
Drafts for publication of table of contents, title page, etc., for Volume 1 and of the general introduction
Box 70
Successive reports on the progress of the publication project
Box 70
Newspaper and magazine reviews of project
Box 70
Correspondence and financial papers concerning the publication project
Box 70-71
Correspondence among the editors
Box 71-72
Indexes to the typescripts
Box 73-74
Typescripts, original and carbon copy of each item in the collection
Box 75-111
Typescripts of items marked "miscellaneous" and "extra"
Box 112-113
Papers of associate editors Henry Marvin Belden, Arthur Palmer Hudson, Paul Brewster, and Wayland D. Hand
Box 114-119
Papers of associate editor Claire Leighton
Box 119-120
Papers of associate editor Jan Schinhan
Box 120-122
Papers of associate editor Archer Taylor
Box 122
Papers of associate editor Stith Thompson
Box 122-123
Papers of associate editor Bartlett Jere Whiting
Box 123
Papers of associate editor George Wilson
Box 124
"Preliminary Analysis" of the collection
Box 126
"A Tabulation of Unpublished Items"
Box 126
Correspondence with the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Song
Box 126
Study of Singing Styles in Dark Ridge, North Carolina
Box 126
Abbreviations from headnotes
Box 126
Card files used to prepare "Tabulation"
Box 127-130
Seven 8-inch reels of magnetic tape of unpublished songs (Preservation Masters)
Box 146
Seven 8-inch reels of magnetic tape of unpublished songs (Reproduction Masters)
Box 147
Digital use copies of Reproduction Masters
Box 147
Indexes to tapes, alphabetical by title; alphabetical by artist
Box 147

[Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Use of these materials may require production of listening or viewing copies. Please contact a reference archivist before coming to use this collection.]

Guides to re-recording of cylinders and discs
Box 125
Original cylinders
Box 131-140
78 R.P.M. glass-base recordings.
Box 141-145

Historical Note

Frank Clyde Brown (1870-1943) served as a Professor of English at Trinity College, Duke University, from 1909 until his death. A native of Virginia, he received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1908. While at Duke University he served in many capacities, including being chairman of his department, University Marshal, and Comptroller of the University during its initial construction. These aspects of his life are chronicled in his papers held by the Duke University Archives.

This collection of materials, however, is concerned with activities to which he devoted equal time and energy, the organization of the North Carolina Folklore Society in 1913 and his personal effort to gather and record the nuances and culture of "folk" of North Carolina and its near neighbors, which occupied him from 1912 until his death. Under the impetus of a 1912 mailing from John A. Lomax, then President of the American Folklore Society, Brown as well as other faculty members and other citizens in North Carolina, became interested in folklore and organized the North Carolina Folklore Society in 1913, with Brown as secretary-treasurer. As secretary-treasurer of this organization from its inception until his death, he provided the organizational impetus behind the Society. Through his course in folklore at Duke, he also sent class after class out to gather the folklore of their locales, both during their studies and afterward. And virtually every summer he could be found in the most remote parts of the state, with notebook and recorder -- first a dictaphone employing cylinders, and later a machine employing aluminum discs provided for his use by the University. The result, by 1943, was a collection of about 38,000 written notes on lore, 650 musical scores, 1400 songs vocally recorded, and numerous magazine articles, student theses, books, lists, and other items related to this study. The material originated in at least 84 North Carolina counties, with about 5 percent original in 20 other states and Canada, and came from the efforts of 650 other contributors besides Brown himself.

Although Brown promised the Society on an almost yearly basis to publish at least part of this collection to which its members were contributing, he never took more than a few tentative steps toward doing so. Thus at Brown's death in 1943, Newman Ivey White, also a Professor of English at Duke University and a close colleague of Brown's, whom Brown had charged with continuing the work, inherited the dual confusion of the folklore collection, which was piled in Brown's attic office at home, and the conflicting claims of ownership of the collection of Mrs. Brown, the North Carolina Folklore Society, and Duke University. When it became apparent that all were amenable to seeing the collection in print, White assumed the post of general editor, which passed to Paull Franklin Baum, also a Professor of English and Director of the Duke Press, after White's death in 1948.

Subject Headings

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Frank Clyde Brown Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.


The Frank Clyde Brown Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift.

Processing Information

Processed by RL Staff, date unknown

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, August 2012

This collection is minimally processed: materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.