Susan L. Pentlin
Rebecca B. Schroeder
(Missouri Folklore Society Journal, VIII-IX (1986-1987)

NB: Footnote-numbers appear in parentheses: (#)

MFS thanks Ms. Tetyana Sydorenko for editorial assistance

Henry Marvin Belden’s landmark Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society(1) was published in 1940, but his work with the folksong collection had actually begun over three decades earlier at the University of Missouri in Columbia. In January of 1903 a new club had been organized on the University of Missouri campus,(2) which today we realize marked the beginning of both the song collection and, in fact, the Missouri Folk-Lore Society.

Belden apparently attended the early meetings and was an active member of the new Club.(3) A native of Connecticut, he had come to the University in the fall of 1895 as an Assistant Professor of English after spending a year teaching at the University of Nebraska, where he knew Louise Pound and Willa Cather, and a year of study at the University of Strassburg, where he learned to like Münchner beer, as he later reported, and completed his doctoral thesis for Johns Hopkins University.(4)
The M.S.U. Independent, the campus newspaper, reported on March 6, 1903, that the Writer’s Club had met in the office of the English Department and that there was “interesting and informal discussion upon ‘folk’ songs and ‘literary material’ to be found in Missouri.”(5) Then after the March 16 meeting, the newspaper concluded that “much interest is being manifested by all the members both old and new and it bids fair to become one of the most popular organizations of University life,” referring to the Club in this issue as the English Club.(6) Apparently the interest in Missouri materials had been sparked, at least in part, by the opening of the State Historical Society of Missouri library in Academic Hall (now Jesse Hall) at the University of Missouri in Columbia the previous year. (7)

The Independent reported in its issue of May 11, 1903, on the current clubs of the University, describing the new English Club with obvious enthusiasm.

Another new organization which promises to contribute something to the good of the University in the future is the English Club.…It is the aim of this new English Club to revive interest in active literary work. The Club is composed of twenty members who meet twice a month and carry out a literary program. (8)

During the Club’s first semester, members had presented their own creative writing, poetry, songs, and literary papers. At the February 23 meeting, A. T. Sweet of Curryville presented a paper entitled “Old Iron Mountain--Reminiscences of Pike County,” and Gussie Kahn of Columbia read a story called “A Little Child Shall Lead Them.”(9) At the next meeting, Eva Packard from Cameron read a ghost story and Emma Simmons from Berryville, Arkansas, a sketch on Arkansas life. Belden gave an informal talk on Mark Liddell’s “Introduction to the Science of English Poetry.”(10)

The campus paper reported on April 16 that the English Club had just held “one of the most interesting meetings it has had this year.” The program had consisted of a rural sketch, “A Day in a Hayfield” by J. F. Hogan, a student from Maryville, and a short story and poetry by other Club members. Then J. H. Craig, the Club President, sang a song entitled “My Old Home Down in Pike.”

As the mighty Mississippi rolls her course toward the sea
Touching fondly with a soft caress a shore that’s dear to me
Ever mingled with the music of its murmurs on the shore
Is the memory of a childhood that is gone forever more. (11)

Craig, a native of Pike County, had published a poem, “Here’s to ‘Old Pike’“ in the campus paper the year before, praising Pike’s beauty in all seasons,(12) and his contributions to the English Club meetings were in verse, at least one in dialect. In “A Lover Leaning on the Gate,” he asserted that “the workin-out of nachur lay nearest to my heart,” (13) a feeling his poems reflect.

The Independent concluded at the end of the school year that “many good things brim full of local Missouri color” had been presented at the Club meetings that semester.(14) The Club members were making plans for the summer and for the next year, and it was also reported that:

In order that these things [i.e., these literary pieces] may be preserved and the club have something lasting to build on each year, the numbers will be bound into a volume and kept by the society. Working plans are also being perfected by which the club hopes this summer to make a collection of Missouri songs -- unpublished songs that live from mouth to mouth in different localities -- songs that have grown from some far-off ballad or been ‘gotten up’ to commemorate some murder or famous happening in the neighborhood in days gone by. (15)

Although University records show that Craig did not graduate until 1906, in October of the next school year he was serving as president of Ashley Seminary in Ashley, Missouri. He wrote to the new Club president, Gertrude Simmons, who later taught at Bartlett College in Ripon, Wisconsin, (16) to report on his “attempts at collecting the MS. [i.e., manuscripts] of the Club.” In his letter, he listed fourteen members who had read pieces and then noted how many he had received, apparently in written form, from the Club members. He indicated “none received” for several members, but in all he had collected eleven pieces. (17)

The only one of the local pieces the Club collected that appears to have survived is “Rosa’s Fourth of July” by Maude Williams, the Club’s Secretary-Treasurer. This story was one of the two works which the Club records show that Williams read in the spring of 1903, and it might well be the story Belden refers to in the preface of his 1940 work in which one of the members sang a song that he recognized as a Child ballad. (18) As Susan Pentlin’s study of Maude Williams in this issue shows, in his handwritten dedication in Williams’ copy of Ballads and Songs Belden attributes the origin of the collection of Missouri’s ballads and songs to her.(19) In fact Williams’ son believes today that she was the student who sang the ballad which started Belden in his work.(20) In any case, the first year of the English Club had been very fruitful. Not only had the students produced a fair number of original pieces, but Maude Williams, who had been named “collector” of the club, was to set down and send to Belden the first songs of the Folk-Lore Society collection in that summer of 1903.(21)

The Club was inactive in the fall semester of 1903, apparently because many of the old members had graduated or left the University. It was reorganized in the second semester though and eventually grew to about thirty members. A report, probably written by Harry Fore, the Club president, appeared in The Independent among the annual club reports, as it had in the previous year. The article in the May 20, 1904, issue stated that one of the interesting subjects at the Club’s meeting had been a discussion by Belden on “The Ballad.” This article explained the Club’s continuing interest in ballad collecting and clearly established the connection between the M.U. English Club and Belden’s pioneer work. Belden was obviously familiar with the Francis James Child collection, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads , since he had recognized the ballad sung at the 1903 English Club meeting, and he must have known of Child’s conviction that such songs no longer survived in the oral tradition. In “Advertisement to Part I” of his monumental work, Child had reported the efforts he had made to see that his collection, which had been largely drawn from written sources, was as complete as possible:

By correspondence, and by an extensive diffusion of printed circulars, I have tried to stimulate collection from Scotland, Canada, and the United States, and no becoming means has been left unemployed to obtain possession of unsunned treasures locked up in writing.(22)

He added that “the gathering from tradition has been, as ought perhaps to have been foreseen at this late date, meagre, and generally of indifferent quality.”

Child’s belief that traditional balladry and song had not survived into the late 19th century was shared by many of his contemporaries and adopted by many of the scholars who followed him. Belden recognized the significance of his discovery that “many such songs were known and sung by the country folk in Missouri,” and his students soon became aware of the importance of their mission. The May 20, 1904, article points out that the idea of collecting Missouri ballads is one which the Club could claim as its own, “as very little has ever been done in this direction before.” (23) The Club planned to publish the ballads as soon as a sufficient number had been collected, and it was believed that a very interesting collection could be put out the following year.

Unfortunately, the only extant records of the English Club are for the year 1903, so how many songs and stories were collected by the members in the spring of 1904 or the following years is not known. The Club members did not succeed in their hope of publishing their collection that year, but the project had been an ambitious one to accomplish in so short a time. However, their enthusiasm for collecting evidently continued.

In January, 1905, Belden spoke on the work in Missouri at a meeting of the Central Division of the Modem Language Association in Chicago, recognizing the valuable contributions his students had made to folksong collection in the state. The St. Louis Globe Democrat reported on his talk on February 5, 1905:

Professor Henry M. Belden of the Missouri State University in a paper on “Folk-Songs in Missouri,” read before a meeting of the Modem Language Association in Chicago last month, made a surprising and interesting statement that ancient English ballads were sung in rural sections of the state. An organization of students at the state university known as the English Club has been carrying on an investigation, and thus far has found at least 11 of the old songs in Missouri.

Belden’s historic paper was published in the April 1905 Modem Philology ; in it he suggested modestly that although Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads was as definitive as any work of its kind could be, the inevitable result of the work of a great scholar is that it “originates a long line of subsequent investigations.” The “subsequent investigation” at the University of Missouri, in which students and instructors had attempted to record and classify traditional ballads and other songs, had been “interesting and gratifying,” and he suggested the potential value in involving students in preserving the “old and vanishing” folksong in America.

The body of American university students, especially of students in the state universities, is a body representative of all classes of American society. Is it not worthwhile to attempt a systematic search for old and vanishing folksong in America, to be carried on by students and under the direction of the teachers of our schools, colleges and universities?(24)

In 1906, Belden published the first of the Missouri songs his students had brought him in the Journal of American Folk-Lore. In the introduction to the article, “Old Country Ballads in Missouri,” he explained: “The following ballads are part of a collection made during the last three years by students or former students of the University of Missouri. Child’s great collection forms a convenient starting ground. Later the Missouri Folk-Lore Society hopes to make records of the tunes of all the ballads found.” (25) This further confirms that the Club’s interest and activities in collecting Missouri folksongs had largely occurred from 1903 through 1906 and that those years mark the first phase of Belden’s own work.

When, eventually, on December 15, 1906, the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, as it was then called, was officially established in Columbia with Henry Marvin Belden as Secretary, its founding was obviously only a culmination of long planning. A report in the October, 1906 Missouri Historical Review documents efforts already well underway toward the establishment of the society before its official founding.

