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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Edwin Ford Piper Collection

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1929-1941
Creator: Piper, Edwin Ford
Extent: 2.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0040
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Piper's notes on Western ballads, with music for some; other folk materials including rimes, riddles, games, folk sayings, quadrille calls, slang, superstitions, and folk remedies.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs: Box 3; Disc: Box 4; Ephemera in scrapbook.

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Acquisition: This collection is made up of combined gifts from Piper's widow, Mrs. Janet Pressley Piper, Ernest Horn, and Paul Benjamin, during the years between 1947 and 1974.

Preferred Citation: Edwin Ford Piper Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Edwin Ford Piper was born on February 8, 1871 in Auburn, Nebraska, a few miles west of the Missouri River, to Joseph Benson and Lucinda Adeline Ford Piper. As farmers moved in and rangeland disappeared, his family moved farther west in Nebraska. While he was growing up, he listened to the songs, rhymes, square dancing calls, and prayer meeting calls of the hired hands, hobos, itinerant fiddlers -- anyone who created music. He also learned songs from his mother and his siste, Ella. These folk expressions had a great effect upon Piper. In 1893, he entered the University of Nebraska, where he earned an A. B. in 1897 and an A.M. in 1900. In 1905 he joined the University of Iowa faculty, where he remained until his death on May 17, 1939, just days before he was to be the guest speaker at the University's Commencement Supper.
At the University he taught Chaucer and writing. A poet in his own right, he published five books of verse: Barbed Wire (1917); The Land of the Aiouwas (1922), Barbed Wire and Wayfarers (1924), Paintrock Road (1927); and Canterbury Pilgrims (1935). He was in great demand as a reader of poetry and his habit of breaking into song when the poem demanded it earned him the nickname "the singing professor." He served as advisor on The Midland and American Prefaces, and was the chief sponsor of Kinnikinnick.
In 1897, Piper began transcribing ballads and songs remembered from his childhood. In 1909 he became more systematic about this endeavor, gathering songs printed in newspapers and magazines, collecting them from older singers, exchanging them with other scholars. Eventually, indexes were made for the songs he had collected. These materials now comprise the Piper Collection.
See also two articles by Harry Oster, "Edwin Ford Piper Collection of Folksongs" and "English and Irish Broadsides in the Edwin Ford Piper Collection".

Approximately two feet, the Piper Collection consists of words to ballads, rhymes, temperance songs, hobo songs, Indian songs, Cajun songs, quadrille calls, dance calls, and calls to and dismissals from the floor; story manuscripts; student papers; music transcriptions for some songs; original English and Irish broadsides of the nineteenth century; and correspondence of Piper. The collection also includes a 1934 thesis by Harold Peterson, which is a syllabus of the ballads in the collection.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Ballads A-J (10 folders)
    See: T1934 P48 Peterson, Harold Daniel. A Syllabus of the Ballad Collection of Edwin Ford Piper [Box 3]. See also card files 1 and 2, which contain some additional information, but are largely duplicated by the Peterson thesis.
  • Box 2:
  • Ballads K-Z (15 folders)
  • Bibliographical and biographical material
  • Cajun songs
  • Calls to the floor and dismissals
  • Correspondence - 1929-1947
  • Box 3:
  • Dance calls (2 folders)
    See also Quadrilles and Quadrille calls
  • The Ellesmere Chaucer
  • Hobo songs - 1923
  • Indian songs
  • An Inquiry into Some Phases of the Art of Description as Exhibited in Descriptions of Out of Door Scenes from the Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson
    Draft and bound copies
  • Iowa Song, musics, lyric, and with a note by Edwin Ford Piper
  • Kinnikinnick - 1926
  • The Land of the Aiouwas: A Masque - 1922
  • Literary manuscripts (3 folders)
  • Miscellaneous notes and pamphlets - 1901 and undated
  • Music transcriptions. Includes some ballads
    These transcriptions are not executed in Piper's handwriting, but they may have been done under Piper's direction.
  • Newspaper and journal clippings - 1921-1931, 1965
  • Obitiuaries, memorials, and eulogies for Edwin Ford Piper
  • Photographs
  • Box 4:
  • Peterson, Harold Songs and Ballads of the Revolution - 1934
    See also: Revolutionary Ballads - Index/card file III.
  • Peterson, Harold Syllabus of the Ballad Collection of Edwin Ford Piper - 1934
    Bound thesis
  • Peterson, Harold Syllabus preparatory notes and lists
  • Quardilles and Quadrille calls
  • Rhymes (2 folders)
    Includes Mother Goose rhymer, and an occasional musical transcription
  • Rundell, Mrs. The Bugle Call . Excerpts - 1863
  • Song lists
  • Stories collected by Edwin Ford Piper - 1937, 1937
  • Student papers - 1937
  • Temperance songs
  • Triangle Club - 1932
  • Winton Ballad manuscripts
  • "Word for Music on Large Disc"
  • Correspondence of 2009 regarding "Red River Valley" - 2009
  • Series 2: INDEX CARD FILES
  • Box 1:
  • Ballads includes in Peterson's Syllabus, A-O
  • Box 2:
  • Ballads continued, P-Z
  • Ballads. Inces to Additions Collected After the Syllabus (post 1934)
  • Ballads recorded on disc
  • Broadsides
  • Broadsides, scrapbook index
    These are provided with page numbers. Since the scrapbook has been re-mounted without page numbers, there are no longer correct.
  • Box 3:
  • Game songs
  • Indian songs
  • Mr. Ryder's Grandmother's book. Excerpts
  • Revolutionary Ballads Index
    See aslo Peterson, Harold. Songs and Ballads of the Revolution, 1934 (Box 3)
  • Temperance
  • Box 4:
  • Anecdotes
  • Camp meeting prayers
  • Memoria
  • Proverbs
  • Quadrille calls
  • Quips, posies, signs, games
  • Remedial supersititions
  • Riddles
  • Rope skipping songs
  • Slang
  • Slang, Musicians
  • Box 5:
  • Supersititons
  • Tricks
  • Box 6:
  • Ballads clipped from newspapers
  • Ballads wanting references
  • Series 3: SCRAPBOOK
  • English and Irish Broadsite Ballads
  • Oster, Harry. English and Irish Broadsides in the Edwin Ford Piper Colleciton