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Frank C. Di Prima papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Frank Di Prima was born in Sicily, Italy, in 1897. His family immigrated to the United States around 1914 and settled in Rochester, New York. Di Prima's father and grandfather were both bandmasters, and Di Prima chose to follow in their musical footsteps by teaching himself to play the guitar, banjo, violin, and mandolin. Concurrently, he learned to read music so as to be employed by a band. During the 1930s, Di Prima worked as a Work Projects Administration musician performing for schools. He eventually found employ as a professional musician and played with a number of well-known big bands of the early twentieth century, including those led by Glenn Miller, Ray Miller, and Paul Whiteman. Di Prima also worked with Al Jolson, Lucille Ball, Shirley Booth, and other entertainers.

In 1923, Di Prima married Amelia Marta of Philadelphia. The couple had two children and eventually moved to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Locally, Di Prima appeared with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra and played with orchestras of touring Broadway shows that stopped in Philadelphia. Di Prima died in 1962 while on tour with the Broadway show Carnival.

The Frank C. Di Prima papers span two boxes and date mostly from the early twentieth century. The collection contains mostly musical scores, either compositions that Di Prima wrote (Box 1, Folders 2-3) or published (printed or handwritten) songs that Di Prima collected (Box 3). Comprising the published scores is popular music dating from the later 1900s to the 1930s. There are also two folders of papers on music theory (Box 1, Folders 4-5). Altogether, these materials may have been among those that Di Prima consulted to teach himself music. The folder of photographs and articles (Box 1, Folder 6) contains a copy of Di Prima's obituary from an unidentifed newspaper. The photographs and other articles concern the bands for which Di Prima played. He may be in some of the photographs, but they are unidentified. Other than the obituary, there are no papers in the collection on Di Prima's personal life or family.

Gift of Carmel Di Prima to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 1992.

Accession number M92-14.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
Finding Aid Date
; 2015
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Randall M. Miller.

Collection Inventory

Copyright certificates, 1945-1946.
Box 1 Folder 1
Compositions and arrangements, 1938-1960, undated.
Box 1 Folder 2-3
Materials on music theory, 1960-1961, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4-5
Photographs and articles, 1962, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
"Book 1" (collection of published music removed from binder), circa 1908-circa 1930.
Box 1 Folder 7 Box 2 Folder 1-2
"Book 2" (collection of handwritten music removed from binder), undated.
Box 2 Folder 3-5
"Past popular and incidental numbers" (removed from binder), undated.
Box 2 Folder 6-7

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