Last spring certain teachers and students of the University of Missouri came together to discuss the advisability of forming a society for the study of folk-lore in the state. This suggestion came originally from the Secretary of the American Folk-Lore Society and Associate Editor of the Journal of American Folk-Lore, Mr. W. W. Newell, whose attention had been called to Missouri as a folk-lore field by the work of Missouri students in collecting popular ballads. The result of the meeting was that a constitution was drafted and copies of it, accompanied by a brief statement of the aim of the proposed organization, sent to a number of persons who it was believed would join in the undertaking. The response has been encouraging…. The Missouri Folk-Lore Society seeks the cooperation of all--individuals, clubs, societies--that are interested in the social condition of Missouri, past or present, and will itself cooperate with them. (26)

Readers of the Missouri Historical Review were urged to communicate with Professor Belden for detailed information on the plans of the Society, and a membership list of the Society dated November 23, 1906, shows that by that date there were already thirty members, including two life members.(27) The January 1907 Review reported in some detail on the December organizational meeting of the Society, by which time it already had a president:

The Missouri Folk-Lore Society was organized with forty-two members at a meeting held in Columbia Dec. 14 and 15. Dr. McGee, of the St. Louis Public Museum, delivered the inaugural address on the evening of the 14th upon “The Relations between Folk-Lore and General Anthropology.” On the 15th the constitution was adopted. It provides among other things for a policy of co-operation with other organizations in the state that have kindred interests. Organic connection with the American Folk-Lore Society, which had been proposed, was not incorporated in the constitution, though the Society will be in effect an active auxiliary of the national society. Thirty-one of the members are also members of the American Folk-Lore Society.(28)

Although Belden himself was primarily interested in ballads and songs, the stated purpose of the society was the study of “Folk-Lore in the widest sense of the term, including customs, institutions, superstitions, signs, legends, language and literature of all races, so far as they are found in the State of Missouri.” (29) After the discussion and approval of the constitution there was not much time left for the reading of papers, but Miss Mary Louise Dalton of the Missouri Historical Society read “Some Songs and Games.” Other papers were omitted for lack of time. (30)

The officers and directors elected at the first meeting demonstrate that interest in the organization was already widespread: President, Dr. McGee of St. Louis; Vice-Presidents, Miss Mary A. Owen of St. Joseph and Hon. C. W. Clarke of Kansas City; Secretary, Prof. H. M. Belden of Columbia; Treasurer, Miss Mary Louise Dalton of St. Louis; Directors, Prof. Raymond Weeks of Columbia, Miss Jennie M. A. Jones of St. Louis, and Mr. Brady Harris of West Plains. Records show that Maude Williams, who graduated in 1906, and other members of the English Club were charter members of the new Society. Annual dues were fifty cents and life memberships were $5.00.(31)

During the next years Belden energetically promoted the Missouri Folk-Lore Society with brochures and pamphlets printed for distribution in the state and through continued research and publication relating to folksong survival. Among the series of brochures and flyers produced to publicize the work of the Society during the first year of its organization, an undated 4-page brochure, “Missouri Folk-Lore Society,” gave the history and objectives of the organization and noted that by arrangement with the American Folk-Lore Society the dues of fifty cents could be applied toward the annual dues of AFS for those members who wished to join the national organization. The brochure offered a definition of “What Folk-Lore Is,” and discussed what aspects of folklore the Society would concern itself with. These included “Customs; Signs, Superstitions and Popular Medicine; Local Traditions; Unusual Social Conditions; Language--linguistic peculiarities and survivals, dialect forms, geographical names; Popular Tales; Jokes, Proverbs, and Riddles; and finally Ballads and Songs.” The example given for “Unusual Social Conditions” was “movers--who they are, where they came from, what relation they bear to the stable part of the population and what, if any, to genuine gypsies.”

The flyer concluded with an offer by the Secretary to send, upon request, questionnaires or suggestions for the collection of folklore, such as “Animal and Plant Lore, and Miscellaneous Superstitions,” by Fanny D. Bergen; “Customs, Games, and Literature,” by William W. Newell; “Negro and Indian Folklore in Missouri,” by Mary A. Owen; and “Popular Song in Missouri,” by H. M. Belden. It was noted that the constitution provided for the organization of sections, with officers, to conduct research in the different branches of folklore and predicted that some sections would be organized before the second annual meeting. (32)

In 1907 a note submitted by Belden on three versions of “Bedroom Window” with the texts collected in Missouri was published in the Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, a German publication.(33) In August of 1907, the Society published “A Partial List of Song-Ballads and Other Popular Poetry Known in Missouri with Some Hints for the Collector,” by Belden. This partial list included seventy-six different songs in five categories: Child’s English Ballads, romantic and sentimental ballads, religious pieces, comic and humorous ballads, and songs and pieces “associated with American political or social history.” Each entry had a brief description of the story and sometimes a line or two of the ballad to help potential collectors identify it. Belden noted that the list was being sent out “… in the expectation that it will explain one of the things the Society is trying to do and at the same time, by stirring sleeping memories and arousing associations, lead to the growth of the collection.” He also pointed to the Society’s aim in collecting these songs: “... the Society (not itself a depositary [sic] organization) is pledged by its constitution to deposit its collections of this sort in some public museum or library where they will be preserved and will be accessible to future students of the history and manners of Missouri.” In addition to ballads and songs, the Society also wanted to collect nursery rhymes, riddles, singing games, proverbs and signs.(34)

Early in 1908 Belden took a leave of absence from the University and went to England to do research on ballads in the British Museum, sailing from Philadelphia on February 22, as he later reported, on a ship that also carried a load of live cattle for the British market. On March 31, 1908, he wrote to George Lyman Kittredge that he was “following up some of our Missouri pieces in the collections of modern broadsides and stall ballads with which the museum is so well supplied.”(35) He returned in midsummer to the task of collecting and identifying Missouri’s ballads and songs with energy and enthusiasm, delighting, as other collectors were to do, in each new discovery. In 1908 he published ten more of the Missouri songs in the Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen.(36) His research and publishing activity and the success of his students in collecting versions of ballads and songs thought at that time to have disappeared from the oral tradition had gained national attention, and he was called on by others interested in planning state societies. L. W. Payne of the University of Texas in Austin, who with John A. Lomax founded the Texas Folklore Society, reported that “I wrote to my friend Professor H. M. Belden... and asked him for suggestions. He sent me several leaflets issued by the Missouri Folklore Society, and from these I got some ideas about how to proceed in formulating a plan for the Texas Society.”(37) The Texas Society was established in 1909, and as its Secretary-Editor F. E. Abernethy observed recently “[It] owes a debt to Professor Belden and the Missouri Folklore Society.” A comparison of the constitutions and early publications of the two societies shows there were many similarities. (38)

A collection of programs of annual meetings, Belden’s announcements to members and his reports relating to annual meetings, with copies of other correspondence he gathered from his desk and sent to the State Historical Society September 18, 1915, make it possible to trace the fortunes of the Society during its early years. (39) Mary Alicia Owen was elected President of the Society in 1908, a position she was to hold for the life of the Society. By March, 1909, when the third Annual Meeting of the Society was held in Columbia, the membership list included members from Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, and other states as well as from throughout Missouri. There were 63 members, and the treasury had a balance of $22.70. By 1910 the original issue of “A Partial List of Song-Ballads and other Popular Poetry Known in Missouri” had been exhausted and was reissued with additions. The numbering of the original titles was retained and new titles were appended with continuous numeration. There were two more Child ballads, “a number of Civil War pieces, negro pieces and ‘play party ditties’,” altogether 145 ballad and song fragments.(40) At the fourth Annual Meeting, held jointly with the third annual meeting of the Illinois Folklore Society in St. Louis, an amendment to the constitution was approved raising fees for the two classes of membership to one dollar annually for regular members and ten dollars for life members.

Belden was elected president of the American Folk-Lore Society in 1910 and again in 1911, and at the seventh Annual Meeting of the Missouri Society, held at the St. Louis Public Library, April 12, 1913, Kittredge, at that time Vice-President of AFS and editor of the Journal of American Folk-Lore , gave the keynote address on “What is Folklore?” Other presentations on the program included a paper on “The Meeks Family Murder” by Goldy Hamilton , a member of the English Club, who had received an A.B. degree from the University of Missouri in 1903 and an M.A. in 1904. W. R. MacKenzie, who was then at Washington University, gave a presentation on “The History of Nova Scotia Ballads.” Finally, at this meeting the membership was persuaded to associate itself formally with the American Folk-Lore Society, a suggestion it had so far resisted, and three categories of membership were established: Members, who were also members of the American Folk-Lore Society and paid dues to that society; Associates, paying annual dues of $1; and Life Members, whose dues were reduced back to $5.

An announcement of the eighth Annual Meeting, to be held in Columbia, reported that an amendment to the constitution making only full members eligible for office in the Society had been proposed. The program for this meeting included presentations by Mrs. Ida Schaaf on “Ste. Genevieve and the Gui-Annee” and by Belden on “Ballads Satirizing Neighboring States,” as well as other papers, but attendance was poor and no action was taken on the proposed amendment disqualifying associate members from holding office in the Society nor upon plans for publishing the Missouri collection.

Membership in the Society had gradually declined. The 1914 records show only 20 regular members and 15 associates. The objectives of the Society had been, according to an undated statement in the State Historical Society Collection, to establish
two orders of membership, by which the society combines the work of professed folk-lorists, members of the American Folk-Lore Society and subscribers to its Journal, with the work of the antiquarians and collectors who approach the subject from the point of view of state history or local history.(41)

Evidently some tension had developed between the Missourians who were members of the American Folk-Lore Society and those who were primarily interested in state or local rather than national concerns. On February 15, 1915, Belden suggested to the membership that since attendance at the last three meetings had been poor, the Society might plan to meet with the State Teachers Association.(42) Accordingly, as a 1916 version of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society constitution shows, acting under the authority conferred by the constitution, the executive board made application in 1915 to be admitted as a department of the State Teachers Association and subsequent meetings were held in conjunction with that organization’s annual meetings. The ninth Annual Meeting was held November 14,1915, at Northeast High School in Kansas City, and Belden reported that there had been “a gratifying increase in membership, but if the Society is to do the work it ought to do ... its membership ought to increase tenfold.”(43) His report on the tenth Annual Meeting, held November 16-17, 1916, in St. Louis, was optimistic. There had been an attendance of 120 to the program, a standing room only audience, and a “folklore supper” at the Artists’ Guild had attracted 63 to the 75¢ repast. The program included a presidential address by Mary Alicia Owen on “The Folklore of Flowers that Grow in Missouri,” a discussion on Italian Folklore by Rala Glazer of Kansas City, a presentation by Ida Schaaf on “Old Ste. Genevieve,” a talk on Indian Folklore, and a “Round Table” on “Children’s Folklore” directed by Leah Yoffie. At the folklore supper Dr. C. H. Williams, a member of the University of Missouri Extension Division and long time treasurer of the Society, spoke on “Ballads in Bollinger County.” A Missouri version of “The Maid Freed from the Gallows” was also presented.

This seems to have been one of the most successful meetings of the Society, but ironically Belden was not able to attend. In 1916-1917 he spent a year’s leave at Harvard, “working on folksongs and kindred matters.” In an undated Secretary’s report for 1917 he expressed regret that he had been absent “for the first time since the society was founded ten years ago.” He reported that Eva Case of Kansas City had made a very valuable contribution to the collection of 18 ballads, seven new to the collection and all but one with tunes, and that a society in St. Joseph with 25 members interested in folklore wanted to affiliate with the society, noting:

A paragraph in Art. III of the constitution provides that the Executive Board may from time to time, as occasion arises, organize sections and appoint officers thereof to direct research in the different branches of folklore. As we draw near the point of publication of our Missouri findings such organization becomes increasingly imperative.(44)

For the St. Joseph group, Mary Alicia Owen had drawn up categories for folklore research. These included (1) Superstitious beliefs and practices, (2) Peculiar customs, (3) Narratives, “comprising ballads and songs, place legends, nursery tales...,” and (4) Folk sayings, such as proverbs, riddles, and nicknames. Since the constitution had also provided in Article V that “Local clubs and societies, including women’s clubs, that desire to work in Missouri folk-lore may be affiliated with the Society upon the recommendation of the executive board,” presumably the St. Joseph group was accepted as an affiliate, although we are not aware that materials collected by its members have been preserved.

