George Boswell Papers

 Collection
Identifier: MSS.0049

Scope and Contents

George Boswell was a Vanderbilt graduate, author, professor, and folklorist. The heart of the George Boswell collection consists of transcriptions of 1200 folk songs and ballads collected throughout Middle Tennessee between 1948 and 1952. Personal papers, commercial sheet music, choral arrangements, and student research papers round out the rest of the collection, though this portion is largely unprocessed.

A Nashville native, Boswell earned a B.A. and M.A. from Vanderbilt University. While attending George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Boswell began collecting folk songs in conjunction with his doctoral research. His efforts produced some 800 songs from country and city folk alike, to amass what is regarded as a major anthology of Tennessee folk songs. In 1997 noted music scholar, Dr. Charles K. Wolfe edited and annotated Boswell's fieldwork. The resulting volume, Folk Songs of Middle Tennessee: The George Boswell Collection, brought together for the first time those tunes most representative of the folk traditions of the region. Boswell also wrote prolifically and served for many years as the president of the Tennessee Folklore Society.

Dates

  • circa 1700s-1990s
  • Majority of material found within 1948 - 1953

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact specialcollections@vanderbilt.edu.

Biographical Note - George Boswell

George Worley Boswell was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1919. he attended David Lipscomb Junior College before enrolling in Vanderbilt. Boswell earned a B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University and M.A. from George Peabody College for Teachers in 1939. He was briefly a high school teacher before being drafted into the Army's Signal Corps during WWII.

When he returned from the war, he enrolled in Peabody College to obtain his PhD. While attending Peabody College, Boswell began collecting folk songs in conjunction with his doctoral research. He completed his PhD in 1951 and became a professor. Around this time he married Emily Hall, a native of Gurley, Alabama who was living in Nashville.

He taught English at Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, Tennessee), Morehead State University (Kentucky) and the University of Mississippi in Oxford. In 1989 Professor Boswell retired from teaching.

Boswell maintained a lifelong interest in folksinging and music from a young age, possibly inspired by his two aunts that taught piano.

Boswell was a prolific writer. He and J. Russell Weaver published Fundamentals of Folk Literature in 1962. His journal articles include “The Kinds of Folksongs,” “Otherwise Unknown or Rare Ballads from the Tennessee Archives,” “A Shiloh Cante Fable,” “Three Tennessee Folksongs,” “Pitch: Musical and Verbal in Folksong,” “Mississippi Folk Names of Plants,” “Folk Recipes of the South,” and many others relating to folklore in Tennessee and Mississippi. He also contributed essays to the book Folksongs of Mississippi and Their Background.

He died on March 2, 1995 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Extent

45.42 Linear Feet (36 Paige boxes; 1 Hollinger box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

George Boswell was a Vanderbilt graduate, author, professor, and folklorist. The heart of the George Boswell collection consists of transcriptions of 1200 folk songs and ballads collected throughout Middle Tennessee between 1948 and 1952. Personal papers, commercial sheet music, choral arrangements, and student research papers round out the rest of the collection.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Processing Note

This collection is partially processed. Approximately 1200 transcriptions of folksongs have been processed and inventoried. The rest of the collection is unprocessed.

Title
Finding Aid for the George Boswell Papers
Status
Partially Processed
Author
Zach Johnson
Date
revised April 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Jean and Alexander Heard Library
419 21st Avenue South
Nashville TN 37203 United States


 

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