The James Madison Carpenter Collection of Traditional Song and Drama

Abstract

This essay describes the folklore collection of James Madison Carpenter (1888-1983), who gathered an extensive body of folk songs and mummers’ plays in the United States and particularly in England and Scotland from 1928-35. The essay illustrates the interest of some of these items, including the ballads and the previously little-studied “dreg songs” of Scottish oyster fishers. It also outlines the Carpenter Collection Project to publish the collection in a critical edition.

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James Madison Carpenter, circa 1938.

Photo: The James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001 PH099.

James Madison Carpenter in his Austin roadster, circa 1929.

Photo: The James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001 PH101.

Sam Bennett, Ilmington Morris fiddler, Warwickshire, circa 1933.

Photo: The James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001 PH036.

Bell Duncan of Lambhill, Aberdeenshire, knitting outside her home, circa 1930.

Photo: The James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001 PH095.

Text transcription of “Hoodah Day,” as sung by Captain Edward B. Trumbull, Salem, Massachusetts.

Photo: The James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001/MS p. 03379.

Music transcription of “The Wife of Usher’s Well” (Child 79), as sung by Mrs. Annie Kidd, Glen Ythan, Rothienorman, Aberdeenshire.

Photo: The James Madison Carpenter Collection, Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, AFC 1972/001/MS p. 08733.

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