In his “Autobiographical Notes,” written in July, 1948, at his wife’s request, Belden reminisced about his year at Harvard in 1916-17:

Widener Library was new then, and I had the range of the stacks. There I became acquainted with Phillips Barry, a young fellow who had recently taken his M.A. there and was a devoted and extraordinarily competent student of folksong and folk music--especially of New England. I had been in correspondence with him before. We spent many hours together in the library. (45)

During the months in Cambridge he worked on his paper on “The Bramble Briar,” later published in the Publications of the Modern Language Association , (46) and when he was in New York for the American Folk-Lore Society meeting he talked to Franz Boas about the possibility of publishing the Missouri materials. Boas suggested publication in the form of a Memoir of the American Folk-Lore Society, and during the winter of 1916-1917 a complete copy of the ballad collection was made for Kittredge in anticipation of publication. The carefully arranged typescript, now in Houghton Library at Harvard, was placed in folders numbered continuously in Roman numerals. Each item was marked in green ink with the number of the folder in which it belonged to secure its return to the proper place after it had been used. A preliminary comparison of the typescript, deposited with Kittredge in 1917, of  “The Missouri Folk-Lore Society Ballads, Songs, Rimes, Riddles, Etc. Collected Between 1903 and 1917” with Ballads and Songs, published in 1940, shows few major changes in arrangement. However, many versions of songs included in the 1917 collection were not published in 1940. A small gathering of “Negro Songs,” many collected by Goldy Hamilton in West Plains, were omitted altogether.(47)

In an undated letter “To the Members and Associates of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society,” apparently written in the Spring of 1917, Belden announced that “Arrangements have been made with the approval of the Executive Board, for the publication of the work of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society as a ‘Memoir’ of the American Folk-Lore Society.” The Missouri Society was to contribute $350, or as much of that sum as it had in its publication fund, which was to cover about half the cost of producing a volume of 300 pages. In return it was to receive 300 copies of the book for distribution among its members and for sale, at reduced prices, to future members. Boas had assured him there would be no financial problems, but he was concerned to make the book “as worthy as it may be of the State and the Society whose name it will bear,” and he noted that much remained to be done. Outside the field of the ballad, the play-party, and the children’s games there had been no systematic gathering of the folklore of Missouri and he enclosed with the letter the outline of subject matter of the field which Miss Owen had drawn up and suggested that to this should be added the folklore of the non-British elements in the population.

Valuable work has already been done in the field of Jewish lore in Missouri, and beginnings have been made in the German and Italian fields. In the French field, which ought to be especially rich in Missouri, we have so far only Mrs. Schaaf’s study of the Gui-annee. In all these fields, as well as in those indicated in the enclosed analysis, there is much to be done.

He requested that “each Member and Associate--and through them all lovers of folk-lore in Missouri that they can reach”--make a special effort to add to the collection at the next annual meeting.

Your contribution need not be imposing in bulk; it need not be novel. From the nature of the case folk-lore is not new; it is old, every-day stuff. Its significance comes when it is assembled and compared. Customs, beliefs, practices, habits, songs, stories, sayings, turns of speech--anything that people have “always” done or known or said without knowing just whence and why, is folk-lore….If anyone, for instance, will set down all that he believes or has believed about the cure of diseases it is practically certain that the result will contain a considerable percentage of folk-lore. If each of you will set down, under one or more of the heads given, the folk-lore that you know, you will have a contribution of value for our undertaking.(48)

In the 1917 Journal of American Folk-Lore, which did not come out until 1918, some of the Missouri ballads and songs were published in a long article by Kittredge, which included contributions from various collectors, including Belden, Louise Pound, and Loraine Wyman. He noted that “Professor Belden has not only given free access to his store of texts but has fortunately been at hand for consultation.” A number of the songs contributed by Eva Case were published in this article, most with music as well as text.(49)

However, for a number of reasons, plans for the publication of the complete Missouri collection ran into difficulties. On October 28, 1917, Belden wrote to Kittredge: “The war has so absorbed the energies of the good ladies who make up the Missouri Folk-Lore Society that I see little likelihood of our doing anything toward the publication of the Memoirs this year.”(50) The flu epidemic struck in 1917-1918, 51 and the Folk-Lore Society had “no formal program in 1917,” although the report of the proceedings of the State Teacher’s Association meeting indicated that Eva Case, Vice President for Kansas City, presided and two presentations relating to folksong were given. “The secretary made a report on the proposed plan for the publication of Missouri Folklore as a Memoir of the American Folk-Lore Society and discussed some recent and forthcoming publications of folksong.“(52) It was voted that officers be held over until the next meeting, but there was no meeting in 1918.

A program on “Legends of Place” was announced for the 1919 meeting, which took place in St. Louis on November 6 and 7. A lack of a quorum prevented a meeting of the Executive Board. However, a “folk-lore supper” at the Artists’ Guild had again been planned and all who were interested in the work of the Society, whether members or not, were cordially invited to attend. About forty attended. (53) The business meeting had been postponed until Friday evening and following the supper a short meeting was held. The treasury had a balance of $335.71. Since there had been no election in 1917 and no meeting in 1918, all the offices and “directorships” were vacant. The committee on nominations presented a slate which included Archer Taylor , St. Louis, Miss Frances Barbour, St. Louis, Mrs. Eva Wamer Case, Kansas City, and Miss Stella Drumm, St. Louis, as Vice Presidents and Miss Leah Yoffie, Dr. A. E. Bostwick, and Mrs. W. B. VerSteeg, all of St. Louis, as “directors.” Four new members and one new associate were added at the meeting. In his report Belden confessed that a slip-up had occurred in the 1919 election:

The Secretary feels himself responsible for the irregularity by which three vice-presidents were elected from St. Louis when the constitution provides for only “a vice president from each local center.” He failed to note the irregularity at the time, but believes that the action at the meeting should be allowed to stand, for this year, especially as the Society thus secures the services of two additional and active officers in St. Louis. (54)

A month after the meeting in St. Louis, on December 11, 1919, Belden wrote to Kittredge:

We are still unprepared with our volume of Missouri folk-lore for the Memoirs. I have found myself unable to secure anything definite from Miss Owen on whom I have perforce relied for the material other than ballads. But I believe I can see a solution to our difficulties now. I have found in Archer Taylor of Washington University something like a trained folk-lorist and at the same time a man who (being a professor of German) has not too much to do. I am negotiating with him to take over the secretaryship of the Missouri Society next year, in the hope that he can open up new fields and bring new energy to the task. He’s interested and I look for results--after a while .(55)

At the 1920 meeting of the Society, held in Kansas City on November, 11, 1920, the last annual meeting for many years to come, Archer Taylor was duly elected Secretary. In his final “Secretary’s Report” to the membership on December 30, 1920, Belden asked for support for his successor:

The retiring secretary wishes to bespeak for his successor the fullest and heartiest cooperation of all those who have stood by the organization during its lean years and their earnest efforts to start it upon a new period of effectiveness. 56

Writing on the Missouri society over two decades later, for a gathering on “North American Folklore Societies,” compiled by Wayland Hand, Belden reported that Archer Taylor had been elected Secretary of the Society in 1920 but was called “in that year to the University of Chicago, and no meetings of the Society have been held since that date.”(57)

Actually Taylor remained at Washington University until 1925, serving as editor of the Washington University Studies from 1919 to 1925. In 1925 he was Ehrensenator at the University of Giessen in Germany and subsequently went to the University of Chicago as Professor of German literature in that year. Belden reported to Hand that:

The Society never had a membership much larger than that it started with, and I am afraid it never more than scratched the surface of the folklore in Missouri. It fell into a coma in 1920 from which it has not recovered. The trouble was that its projector was naturally unfitted for the work of promotion. (58)

    There were no doubt several reasons for the decline into a coma which the Missouri Folk-Lore Society experienced following the 1920 meeting, but Belden’s lack of skill as a “promoter” was not one of them, as his achievements during the life of the organization show. He had devoted some seventeen years to the collection of Missouri ballads and songs and almost as many to planning, founding, and guiding the Society, during which time he had solicited papers for and planned and publicized all its meetings, usually following each meeting with a Secretary’s report. Thirteen meetings were held in all, six in St. Louis, four in Columbia, and three in Kansas City, the last five in conjunction with the annual meetings of the State Teachers Association. By these activities the Society has gained the interest and cooperation of contributors from all parts of the state.

Unlike some of the academic collectors who were to follow him, Belden had encouraged members of the Society to pursue their research interests and publish their findings themselves. As he noted to Hand, “out of the papers and findings presented at the meetings several have appeared in the Journal of American Folk-Lore.” These included William G. Bek, “Survivals of Old Marriage Customs Among the Low-Germans of West Missouri”; Antoinette Taylor, “An English Christmas Play”; Mrs. L. D. Ames, “The Missouri Play-Party”; Goldy M. Hamilton, “The Play-Party in Northeast Missouri”; Leah Rachel Yoffie, “Popular Beliefs and Customs among the Yiddish Speaking Jews of St. Louis”; and Frances M. Barbour, “Some Fusions in Missouri Ballads.” (59)

The achievements of the Society were enormous, and yet after the first few successful and exciting years, membership declined instead of increasing, as members of many years standing resigned or simply failed to pay their dues.(60) Although attendance at the meetings held in conjunction with the State Teachers Association was generally good, there was no rush of new members to support the work of the organization and apparently not much response to Belden’s request for new material for the planned publication of the volume on Missouri folklore. Obviously the War had turned people’s attention away from the task of preserving Missouri’s folklore, but there may have been other reasons which contributed to the decline in participation. The American Folk-Lore Society raised its annual dues to $4 in 1920, notifying Belden by telegram. The two-level system of membership that the Society had established, with the “professed folklorists” who belonged to the American Folk-Lore Society in one category and those primarily interested in Missouri matters in another, apparently led to awkwardness, as demonstrated in the 1914 movement to limit office holders in the Society to “regular members,” who belonged to AFS.

Belden himself had been able to maintain a balance between his own interest in national and international ballad scholarship and the interests and concerns of the local collectors and researchers, but by 1920 he may well have felt the need to turn his full attention to more traditional academic pursuits. He had become Chairman of the English Department when his father-in-law, E. A. Allen, retired in 1911, a position reportedly thrust upon him that carried no additional salary and which no other member of the department was willing to accept. In addition, English (and other) departments sometimes look critically at research in new and non-traditional fields which may be considered beyond the traditional academic purview.(61) Whatever the reason for his resignation as Secretary, there was no one to take his place in the work with “amateur” Missouri collectors.

In the several comments he made about the long postponed publication of the Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, Belden always mentioned Mary Alicia Owen’s inability, due to poor health, to provide the folklore materials other than ballads and songs which he wanted to include. The book he envisioned was a comprehensive collection of folklore, a concept which Owen, as the best known folklorist in the state when he began, no doubt influenced. She had eclectic and wide ranging interests in folklore; her presentations at the Society meetings ranged from talks on “The Scope of Folklore” at the 1915 meeting to the “Folklore of Flowers” in 1916 and “Legends of the Goose” in 1920. She was not much interested in Anglo-American balladry and song. Her only contribution to Belden’s collection was a version of “Jesse James” which she gave him in 1916 with the notation that she had heard it from “a man who dug some postholes for us,” adding “He said everybody used to sing it.”(62) In the outline of folklore which she developed to guide the collectors of the St. Joseph organization and which Belden sent out to the Society membership in 1917, she had listed ballads as one category of the narrative. Balladry was in her view only one aspect of the large field of folklore, and Belden evidently felt publication of the ballads and songs alone would not be appropriate.

