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Collection Number: 20000

Collection Title: John Edwards Papers, 1945-1969

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


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Size 3.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1200 items)
Abstract John Edwards (1932-1960) of Sydney, Australia, was one of the first collectors of early American country music and a pioneering discographer of this music. Edwards's collection of about 2,500 rare records and tapes is now housed in the Southern Folklife Collection, Manuscripts Department, Academic Affairs Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Correspondence, discographies, writings, and other materials of Edwards, chiefly letters to Edwards from fellow collectors and Edwards's record collection inventories. There are also some letters from John Edwards, writings, legal papers, copies of song lyrics, photographs, and material about Edwards. The letters generally concern record finds, discographical information, and tape or record trades.
Creator Edwards, John, 1932-1960.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Edwards papers #20000, Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Purchased as part of the John Edwards Memorial Collection from the University of California at Los Angeles in March 1983 and subsequent additions.
Received from Steve Hirsch in 1989 (Acc. 93105).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

In his short life, John Edwards (1932-1960) amassed a valuable collection of early American folk music from his home in Sydney, Australia.

While in his teens Edwards started listening to, playing, and collecting what he called American "hillbilly" music. As his collection grew in the mid-1950s, he also began compiling professional discographies of early American country music of the 1920s and 1930s. Edwards, along with a few others, such as Eugene Earle, pioneered discographical research in this field. Around 1953, he started corresponding with other record collectors in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He continued both activities, producing a greater output each year until he died in an automobile crash in 1960.

After he was graduated from high school, Edwards accepted the job he would hold until his death, roster officer in the Department of Transport. He apparently worked there chiefly to earn money to build his collection.

Edwards had another avocation, hiking. He was a "bush walker," and also apparently an amateur botanist and map maker. In 1967, Mount Edwards was named in commemoration of his outdoor work.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

This collection consists chiefly of letters from fellow collectors and Edwards's record collection inventories. There are also some letters from John Edwards, writings, legal papers, copies of song lyrics, photographs, and material about Edwards. Edwards was a prolific correspondent in the period 1954-1960. The letters generally concern record finds, discographical information, and tape or record trades.

Ever the meticulous record keeper, Edwards logged his outgoing correspondence for 1956 and 1958. Beginning in 1958, Edwards produced typed copies of his record collection discographies, updating them several times annually. These listings will help researchers determine the original holdings of what became the John Edwards Memorial Collection.

Photocopies of letters from John Edwards to Jim Evans. Originals are housed at the Country Music Foundation.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence.

Correspondence between John Edwards and his early country music-collecting colleagues, and two letters from his mother Irene Edwards to two of these colleagues after Edwards's death in 1960. The bulk of this series runs 1953 to 1960, consisting chiefly of letters from John Edwards to others. The letters chart the development of Edwards's record and tape collections, as well as his discographical work. Edwards's chief correspondents were Eugene Earle, Keith Christie, Jim Evans, D. K. Wilgus, Archie Green, and Will Roy Hearne. He also corresponded frequently with the "hillbilly" musicians he admired. With these musicians' help, he began building his discographical inventories. Edwards also wrote to many record companies for discographical information.

The letters show several important developments in collecting this type of folk music. Edwards and his friends were the first to apply discography to "hillbilly" music. They also used technology, taping records on reel-to-reel players in the mid-1950s.

Edwards's collecting habits, his extraordinary energy, and his professional approach also are revealed by the letters. He completed his collection of Jimmie Rogers records by the late 1950s, but was still collecting his favorite group, the Carter Family, when he died. By purchasing and trading for better copies of records that he already had, Edwards improved his collection in later years.

The correspondence series has been divided into two subseries: incoming correspondence and outgoing correspondence.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961.

About 1100 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Folder 1

1950 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 1

Folder 2

1951 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 2

Folder 3-4

1952 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 3-4

Folder 5-10

1953 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 5-10

Folder 11-15

1954 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 11-15

Folder 16-25

1955 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 16-25

Folder 26

1956 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 26

Folder 27-39

1957 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 27-39

Folder 40-48

1958 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 40-48

Folder 49-57

1959 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 49-57

Folder 58-66

1960 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 58-66

Folder 67

1961 #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 67

Folder 68

Undated letters (six letters received after Edwards's death were annotated by his mother to indicate that she acknowledged them) #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 68

Folder 69-70

Discographical listings not clearly associated with particular letters #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 69-70

Folder 71

Auction and want lists not clearly associated with particular letters #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 71

Folder 72

Address list of correspondents #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 72

Folder 73

Circulars, auction notices, and newsletters #20000, Subseries: "1.1. Incoming Correspondence, 1950-1961." Folder 73

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961.

About 110 items.

Arrangement: alphabetical by last name of correspondent..

Some of these letters are originals, apparently added by their recipients to this collection before it arrived at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some are photocopies of originals, the whereabouts of which are unknown to the Manuscripts Department staff. Edwards held mail auctions of items from his collection and distributed want lists; records of both activities are included here. Correspondent registers list the correspondent, date, and the subject of Edwards's letters.

