The Music Division's Clipping File: Musicians and Politics

By Bob Kosovsky, Librarian
March 31, 2016
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

I'm happy to announce that the "Names" portion of the Music Division's Clipping File has been inventoried. This inventory contains over 46,000 names and is a list of folders in our Clipping File. The complete inventory can be viewed through the catalog: Music Division Clipping File : Names. Find an accompanying guide to using our clipping file here.

Together with the "Subjects" portion of the Clipping File (already in the Catalog), the Music Division's Clipping File comes to over 60,000 folders of names and various subjects concerning or related to music.

A number of dedicated volunteers helped with this project; In particular I would like to publicly acknowledge and thank the tireless work of Ulla, Joan, John and Melissa. As a way of celebrating this three-year project, I'm happy to introduce Melissa as a guest blogger. Her three-part series will tell more about the clipping file and what she found in it.

Read the full series by Melissa:The Music Division's Clipping File Part 2: The ScandalsThe Music Division's Clipping File Part 3: Performers and Performances

Millions of articles from all different forms of print media that span the field of music are housed in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. One can find famous and infamous musicians and critics, scandals, and just about anything that has a connection to music and New York City.

I discovered this exciting side of music history while volunteering for Bob Kosovsky, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts in the Music Division. My duty was to inventory the clipping files in the stacks of the NYPL for the Performing Arts. At first, I would perform my job as trained: input the name of the folder with the clipping(s) of various musicians, music groups, music administrators, and philanthropists into the Excel file, label it, and record how many folders have that name. I also had to be on the lookout for misplaced articles and place them in their appropriate folders or create a folder for them. After about two hours of doing this, words and photos in the articles started to capture my eye and I would spend my time reading them. Five boxes later, I took out my camera and photographed the articles that caught my eye for various reasons.

The Infamous and Famous Musicians, Critics and Their Politics

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth was famous in her time having composed many works from masses to operas and used her composition skills to fight for women’s rights.

Photo of Dame Ethel Mary Smyth
Dame Ethel Smythe's obituary from the New York Tribune, May 10, 1944

Photo of Kate Smith doing her bit for the the USO during World War II:

Kate Smith, on a tour of service men's camps, endorses a gift to Hitler at the submarine base in New London, Connecticut

Prohibitionist piano maker running for mayor in Brooklyn:

Freeborn G. Smith - Prohibition Candidate for Mayor of Brooklyn

Music critic ruffled a few feathers

 He double-dared.

These print articles and photos represent a water droplet in a vast sea of what you can find in this collection at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts. Stay tuned for the second blog post of this three-part miniseries: The Scandals! If you cannot wait, please feel free to come and visit the collection for yourself!

Melissa inventorying clippings

Melissa, one of the volunteers who helped inventory the Music Division's clipping file

More on the Music Division's Clipping File

Read more about clippings and how you can use them to support your research:

The Music Division's Clipping File Part 2: The Scandals: Read the next post in Melissa's series on our collection of clippings and what they reveal about scandal in the music world.The Music Division's Clipping File Part 3: Performers and Performances: Read the final post in Melissa's series, about more extraordinary and strange stories unearthed in our Clipping File.Research Guide: Clippings at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts: This librarian-curated guide will help you explore our collection on your own. Learn how you can access the collection, the best ways to browse, and find more information about the scope of the Clipping File.