As the activities of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society were winding down, however, both academic collectors and “amateur” enthusiasts in other states were discovering the high excitement of the hunt for the old English ballads. C. Alphonso Smith, who in 1913 founded the Virginia Folklore Society, stated in a press interview that:

The search for ballads is now the most interesting phase of American literature. It is a revelation of tremendous historical importance to anyone who realizes how closely our present is built on our past, or how intimate are the ties of tradition which still link us to the lands across the waters .(63)

Belden in Missouri, Louise Pound in Nebraska, John Lomax in Texas, and Phillips Barry in New England had led the way in promoting the collection of both traditional British ballads and native American song in their areas. The second decade of the 20th century was to see an increasing interest in the oral literature of the United States (and Canada), as a virtual fever of collecting to preserve the American heritage of song swept the country, reaching its peak in the 1920s and 1930s. State folklore societies were established in North Carolina and Kentucky in 1912, in Virginia in 1913, and in West Virginia and Oklahoma in 1915. Most who joined the cause believed with Smith and others that “If our American versions are not collected quickly, they can never be collected at all.” (64) In 1916 Cecil Sharp, the English folksong authority, who had concluded in 1907 that the last generation of folksingers had been born in 1840, at which time “the chain of tradition snapped,”(65) was persuaded to visit the Appalachians and investigate the report that traditional song had, in fact, survived in the United States. In forty-six weeks in the mountains, “9 weeks in 1916, 19 weeks in 1917, and 18 weeks in 1918” Sharp and Maud Karpeles obtained a total of 1,612 tunes representing about 500 different songs from 281 singers.” (66) In 1917 Sharp’s first collection of songs from the Appalachians, gathered during his 1916 visit to the mountains, along with thirty-two songs (forty-two variants) from the collection of Olive Dame Campbell, was published. (67)

Sharp was a musician, who collected the tunes as well as the texts of his songs, and the magnificent two-volume edition of his collection, published in 1932 after his death, became a model for subsequent work. His English Folk-Songs from the Southern Appalachians became the second great milestone in the history of American folksong scholarship. As Richard Dorson has pointed out, in the field of folksong and folkmusic specialists “Francis James Child is king... and Cecil Sharp is the high priest.”(68) He was indisputably the “Child of the ballad tune,”(69) as one critic noted. The pattern of the collecting phenomenon that struck the United States during the twenties and thirties in the wake of Sharp’s discoveries may be traced by the incidence of published collections during this period. In the first decade of the 20th century fewer than twenty books dealing with American folksong had been published. In the second decade, less than thirty. From 1920 to 1929 almost sixty collections were published, and during the thirties almost eighty.

During the two decades from 1920 to 1940, Belden continued to work with his collection as ballad book after ballad book from almost every region in America appeared. He was particularly interested in determining the origins of native American songs, but he carefully noted both ballad and song variants as each published work appeared, so that when Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society was finally published his headnotes for each song were widely praised as models of ballad editing.

He was active in founding the University of Missouri Studies in 1926 and chaired its editorial committee from 1928 until 1943, seven years after his retirement.(70) In December 1933 he attended a meeting with the members of the National Advisory Committee, formed to work with Sarah Gertrude Knott to plan the National Folk Festival. In 1935 he was instrumental in publishing Ward A. Dorrance’s The Survival of French in the Old District of Ste. Genevieve, (71) a very well-received study of the language, songs, stories, beliefs and customs of the descendants of French settlers in the Ste. Genevieve and Old Mines areas of Missouri. The work was based on Dorrance’s doctoral thesis, for which Belden had served as advisor.
During Belden’s last year of teaching, his students and colleagues planned to honor him at the Arts and Science dinner on December 6, 1935, where he was to deliver a lecture on Mark Twain. Former students and colleagues were asked to send letters or telegrams of congratulation, and Louise Pound responded with a telegram. He wrote her on December 9:

I was quite unprepared for, and accordingly overwhelmed by, the messages of goodwill from absent friends that the toastmaster read out in the face of two hundred people at the Arts and Science Week dinner last Friday. Ours has been a long friendship, tho we have seen little of each other since those days when I was a green instructor at Lincoln and you were--well, a sort of universal wonder--tennis-player, dancer, swimmer, scholar, wit, and--understanding friend. It is enough for one man to have been in any degree helpful to the career of Louise Pound, as you are good enough to say I was.

He added that he was working on a “little project in balladry relating to the shift of persons in ballads, both traditional and broadside, from which perhaps conclusions can be drawn.”(72)

Plans had been underway in the English Department at the University to arrange for the publication of the collection of Missouri ballads.(73) In his letter of November 30, 1935, to Louise Pound to request a message from her to Belden on the occasion of the Arts and Science dinner, Robert Geist, an instructor in English at the University, wrote: “We also hope to honor him more fully later in the year, notably by the publication of his collection of Missouri ballads if possible.” On January 27, 1936, he wrote again.

In my letter to you I spoke of our desire to have Dr. Belden’s collection of Missouri ballads published…. I wrote to Professor G. L. Kittredge on November 29 regarding publication by the Harvard Press, but I have received no reply. One of my colleagues has suggested to me that perhaps you might be able to give us some advice or aid regarding publishers interested in ballads.

Kittredge was also nearing retirement at this time, reportedly not by his own choice. On February 28, 1935, he celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday, and the following February, some three weeks before his seventy-sixth birthday, he announced his retirement in a seven word statement which he refused to embellish: “I am going to retire September 1.” He had begun his long teaching career at Harvard in the Fall of 1888, and according to a biographer “... looked forward to serving fifty years, the length of time his master Child had served.” (74) He was not answering much mail in 1935. Miss Mary O. Eddy sent her “Ballads and Songs of Ohio” to him some time in the mid-1930s and the manuscript was returned to her unopened. (75) An era had ended, but finally in 1940, with the financial help of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society’s publication fund, the major part of which had been donated by Mary Alicia Owen many years earlier, the Missouri collection was published by the University of Missouri Studies. The 610 text variants of 284 songs and ballads were in print after nearly forty years of effort by over one hundred collectors. As editor, Belden dedicated the work to the memory of Mary Alicia Owen, who had died in 1935, and to the members and friends of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society who had made the publication possible.

The work finally published is a tribute not only to Belden and to the Folk-Lore Society, but also to the M. U. English students and the English Club members who had seen the beginning of the collection in the winter of 1903. Belden indicated in the preface that “the collection of traditional songs and ballads here printed is the work almost entirely of persons who were at the time of recording, or had been, students at the University of Missouri.”(76)

Contributions from eight of the twenty charter members of the English Club are included in the final publication. Maude Williams, later a professor at the State Normal School in Warrensburg, had sent several additional pieces to Belden, including “James Bird” in 1904 and in 1920 another version of Child’s “The Two Sisters.” One of the eighteen songs she contributed was “The Butcher Boy,” which she credited to Eva Packard, (77) also a member of the Club and a close friend of hers who later taught mathematics for many years in Kansas City. (78)

Emma Simmons sent Belden thirteen songs from her native Carroll County, Arkansas. In 1903, she gave him “Bedroom Window,” “Texas Rangers,” “Old Honest Abe” and a Civil War ballad, “The Battle of Elkhorn Tavern,” on a military engagement also celebrated in “The Battle of Pea Ridge.” She also sent several songs in 1904, including “The Silver Dagger” and a version of “The Wicked Girl.” She had located several of the songs in Civil War scrapbooks, and she sent “Bonny Blue Flag” and “Joe Slinsworth” from her mother’s 1860 scrapbook. In 1904, she came across a version of “The Homespun Dress” in a scrapbook as well as the Civil War song “Root, Abe or Die” from 1862, which praised Confederate triumphs and scorned the Germans who had supported the Union cause. The last song she collected was ‘The Wagoners,” which she sent Belden in 1907. (79)

In 1904, Harry Fore, one of Belden’s students from Gentryville, lent him a song manuscript dating from the 1870s in Gentry County. This included the ballad “The Brown Girl,” a version of the Child ballad “Lord Thomas and Fair Annet,” “Little Momee” (a version of the American song “Little Mohea”), the song “I’m Despised for Being Poor” (from Virginia), “A Soldier’s Poor Little Boy,” and a version of “Texas Rangers.” (80)

J. H. Craig, the first Club president, found three songs in Bowling Green, Missouri. In 1905, he contributed a version of “The Old Bachelor” and “Seven Long Years Did Sim Court the Widder.” He also gave Belden “Abbie Summers,” a version of “FIorella” or “The Jealous Lover,” on an incident which he reported had actually occurred in a neighboring town to Bowling Green. (81)

In 1905, another Club member, Finis Dean of Eldorado Springs, gave Belden eight songs he could remember his mother, a native of Carroll County, singing. These included “Black Jack Daley,” a version of the Child ballad “Gypsy Laddie,” fragments of “Brennan on the Moor,” relating to an 1820 murder in Indiana, and ‘The Dying Cowboy,” a version of “The Lone Prairie.” In 1914, he also sent Belden partially complete stanzas of the railroad song “The Old Section Boss.” (82)

Charlotte Frances Corder was known in the Club as Lotta. In 1905 and 1906 she contributed four songs to the collection. From acquaintances in her hometown of Corder, which is in Lafayette County, she gave Belden “The Jew’s Garden,” “The Soldier Boy,” “The Butcher Boy,” and “Down by the Weeping Willows” (another version of “Fiorella,” also known as “The Jealous Lover”). (83)

Ethel Lowry of Walker, Missouri, was one of the most prolific of Belden’s collectors. All in all, she contributed forty-three songs and ballads, dating from 1903 to 1920. The first were from Dade County, including some from manuscript ballad books, and the later ones came from just over the border in Columbus, Kansas, where she got many ballads from one of her high school students whose mother had grown up in Lewis County, Missouri.

She collected two of Child’s ballads, “Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor” and “The Ship Carpenter,” the only version of Child’s “The Daemon Lover” in the collection that refers to a ship’s carpenter rather than a house carpenter. She also found “Sweetheart in the Army,” a version of “The Soldier Boy,” “Jack the Sailor,” a version of “Jack Munro,” “Sons of Columbia,” a version of “Fuller and Warren,” and two more versions of “Fiorella” (“Jealous Lover”).