Folder 74

Letters to Keith Christie, 1958-1960 (photocopies) #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 74

Folder 75

Letters to David L. Crisp, 1958-1960 (photocopies) #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 75

Folder 76

Letters to John Greenway, 1956 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 76

Folder 77

Letters to Will Roy Hearn, 1955-1960 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 77

Folder 78

Letters to Willard Johnson, 1960 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 78

Folder 79

Letters to Gerald F. Mills, 1958 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 79

Folder 80

Letters to D. K. Wilgus, 1957-1958, 1961 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 80

Folder 81

Letters to miscellaneous correspondents, 1960-1961 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 81

Folder 82

Registers of outgoing correspondence, 1956, 1958 #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 82

Folder 83-84

Auction and want lists of records, undated #20000, Subseries: "1.2. Outgoing Correspondence, 1955-1961." Folder 83-84

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated.

About 50 items.

Arrangement: chonological.

Edwards compiled typed and handwritten lists of his record collections. It appears that in the beginning he did so mainly for himself. After 1955, however, he sent copies out to his collecting friends. These lists, with supplements for 1958-1960, will give researchers a notion of the original John Edwards Collection (which has swelled tenfold since 1960). A book list of John Edwards's personal library also is included.

Folder 85

Collection lists: 1949-1952, 1955 #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 85

Folder 86

Collection lists: 1957 #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 86

Folder 87

Collection lists: 1958 #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 87

Folder 88

Collection lists: 1959 #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 88

Folder 89

Collection lists: 1960 #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 89

Folder 90

Collection lists: Miscellaneous undated lists #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 90

Folder 91

Collection lists: Records of tape trades and additions to record collections, 1959 and undated #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 91

Folder 92

Collection lists: List of library books #20000, Series: "2. Material about John Edwards's Collections, 1949-1960 and undated." Folder 92

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Other Papers, 1949-1969 and undated.

About 140 items.

Arrangement: by subseries, as noted below.

An essay, notes, and letters-to-the-editor by John Edwards, song lyrics copied by him, a copy of Edwards's will, and tributes to Edwards.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.1. Works by John Edwards, Undated.

About 30 items.

Arrangement: by type of writing.

While only one essay is included here, Edwards wrote many essays on country music that appeared in magazines such as Hillbilly-Folk, International Discophile, Disc Collector, and Country and Western Spotlight, from 1954 to 1960.

Folder 93

Untitled essay and notes on folk music and ballads #20000, Subseries: "3.1. Works by John Edwards, Undated." Folder 93

Folder 94

Letters to the editor #20000, Subseries: "3.1. Works by John Edwards, Undated." Folder 94

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.2. Song Lyrics Copied by John Edwards, 1949-1953 and undated.

About 100 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

As a guitar and banjo player, Edwards copied hillbilly song lyrics and chords. He kept lyrics to songs by Jimmie Rogers, the Carter Family, and others in notebooks and on loose papers.

Folder 95

Four notebooks of songs copied by John Edwards, 1947-1949, and undated #20000, Subseries: "3.2. Song Lyrics Copied by John Edwards, 1949-1953 and undated." Folder 95

Folder 96

Songs of others copied by John Edwards on loose sheets, some handwritten and some typed #20000, Subseries: "3.2. Song Lyrics Copied by John Edwards, 1949-1953 and undated." Folder 96

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.3. Will of John Edwards, 1958, 1960.

2 items

Edwards drew up his will in 1958; it provided that Eugene Earle be made executor of his collection and that the collection would be housed in the United States.

Folder 97

One copy of the will plus a photocopy of a letter from Irene Edwards to Eugene Earle, informing him of the will, 24 December 1960 #20000, Subseries: "3.3. Will of John Edwards, 1958, 1960." Folder 97

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.4. Items about John Edwards, 1961-1969.

5 items.

After his death, Edwards was recognized for his record collecting and his outdoor trail-blazing. The tributes include an essay, a song by Jim Hulgan, and a mountain named after him.

Folder 98

The official announcement of the naming of Mount Edwards, a photocopy of the song "John Edwards," a copy of Hulgan's song, and an alumni accolade #20000, Subseries: "3.4. Items about John Edwards, 1961-1969." Folder 98

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 3.5. Miscellaneous Items, circa 1930 - circa 1960.

About 25 items.

Clippings, programs, and other items collected by Edwards, relating to Australian and American folklore and music. Similar items have been placed according to subject in the vertical files of the Southern Folklife Collection.

Folder 99

Miscellaneous Items #20000, Subseries: "3.5. Miscellaneous Items, circa 1930 - circa 1960." Folder 99

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Pictures, 1948-1961.

About 20 items.

Arrangement: by subject.

Chiefly images of John Edwards and his bedroom. The photographs show Edwards in informal moments such as playing his guitar. Several photos also may give researchers some idea of Edwards's collecting habits--they picture bins of carefully arranged records and desk compartments stuffed with correspondence. The photographer is unknown, although the pictures of Edwards's room were presumably taken by a family member.

The two photo albums contain pictures of some early country music stars. All of the pictures appear to be reprints of earlier photographs, and hence are of little research value. The albums were labeled "#3" and "#5" by Edwards. The staff does not know if other albums, i.e., #1, #2, or #4, exist.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.1. Loose Pictures, 1948-1961.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 4.2. Picture Albums, 1958.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

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Processing Information

Processed by: Chuck Israel, November 1988 and additions

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

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