Also, among her discoveries were “Betsy from Pike” and “It was on one Monday Morning,” a version of “Lisbon,” and “Come All Ye Poor Men of the North,” songs from California miners of the 1850s, and “The Dreary Black Hills,” a song about a gold strike in the Black Hills of Wyoming. In addition, she found “Jim Fisk,” a ballad about a famous shooting in Wall Street in 1872, “The Plains of Mexico” from the Mexican War, a song from the 1856 Presidential campaign and many others. (84)

Thus the English Club at the University of Missouri certainly lived up to the high expectations of Belden and The M.S.U. Independent, which in 1903 had predicted: “The English Club is yet young, but it has around it a score of enthusiastic workers, who promise to make it mean something in the future.” Belden had clearly aroused the interest of his students in local folk songs and ballads. For English Club members with literary abilities who met the Club’s aim “to gather material and create a local interest in literary matters typically Missouri in character,” (85) the contributions to the Missouri folksong collection became an important part of their lives. Their work and that of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society remain an immense contribution to the heritage of Missouri.


Henry Marvin Belden, or Harry Belden, as he was known to all who called him by his first name, was not only ahead of his time in his discovery that traditional ballads and songs were still extant in the United States, but in his approach to collecting and his views of what scholars could learn from their collections. From the beginning of his work with the members of the English Club, he emphasized the value to the folklorist of collecting native American ballads relating to local events, urging the students to seek out the “songs that had been ‘gotten up’ to commemorate some murder or famous happening in the neighborhood in days gone by.” (86)

In the article in the Journal of American Folk-Lore in which he published the first ballads and songs collected in Missouri, he had selected for the first group those that were found in Child’s collection, “[not] because they are the most interesting part of our collection, to folk-lorists, for some pieces not found in Child will I think prove of greater interest to them, but because in the absence of any satisfactory scientific classification of ballads, Child’s great collection forms a convenient starting ground” and because the Missouri collection was intended to serve as a supplement to Phillips Barry’s findings in New England. (87) In 1910 he wrote Kittredge:

Professor Lomax seems to be doing very well with his Texas branch. I hope that from his researches and from Mr. Barry’s in the Atlantic states we may be able to understand better the genesis and circulation of modem American “vulgar” ballads. Besides that on Jesse James I have one on Guiteau and one on a man named Maxwell who was hanged for murder in St. Louis in 1888, and two of a somewhat later date. (88)

In his President’s address, delivered at the annual meeting of the American Folk-Lore Society in Providence, Rhode Island, December 29, 1910, he spoke strongly for studying native balladry, carefully marshalling his arguments against Francis Barton Gummere’s assertion that balladmaking was a closed account and citing the doctrine held by German folksong scholar John Meier that poetry that passed, from whatever source and for whatever reason, into the possession of the folk, so that each singer or reciter felt the piece to be his own, was a legitimate concern of the collector. He concluded that contemporary American balladry had to be of concern to folklore scholars.

The “song-ballads” of Maine and Kentucky, of Missouri and Texas and Montana, with their simple ethics and rudimentary aesthetics, their crude tragedy, their obvious pathos, still reveal the tastes, the ideals, the preferred themes and the poetic methods of the backward parts of our modern population. They are therefore, it seems to me, of immediate significance to the anthropologist and the sociologist. They constitute an important part of the material which folk-lore has to offer to the student of human society. (89)

There were some collectors of his time who could not be convinced of his view. In a 1923 letter to Arthur Kyle Davis, C. Alphonso Smith wrote of his approach to collecting:

There have been many times when pressure was brought to bear to side-track my main aim and to make the Society merely an agency for the loose record of all sorts of popular stuff. But I have kept our prow pointed steadily to the collection of those old world songs in which I knew Virginia was rich and ... she now occupies a position far ahead of any other state in the Union. 90

As Tristram Coffin has observed, Child’s Ballads became a canon which “cemented” itself into folksong scholarship. (91) It led to the “Child first” convention that was to influence collectors for decades, as well as to a competitiveness among states and regions to recover the traditional ballads, which led some to disregard native song.

Belden was also among the first of the early scholars to recognize the importance of collecting music with the text, although trying to do so presented its difficulties in early 20th century Missouri. In his 1907 “Partial List of Song Ballads and other Popular Poetry” he addressed the problem:

The most difficult thing for the ballad collector is to record the tunes ….The best method, no doubt would be to take a phonographic record of songs, words and air together; but this will not often be practical…. [But] the tune should be recorded wherever it is possible to do so with accuracy. “The tune is the life of a ballad.” (92)

In his President’s address at the Annual Meeting of the American Folk-Lore Society, December 28, 1911, in Washington, D. C., he reviewed the state of ballad and song research, emphasizing again the value of native ballads in folklore scholarship, and pointing out some of the problems facing the scholar. On the importance of music he noted:

Our fourth problem, the function of the melody in the origin, spread, and development of ballads has received far too little attention from students of balladry in this country. The ballad in its true estate is sung or chanted, not spoken, still less read…. Without the tune the ballad is indeed “a very sad thing”; and ballad-lovers generally I suppose make up a sort of chant, as I do, for ballads that come to them without a tune. The ballad demands it. Yet too many of us attempt to study the development of the ballad, or the relation of one ballad to another, merely from the written words, with no knowledge or thought of the melody with which those words were winged. (93)

It is ironic that when Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society was finally published, the most severe criticism leveled against it was the failure to include tunes for most of the songs. Charles Seeger wrote that “the most serious blemish in the work is the disregard, admitted but not justified by the editor, of the musical elements now generally recognized to be quite as important as the speech elements in the field. For upwards of a thousand items only about seventy tunes are given…. No phonograph recordings seem to have been used in spite of the fact that equipment and techniques were available throughout the whole period of collecting and editing.” (94) Seeger’s was a point of view that Belden had expressed three decades before, and it was a failure in the book that weighed heavily on him. As he wrote to Vance Randolph in 1942: “A very serious defect in my book is the lack of tunes; but I couldn’t help it, being entirely without proficiency in that part of the field.” (95)

Although Belden obviously shared with the “amateur” collectors such as Maude Williams the delight in the discovery of each ballad for the ballad’s sake, he was impatient to get on with what he considered the real purpose of collecting, the comparing, analyzing, classifying and studies of the texts of ballads and songs in order to determine not only their origin but their function in American society. This impatience led him into over-optimistic prophecies in the early years of his work. In his 1905 article, “The Study of Folk-Song in America,” he estimated the progress that could be expected from widespread organized research:
With the interest of students aroused and directed by competent scholars throughout the Union and Canada, it is not too much to hope that in a few years--half a score at most--practically every vestige of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads in America will be found and reduced to writing. What in the great work of Professor Child, in the gatherings of Mr. Newell and Mr. Barry, and in our Missouri collection appears sporadic and merely curious will then be seen completed--and related. With organized research, employing the services of students from the communities, and even from the very homes where the old ballads still live, it will soon be possible to tell not only what ballads have survived in America, but how they have survived--and what changes they have undergone, how widely they are known and what the course and manner of their transmission has been. (96)

In his 1911 address to the American Folk-Lore Society he remembered his early assertions with some chagrin:

It seemed to me that cooperative collection of traditional song from the mouths of people would do more than anything else to resolve our doubts as to the origin of ballads, their special character if they had one, and their relation to print, to social conditions and to book poetry; and with the valor of ignorance I asserted that ten years might see the whole problem, so far as America was concerned, cleared up,--collections completed and conclusions drawn. Naturally, a closer acquaintance with the problem chastened my presumption . (97)

This chastening, however, had not kept him from becoming somewhat of a gadfly to his fellow-collectors. On April 15, 1911, he wrote to Kittredge that he had urged “Shearin and Lomax and Mackenzie to print in some cheap and convenient form lists of their findings. I think we could help one another considerably that way.” (98)

If, in his collection efforts, he failed in many ways to live up to his early aspirations--to collect tunes, to include Missouri’s Euro-American heritage of folklore, to find solutions to the problems he had posed earlier -- Ballads and Songs nevertheless reflects the wide learning he brought to his task. A remembrance by one of his four sons indicates his ability to immerse himself in his collection:

Father had remarkable powers of concentration. He could study and take notes for hours on end while his sons and their friends, as they sometimes did, stomped up and down the wooden stairs, yelled, quarreled, argued, bounced balls against the house or played the same tin-pan tune over and over on the “Graphanola” in the parlor with the doors open for maximum volume. (99)

After the publication of Ballads and Songs, Belden continued his ballad study. Invited in the early 1940s to join in the editing of the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, he wrote Newman White on May 16, 1944, that “I have plenty of time--that is, as much as a man can have who is approaching his seventy-ninth birthday,” (100) and he worked with Arthur Palmer Hudson during the next four years to edit the two volumes of ballads and songs in the Brown Collection. (101) He persisted in his efforts to persuade the State Historical Society to publish Vance Randolph’s monumental collection of Ozark Folksongs, and worked with Frances Emberson, Research Associate for the Society, to check the bibliography and add references to the notes. Randolph dedicated Ozark Folksongs to him. (102)

In July 1952 he wrote to Louise Pound to thank her for the copy of her book she had sent him, probably her historical sketch of the American Dialect Society that was published that year. (103) He reported on his own work:

I do an occasional bit of reviewing. About a year ago John Meier sent me the latest Volksliedforschung and I wrote a notice of it which I sent to Herbert Halpert for his Midwest Folklore…. Meier I have always had a feeling for; his Kunstlieder im Volksmunde helped not a little, forty-five years ago, in your fight and mine, against Gummere’s theorizing. The years come, the years go--but man goes on forever. Have you read Toynbee? l04

On May 12, 1954, Belden suffered a stroke. He was taken to the University Hospital, where he died on May 17. (105) He would have been 89 in October of that year. Three years later on June 24, 1957, his wife died.

Belden had stated his intention, in one of the early publications of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, to deposit its collection in a depository or museum. (106) He had kept it in a box in his study during his lifetime, but unfortunately, perhaps because he himself did not consider the papers of great importance, they were destroyed some time after the death of his wife. On March 21, 1947, Duncan Emrich had written to him to inquire about the disposition of his papers:

Sometime ago we spent a very pleasant evening talking with your son and his wife at our home, and during the course of the conversation I think I asked what plans you might have for the disposition of your papers relating to folklore, folk songs and the Missouri Folklore Society. Your son thought that you might be considering giving your books to the University of Missouri but felt that your papers might be dispersed or lost through oversight for [sic] an underestimation of their historical value to the development of folklore studies. We should greatly like to add to the collection of the Library of Congress manuscript materials and writings of the scholars who have made contributions to the field of folklore, and we are concerned lest material of future importance be lost now…. I hope that you will give serious consideration to this... request for adding to the collection of the national library.107

Belden, who was at that time still working with Arthur Palmer Hudson on the Frank C. Brown collection, replied on March 28, 1947: “... as to papers or manuscripts that might be of interest to the Archive, I’m afraid I have nothing for you. I still have the materials that went into the making of my book of Mo. Ballads, but there’s nothing in them that’s not in the book. I used up the Collection pretty thoroly [sic].” Emrich had mentioned that he was in correspondence with Mrs. Phillips Barry to try to obtain the Barry papers, and Belden reported that he “had a file of letters from Barry, written in the first decade of the century... tho there’s nothing very exciting in them.”(108)

When in the 1970s a search for the papers was undertaken by faculty at the University of Missouri, the Belden sons had forgotten what had happened almost twenty years before. Henry M. Belden, Jr., who was executor of the Beldens’ estate in 1957, stated:

I seem to remember several file boxes of ballad material in the light closet of the north room upstairs [of the family home on Virginia Avenue]…. I think that Ed Weatherly came out and looked at it. We did whatever he recommended…. Maybe the general library ... maybe a special section with Western Historical Manuscripts ... in its name….(109)

Professor Edward Weatherly had written the Foreword for the second edition of Ballads and Songs, published in 1955, and he was aware of the importance of Belden’s work. However, in the late 1970s he could not remember what he had recommended. A recently discovered letter, written on May 29, 1958, by Henry Marvin Belden, Jr., to Helen Hartness Flanders, finally solved the mystery of the missing Belden papers:

We gave Dad’s library to the University of Missouri when Mother died last year. However, all the notes and manuscripts in his ballad collection were destroyed, in the belief that all pertinent information was published in the U. of Mo. Studies Quarterly of Research. (110)

Sad as the loss of these important papers is to those interested in the history of folksong collection in the United States, Belden’s contribution to folklore scholarship can be measured in his published writings, his work with the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, his participation in the discussions (which sometimes developed into quarrels) of his time, and the influence he had on his fellow-collectors. D. K. Wilgus places him in a distinguished company:

There is something that marks a ballad man, though not always the same thing. George Lyman Kittredge and Phillips Barry, Cecil J. Sharp and Miss Lucy Broadwood, Henry Marvin Belden and Louise Pound... had vital relations with folksong and its study that transcend the printed page. (111)

A New Beginning: 1977 - 1987

Tristram Coffin once complained that the state of Ohio had produced more presidents than folklorists. (112) This has not been the case in Missouri, which has been remarkably fortunate in the number and quality of its collectors: In H. M. Belden and his students, who established the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, in Vance Randolph, in Joseph Carriere and Ward Dorrance, and in those who took up the work of preserving Missouri music and folklore in the 1940s and 1950s. In the late 1940s R. P. Christeson, a native of Dixon in Pulaski County, began to collect old-time fiddle tunes in Missouri and other states. His work has been compiled, in two fine volumes and recordings published by the University of Missouri Press. (113) Loman Cansler and Max Hunter have amassed large collections of ballads and songs, as well as other folklore materials, which they have placed in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection in Columbia for future researchers. In the 1970s several major projects were undertaken: The Missouri Friends of the Folk Arts, a St. Louis based group of folklorists made extensive collections of Black, French, and Anglo-American folk music. Rosemary Thomas began her important study of the Old Mines French and Adolf E. Schroeder initiated a Missouri Origins Project which has resulted in a large collection of taped reminiscences, songs, and stories relating to the Euro-American experience in Missouri, as well as audio and videotaped documents on Missouri’s major folk collectors and musicians.

Because of this continuing interest in the collection and preservation of Missouri folklore, a group of faculty at the University of Missouri in Columbia took steps in 1977 to re-establish the Missouri Folklore Society. At an organizational meeting on March 30, 1977, which drew about forty interested persons from throughout the state, the Society was officially reactivated. Inspired by the comprehensive aims of the first Society, the founders of the reactivated Missouri Folklore Society affirmed in its constitution its aim “to encourage the collection, preservation, and study of folklore in its widest sense, including customs, institutions, beliefs, signs, legends, language, literature, musical arts, and folk arts and crafts of all ethnic groups throughout the state of Missouri.” The reactivation of the Society was widely publicized, and from the beginning there was encouraging grass-roots support from throughout the state. The first annual meeting of the (new) Missouri Folklore Society, held November 19, 1977, in Columbia drew more than 60 members and others to hear papers by Robert Cochran, Thomas Cooke, Rosemary Thomas, and Don Holliday. A musical program by Cathy Barton concluded the day’s events.

The new Society has continued to grow and expand its activities through the dedication and support of its officers, its board, and its membership. John W. Roberts, now at the University of Pennsylvania, was the first President and later served as Secretary, publishing in that capacity the 1979 Missouri Folklore Society Journal. Adolf E. Schroeder served as President in 1978 and planned a “Festival of Missouri Folk Arts and Music,” in conjunction with the annual meeting, which was held jointly with that of the Ozark States Folklore Society, a five-state organization established in the fall of 1977. The festival featured Native American dances, Black folk arts, traditional Missouri folk music and dance, French folk music, and German arts and music. Guest speakers were Roger Abrahams, at that time President of the American Folklore Society, Ellen Stekert, Charles van Ravenswaay, and prominent state and regional folklorists. Collectors R. P. Christeson and Max Hunter gave talks on collecting Missouri music and the Boyer family of St. Louis and Henry Townsend presented musical programs. Over 400 persons visited exhibits and attended lectures, performances and workshops that year.

Michael Patrick of the University of Missouri in Rolla was elected President for 1979 and worked with Don Holliday of Southwest Missouri State University, President of the Ozark States Folklore Society, to plan the third annual meeting in Springfield. The 1979 meeting was highlighted by the presence of Herbert Halpert, who gave the keynote address on “Regional Folklore and the Collecting of Folklore,” and Mrs. Betrenia Bowker, former Director of the Folklore Project of the Works Project Administration in Springfield. “The Green Fields of America,” a group of Irish musicians, dancers and singers, entertained, and there were papers, panels, and exhibits planned by Don Holliday and the local arrangements committee. Rosemary Thomas, who had served for three years as Vice President representing the St. Louis area, was elected President for 1980, and the 1980 meeting was held at the University of Missouri in Rolla. The program at Rolla focused on Missouri’s ethnic diversity, with Roger Welsch presenting the keynote address on “Ethnic Folklore.” Ed Trickett, a well known folk artist for Folk Legacy records, presented a concert, and Sally Yerkovich, a representative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, spoke on “The Current Scene for Projects in Folklore.” The 1980 Rolla meeting was notable for the extensive exhibits, including those by Janet Boyer of St. Louis and the Missouri Friends of the Folk Arts, and the fine papers presented by members and friends of the Society.

Donald M. Lance was elected President of the Missouri Folklore Society for 1981, and the 1981 meeting, which marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the original Society, was held in Columbia. The program focused on the folklore, folk arts, and folk music of Missouri’s many cultural groups with a panel discussion on Black folk culture in Missouri, planned by John W. Roberts, showings of Adolf E. Schroeder’s “Missouri Origins” slide tape series on French, Czech, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Polish cultural life in Missouri, a session on storytelling featuring Rosemary Thomas, John Foley, and Beth Homer, as well as sessions on Cemetery Art and its Preservation and papers on railroad terms (Richard Ashenfelter), home-made toys (Jim Vandergriff) and modern urban legends (Ward Sample). There was a poetry reading, “The Stuff of Life in Missouri,“ Bert Feintuch of Western Kentucky University gave the keynote address on “Square Dancing and Notions of Community,” and there were square dance demonstrations and workshops led by Dr. Gayle Adams of Columbia and William Litchman of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Members and friends of the Society, Max Hunter, Loman Cansler, Thelma Conway, Sterling Kelley, Taylor McBaine, Cathy Barton Para and others closed the meeting with music and song.

Susan Pentlin of Warrensburg was elected President of the Society for 1982, and Donald M. Lance was persuaded to take the office of Secretary and with it the editorship of the Missouri Folklore Society Newsletter and Journal, a position to which he has been re-elected each year since that time. The 1982 meeting in Warrensburg was a memorable one for its focus on the history of western Missouri and the insight it provided into local folklore and cultural institutions. Alan Jabbour, Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, gave two keynote addresses, participated in paper meetings and jam sessions and won many friends in Missouri. The elegant wine-tasting, tour, and the program provided by Roy Stubbs in the Old Johnson County Courthouse and the banquet in Pertle Springs Lodge, where local author Cena Christopher Draper spoke of her childhood and youth in Warrensburg, were part of an excellent program of papers, panels, exhibits, and musical programs. The meeting closed with some fine fiddling by Taylor McBaine of Columbia, Art Galbraith of Springfield, and Charlie Walden of Columbia, introduced by Cathy Barton Para. We could only conclude that the President and the local arrangements committee for the 1982 annual meeting set a standard that would be a challenge for future program planners to meet.

The early 1980s saw a migration of folklorists to Missouri: Elaine Lawless was appointed to a position in folklore in the English Department at the University of Missouri in Columbia; Howard Wight Marshall was appointed Director of the newly established Missouri Cultural Heritage Center at the University; Erika Brady settled in Cape Girardeau with husband, Nolan Porterfield, and began research on French folklore with Rosemary Thomas and on Mississippi River lore and fur trapping; and Sandy Rikoon of Columbia established a research organization, created exhibits, taught courses in folklore, and in other ways raised the consciousness of Missourians about their folk heritage. Lawless, Marshall, Brady, and Rikoon all hold doctoral degrees from Indiana University in folklore and all have contributed significantly to folklore research in their fields. They have participated in annual meetings, served as officers and board members, and in other ways strengthened the Missouri Folklore Society by their work, while at the same time developing and sponsoring other programs of interest to Missourians.

Barry Bergey was elected President of the Society for 1983, and the 1983 meeting, planned by Bergey and Rosemary Thomas was held in St. Louis. The program focused on urban folklore and brought Jan Brunvand to Missouri to give the keynote address on urban legends. To commemorate the Tricentennial of the first permanent German settlement in America, Adolf E. Schroeder gave a special luncheon address on “German Traditions on the Western Frontier.” The theme of the meeting was “Cultural Diversity in Missouri,” and there were paper sessions on Black Urban Music in Missouri, Middle Europeans in Missouri, Folk Architecture, French and German traditions and music and dance in Missouri. A special quilt exhibit included quilts of four different Missouri traditions: St. Louis Afro-Americans, Missouri Rhineland Germans, Columbia-area Amish, and northeast Missouri Anglo-Americans.

Michael Patrick of the University of Missouri in Rolla was elected President of the Society for the second time and planned the 1984 annual meeting in Rolla. The theme of the meeting, “Roads, Rails, and Rivers,” particularly inspired members and friends of the Society and resulted in a number of excellent papers. Charles Wolfe of Middle Tennessee State University gave the keynote address on “Tradition and Technology.” After showings of the documentary “The Singing Brakeman” and the movie “Tender Mercies,” Nolan Porterfield, author of an award winning book on Jimmie Rodgers, discussed Rodgers, country music, and rail lore. Bob Dyer of Boonville and others sang river songs, and Jim Bogan read and discussed his poems. Evelyn Sheets and Evelyn Trickel of Trenton showed a slide-tape program on “The Saluda: Steamboat Wrecks on the Missouri River.” There were papers on bridges and iron works, plant lore, and place names as well as jam sessions, videotapes on Missouri folk music collectors, a banquet and concert at Newburg, an old railroad town in the Ozarks, participation in play-party activities, and other events. The annual meetings had somehow developed along the way from a one-day program for our first meeting in 1977 to two-day programs beginning Thursday evening and lasting through Saturday. The local arrangements committee for the Rolla meeting had planned a full and diverse program.

Erika Brady was elected President for 1985 and though a relative newcomer to Missouri planned a program in Cape Girardeau that lived up in every way to the standards set by her predecessors. The keynote speaker was Archie Green, who has since 1985 contributed enormously to the research potential of Missouri by helping to bring the Peter Tamony papers on American speech to the University of Missouri. The meeting was co-sponsored by the History Department and the Center for Regional History and Cultural Heritage at Southeast Missouri State University and non-member “delegates” from historical societies, schools, community libraries, and other organizations were invited to participate in the meeting. One of the most successful innovations was the introduction of four interactive workshops, “Remembering Sessions,” on the Cherokee Trail of Tears, river lore, music and historical tradition, and traditional astrological and astronomical lore. Each session had a group leader who made a short presentation and then invited members of the audience to contribute their comments and reminiscences. This part of the program proved so rewarding and productive that several subsequent meetings have adopted the idea. After a full program of papers, special lectures and an “open mike” musical program provided by members, the Cape Girardeau meeting ended with a bus excursion to the Perry County Saxon German settlements and a German dinner provided by members of the historic church at Altenburg.

The year 1986 had a dual significance. It marked the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society and the tenth annual meeting of the reactivated Society. Elaine Lawless , who had followed Belden as the folklorist at the University of Missouri, served as President in 1986, and planned a meeting in Columbia that was a fitting commemoration of the work of her predecessor. The theme, “Preserving Our Rural Past, Preparing for Our Technological Future,” provided program presenters with an opportunity to look back to the achievement of Missouri’s dedicated folklore collectors and scholars and forward to changing perspectives and theories of folklore research. Alan Jabbour was again invited to present the keynote address, and his talk on “Technology and the Collecting Impulse in American Folklore” developed the thematic focus of the meeting, which featured sessions on contemporary Missouri traditions, performance and remembrance sessions, a workshop on “Folklore Archives and Folklore Publishing,” continuous showings of films and videotapes, a session on material culture, and craft demonstrations and displays. A special music performance featured masters in the Master-Apprentice Traditional Folk Arts Program directed by the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center, and there was music and song by members and friends of the Society.

In 1985 the Society established a “Distinguished Achievement Award” as a way to recognize major accomplishments relating to folklore research in Missouri. R. P. Christeson of Auxvasse received the first award for his pioneering work in collecting, preserving, and publishing Missouri fiddle tunes, an undertaking that has led to a revitalization of old-time Missouri fiddling. In 1986 Loman Cansler, a native of Dallas County, now living in Kansas City, and Max Hunter of Springfield were recognized for their decades of work as collectors and their contributions as performers and interpreters of Missouri’s balladry and song. Honorary memberships in the Society have been awarded to Adolf and Rebecca Schroeder (1978), Jack Conroy (1984), Ruth Barton (1985) and Sterling Kelley (1986). The Society has sponsored several research projects, including the production of three videotapes, “Down in Missouri With Loman Cansler,” “Max Hunter: Ozark Song Collector,” and “Ballads, Bones and Fiddle Tunes,” and has been instrumental in establishing a Missouri Folklore Archive at the University of Missouri Western Historical Manuscript Collection in Columbia.

The Society’s new decade began with a meeting in Jefferson City, planned by 1987 President Charles Mink. The programs, held on the Lincoln University campus, in the Capitol Rotunda, and at the historical Jefferson Landing on the Missouri Riverfront, included all the elements that have made Society conferences memorable--a showcasing of local talent, good papers and presentations by MFS members, fine music and dance. Gary Kremer gave the keynote address on George Washington Carver. The Lincoln University faculty and students contributed two concerts, one in the Capitol Rotunda. Through the cooperation of the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center, Master performers in the Master/Apprenticeship Traditional Arts program were featured. MFS President Mink had planned several surprises: There was a proclamation from the Governor recognizing the contribution the Society has made to encouraging the collection, preservation, performance, and publication of Missouri folk music and folklore; and awards were presented to those who had been instrumental in re-establishing the Society and developing its activities during its first decade: Ruth Barton, Don Lance, and the Schroeders were honored. Jane Frick of Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph was elected President for 1988, and Gordon McCann of Springfield First Vice President and President-Elect for 1989, assuring that the Society was well on its way to a second  productive decade with meetings planned for the northwest and southwest parts of the state.

The founders of the reactivated Society adapted its constitution from that of the original Missouri Folk-Lore Society, and its activities have in many ways parallelled those planned, carried out, and hoped-for by Belden. Meetings have been held in various areas of the state, and officers and board members represent different areas and different interests. As Belden did, the Society’s officers have worked with other organizations with similar interests, such as the Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association and the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center, as well as with other state folklore societies, publicizing their programs and supporting their activities. We have in turn welcomed the participation of various groups in the activities of the Society, and our meetings have always been open to the general public. As a consequence of the composition of our membership which includes both academic and non-academic members who are equally active, support was received for some years from the Missouri Humanities Council, which enabled us to bring noted folkorists to the state. Generous support from the Boone County Community Trust and from academic institutions which co-sponsored the meetings has also contributed to the success of the programs.

Representatives of various academic disciplines--anthropology, history, linguistics, foreign languages, geography and folklore--have joined with local historians, and others interested in Missouri’s heritage to establish and develop the Society, which seems to draw its vitality from the diverse interests of its members. At present there are over 300 individual and family members as well as library and institutional members who receive the Missouri Folklore Society Newsletter and the Journal.
The model developed by H. M. Belden over 80 years ago has served the new Missouri Folklore Society well in its first years. Following the example set by members of the original Folk-Lore Society, those who have worked for their new Society since its founding, as well as those who have generously contributed their talents, financial assistance, and energies to annual meetings and other functions of the Society, can share the credit for its continuing success in working toward goals established by H. M. Belden for the Society he founded.


*Note: This article is a result of complementary interests of two members of the Missouri Folklore Society: Susan Pentlin’s interest in the English Club and the part it played in the initial organization of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society and Rebecca B. Schroeder’s research on H. M. Belden and the history of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society.

1  H. M. Belden, ed., Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, University of Missouri Studies, XV, 1 (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1940). Reprint with foreword by Edward Weatherly. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1955.

2 The M. S. U. Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16. [Hereafter The Independent].

3 "Roll of Membership,” English Club of the University of Missouri Papers, 1903, 98, folder 1, Joint Collection Western Historical Manuscripts and the State Historical Society Manuscripts, Columbia, Mo. The roll also indicates the home town of each member.

4 "Autobiographical Notes.” Typescript sent to A. E. Schroeder by Allen Belden, February 22, 1976, p. 15. This autobiographical sketch was later included in A Belden Lineage 1066-1976, edited by Allen Belden (Washington, D. C., 1976).

5 The Independent, March 6, 1903, p. 6. The meeting was held in the office of E. A. Allen, who had been appointed head of the English Department at the University in 1885. In June 1899 Belden and Ethel Allen, E. A. Allen’s daughter, had married.

6 The Independent, March 18, 1903, p. 7.

7 The Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16. The State Historical Society of Missouri was organized May 26, 1898, by the Missouri Press Association. In May, 1899, it became a trustee of the State, and in 1901 began to receive state support. Its library was built up very rapidly, and for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis it created an exhibit of Missouri periodicals and books which won a grand prize. By 1906, when it established the Missouri Historical Review, the library was receiving 750 periodicals and had a collection of 12,190 books and 20,000 pamphlets. (Missouri Historical Review, 1 (October, 1906), 1- 2. [Hereafter MHR .]

8 The Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16.

9The Independent, March 6, 1903, p. 6.

10 The Independent, March 18, 1903, p. 7.

11The Independent, April 16. 1903, p. 7. The song is in the English Club Papers, f. 4.

12 The Independent, February 19, 1902, p. 5.

13 English Club papers, f. 3.

14 The Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16.

15 The Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16.

16 Missouri Folk-Lore Society Papers, 2045, Box 13, folder 1, 1912-1923, membership cards, Joint Collection Western Historical Manuscripts and the State Historical Society Manuscripts, Columbia, Mo.

17 English Club Papers, folder 2, letter from J. H. Craig to Emma Gertrude Simmons, October 7, 1903.

18 Belden, Ballads and Songs, p. xi.

19 Maude Williams’ copy of Ballads and Songs is owned by her son, Frank Martin, of Warrensburg.

20 Interview with Charles and Frank Martin, 1983 (Pentlin).

21 ”English Club Meets,” Columbia Missouri Herald, May 20, 1903, p. 14.

22 Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (5 vols.; Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1882-1898), I, p. xviii.

23 ”The English Club,” The Independent, May 20, 1904.

24 Henry M. Belden, “The Study of Folk-Song in America,” Modem Philology , 2 (April, 1905), 573.

25 H. M. Belden, “Old Country Ballads in Missouri,” Journal of American Folk-Lore, (July-September, 1906), p. 231.

26 MHR, 1 (October 1906), 106-107.

27 Missouri Folk-Lore Society membership list, Vertical File, State Historical Society of Missouri. When work began on this article some of the surviving records and papers of the Society were housed in the State Historical Society Reference Room, Vertical File, in the East Wing of Ellis Library; and others were in the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, in the West Wing. Through the efforts of Laurel Boeckmann of the SHS staff and Laura Bullion of the WHMC staff, copies of the SHS collection have been placed in the WHMC Missouri Folk-Lore Society Papers. This will make it unnecessary for future researchers to go from one archive to the other.

28 MHR, 1 (January 1907), 156-157. The first meeting was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the State Historical Society [Letter of December 4, 1906 from F. A. Sampson, Secretary and Librarian, to W. C. Breckenridge (William Clark Breckenridge papers, Folder 20, Joint Collection, WHM and SHS Manuscripts)].

29 Copies of various versions of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society Constitution are in the WHM and SHS Collections relating to the Society.

30 MHR, 1 (January 1907), 157.

31 MHR, 1 (January 1907), 157.

32 A copy of the brochure is in the State Historical Society Vertical File.

33 Henry Marvia [sic] Belden, “Folksong in Missouri--Bedroom Window,” Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, 119 (1907), 430-31.

34 H. M. Belden, “A Partial List of Song-Ballads and other Popular Poetry Known in Missouri with Some Hints for the Collector” (Columbia, Missouri Folk-Lore Society, 1907), 6 pp.

35 Papers of George Lyman Kittredge, Ballads and Songs (20 vo1s. in 14 boxes), vol 1. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

36 H. M. Belden, “Popular Song in Missouri--The Returned Lover,” Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, 120 (1908), 62-71.

37 Quoted in a letter of November 29, 1988, from F. E. Abernethy to Rebecca B. Schroeder.

38 Letter of January 18, 1989 from F. E. Abernethy to Rebecca B. Schroeder: “Thanks a million for the... pamphlet you sent. It was obviously the model for the first TFS pamphlet written by one of our founders, L. W. Payne." Mr. Abernethy kindly sent to the MFS Archive a copy of the Folklore Society of Texas pamphlet prepared by Payne, as well as the relevant passages from his history of the Texas Society now in progress (1988-89): Payne’s first pamphlet was modeled on Belden’s Missouri Folklore Society pamphlet, which Belden sent out soon after the MFS was organized in 1906. Both begin with the title and lists of officers. Belden’s three directors became Payne’s three councillors [sic]. Both begin with organization information, memberships, and charter information and then discuss the kinds of folklore available in their states. Payne uses Belden’s definition of folklore, which is quoted but not attributed, perhaps because it is a commonly used and accepted definition. Belden’s definition had the word oral before tradition. Payne deleted oral probably because he recognized that all folklore is not transmitted orally; ... Payne changed the order of Belden’s folklore classification system, but kept the same general headings…. “

39 As noted above, copies of the State Historical Society Collection are now included in the Missouri Folk-Lore Society Papers at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection.

40 H. M. Belden, “A Partial List of Song Ballads and Other Popular Poetry Known in Missouri with Some Hints for the Collector (Columbia, Missouri Folk-Lore Society, 1910), 11 pp.

41 Belden had hoped, in establishing the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, to “unite all folk-lore enthusiasts and folk-lore workers in the state” and invited as members “all who care about preserving the relics of former time [sic] in which Missouri is so rich” [undated flyer, sent to announce plans to form society. W. C. Breckenridge Papers, f. 61, WHMC.] However, he believed “all persons in Missouri who are really interested in the facts and problems of folk-lore will find it to their advantage” to belong to the American Folk-Lore Society. [Undated brochure, “Missouri Folk-Lore Society,” p. 2]. From the beginning, although its members had at first declined formal association with the national organization, the Society was referred to as the “Missouri Branch” of the American Folklore Society in the Journal of American Folk-Lore. See JAF, vols. 19 (1906), 19, 86; 21 (1908), 83-84; 22 (1909), 263; 24 (1911), 26-27; 30 (1917), 272.

42 State Historical Society Collection.

43 Missouri Folk-Lore Society, 1912-1923 Papers, WHMC, f. 2.

44 State Historical Society Collection.

45 ”Autobiographical Notes,” pp. 21-22. Belden had been in correspondence with Barry as early as 1906, when he wrote to him with information about “The Ocean Burial.” Letter, January 25, 1906, Phillips Barry Papers, Box 8, Houghton Library.

46 ”Boccaccio, Hans Sachs, and The Bramble Briar,” PMLA, 33 (1918 [new series, vol. 26, no. 3]), 327-395.

47 Although Goldy Hamilton was not a charter member of the English Club, perhaps because she graduated in 1903 and was working toward her M.A. in 1904, she later joined the Club and was an early member of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society and one of its most successful collectors. Belden wrote Kittredge that “Miss Hamilton’s contributions... fill a box by themselves and are on the whole the most significant.” (Letter, February 16, 1917, Kittredge Papers, Ballads and Songs, vol. IX, Houghton Library).

Goldy Hamilton held a scholarship in English at the University of Missouri in 1902-1904. She taught English and Latin in Excelsior Springs from 1904 to 1907, served as principal of the high school in Dwight, Illinois, in 1907-1908, and returned to Missouri to teach at Carthage in 1908-1909 and West Plains in 1909-1911. She was appointed Associate Professor of English at the First District Normal School in Kirksville (now Northeast Missouri State University) in 1911, where she remained until 1914, when she left to teach at St. Petersburg, Florida. In 1930 she returned to Dwight, Illinois, where she lived for the remainder of her life. (From Paul O. Selby, Biographies of Deceased Faculty Members, vol. 2 (Kirksville: Northeast Missouri State University, 1972), p. 19, and letter of January 24, 1989, from Odessa L. Ofstad to Susan Pentlin).

48 A copy of this report is in the Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Room Vertical File Collection as well as in the State Historical Society collection.

49 G. L. Kittredge, “Ballads and Songs,” JAF, 30 (July-September, 1917), 283-369.

50 Kittredge Papers, Ballads and Songs, vol. IX, Houghton Library.

51  “Autobiographical Notes,” p. 22. There is also a December 3, 1917, note in the Missouri Folk-Lore Society Papers, folder 2, WHMC, that the “epidemic of influenza prevented the annual midwinter meeting of the State Teachers Association of which the Society is a department.”

52 Bulletin, State Teachers Association, 4.11 (April 1918), 20.

53 Bulletin, 4.1-2 (January-April 1920), 11-12.

54 Bulletin, 4.1-2 (January-April 1920), 12.

55 George Lyman Kittredge Papers, Correspondence 1886-1941. Harvard University Archives.

56 Missouri Folk-Lore Society Papers, 1912-1923, f. 2. WHMC.

57 H. M. Belden, “The Missouri Society” in Wayland Hand, “North American Folklore Societies,” JAF, 56 (July-September 1943), 176.

58 Belden, “The Missouri Society,” 177.

59 See JAF, vols. 21 (January-March 1908), 60-67; 22 (October--December 1909), 389-94; 24 (July-September 1911), 295-318; 27 (July--September 1914), 287-303; 38 (July--September 1925), 375-99; 49 (July--September 1936), 207-14.

60 In an undated note to the treasurer, Belden asked him to “Please try these again for 1920 dues.” On the list of six persons were Dr. A. E. Bostick, W. R. MacKenzie, Eva Case, and Frances Barbour, all of whom had served the Society as officers or directors. (Missouri Folk-Lore Society Papers, 1912-1923, WHMC).

61 In his excellent book An Historical Sketch of The Department of English (Columbia, Department of English, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1986), p. 139, Professor Leon Dickinson reports “the badgering” by one professor of another’s student in an oral examination: “Proceeding ‘Socratically’ with the student, Fairchild pressed the point that since Aristotle had established the principle that great literature must be universal, local color writing, the student’s subject, must by its nature be something less than great.” Although this incident did not relate to Belden, but to Robert L. Ramsay, who was responsible for the monumental gathering of data on Missouri place names with the assistance of devoted students who altogether wrote eighteen theses on the subject from 1928-1945, it may well have reflected a prevailing mind-set at the University.

62 Belden, Ballads and Songs, p. 403.

63 Quoted in Arthur Kyle Davis, Traditional Ballads of Virginia (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1929), p. 27.

64 Davis, Traditional Ballads of Virginia, p. 28.

65 Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Songs: Some Conclusions (London: Simpkin and Co., Ltd., 1907), p. 119.

66 Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Songs From the Southern Appalachians , ed. Maud Karpeles (2 vols.; London: Oxford University Press, 1932), I, xii.

67 Cecil J. Sharp and Olive Dame Campbell, English Folk-Songs From the Southern Appalachians (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1917).

68 Richard Dorson, “A Theory of American Folklore,” JAF, 52 (1959), 199.

69 Evelyn Wells, The Ballad Tree (New York: Ronald Press, 1950), p. 263.

70 Dickinson, The Department of English, p. 35.

71 Ward A. Dorrance, The Survival of French in the Old District of Ste. Genevieve, University of Missouri Studies 10, no. 2 (April 1, 1935).

72 Letter, December 9, 1935, to Louise Pound. Papers of Louise Pound, University of Nebraska Archive.

73 Letters in Papers of Louise Pound.

74 Clyde Kenneth Hydes, George Lyman Kittredge (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1962), pp. 168-169.

75 Interview with Miss Eddy, February 23, 1964 (Schroeder).

76 Belden, p. xi.

77 Belden, pp. 23, 203, 296.

78 Interview with Frank Martin, 1986 (Pentlin).

79 Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 119, 124, 337, 356, 368, 460.

80 Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 39, 144, 194, 273, 336.

81 Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 263, 326, 436.

82 Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 74, 286, 388, 445.

83 Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 72, 148, 205, 326.

84 Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 46, 86, 148, 176, 304, 336, 340, 341, 343, 349, 415.

85 The Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16.

86 The Independent, May 11, 1903, p. 16.

87 "Old Country Ballads in Missouri - I,” JAF, 19 (July-September 1906), 231.

88 Letter, April 14, 1910, in Kittredge Papers, Ballads and Songs , vol. 2. See “Maxwell’s Doom” in Belden, Ballads and Songs, pp. 413-15.

89 H. M. Belden, “The Relation of Balladry to Folk-Lore,” JAF 24 (January-March 1911), 13. In 1911, he published an article on “The Vulgar Ballad,” in The Sewanee Review, (April 1911), 1-15, a finely argued rationale for the study of “street ballads.”

90 Letter from C. Alphonso Smith to A. K. Davis, December 18, 1923, Virginia Folk-Lore Society Archive, Box 10, University of Virginia.

91 Tristram Coffin, Review of English and Scottish Ballads, Midwest Folklore, 7 (Fall 1957), 175.

92” A Partial List,” p. 2.

93 H. M. Belden, “Balladry in America,” JAF, 25 (January-March 1912), 22.

94 American Historical Review, 46 (April 1941), 730.

95 Letter, February 23, 1942. Vance Randolph University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

96 Belden, “The Study of Folksong in American,” pp. 574-75.

97 Belden, “Balladry in America,” p. 1.

98 Letter, April 15, 1911, in Kittredge Papers, Ballads and Songs, vol. 2.

99 A Belden Lineage, p. 213.

100 Letter, May 22, 1944, Editing Papers, Frank C. Brown Collection, Duke University Archives.

101 The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, Henry M. Belden and Arthur Palmer Hudson, eds., vol. 2, Folk Ballads, and vol. 3, Folk Songs (Durham: Duke University Press, 1952).

102 Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs (4 vols; Columbia, Mo.: State Historical Society of Missouri, 1946-1950).

103 The American Dialect Society; A Historical Sketch, Publication of the American Dialect Society, No. 17. 44 pp.

104 Letter, July 16, 1952, from H. M. Belden to Louise Pound. Pound Papers, University of Nebraska Archives.

105 A Belden Lineage, p. 181.

106 Belden, “A Partial List,” p. 1.

107 Letter, March 21, 1947, from Duncan Emrich, Library of Congress, Archive of Folk Culture, Belden folder.

108 Letter, March 28, 1947, from H. M. Belden to Duncan Emrich, Library of Congress, Archive of Folk Culture, Belden folder.

109 Quoted in a letter of April 25, 1975, from Allen Belden to A. E. Schroeder.

110 Letter, March 28,1958, from Henry Marvin Belden, Jr. to Helen Hartness Flanders. Library of Congress, Archive of Folk Culture, Helen Hartness Flanders papers.

111 D. K. Wilgus, Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship since 1898 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1959), p. xii.

112 Tristram P. Coffin, “The State of Folklore and the State of Ohio,” Midwest Folklore, 3 (Spring 1953), 19.

113 The Old-Time Fiddler’s Repertory, 2 vols., compiled and edited by R. P. Christeson (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973, 1984). A two-record album, The Old-Time Fiddler’s Repertory, accompanied volume 1.

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