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Philadelphia Folksong Society records


Held at: Philadelphia Folksong Society [Contact Us]7113 Emlen St, Philadelphia, PA, 19119

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Folksong Society. 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

In 1956 and 1957, George Britton, Mike Marmel, Joe Aronson, and others gathered to discuss planning a series of intimate concerts of traditional music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1957, these discussions resulted in the founding of a group for the purpose of gathering folk and traditional musicians to perform in small, informal settings nine times each year. In 1962, the group decided to hold a larger and more public gathering for performing folk and traditional music. This idea of having a large gathering evolved into the first Philadelphia Folk Festival, held in 1962 on a farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The popular event attracted more than 2,500 attendees in its first year. The Festival organizers legally incorporated the following year as the non-profit Philadelphia Folksong Society. Revenue from the Festival and other Society operations were applied to support the University of Pennsylvania's newly formed Folklore and Folklife Department, bringing music to schools with its Odyssey of American Music Program, and other outreach and community service activities. As of 2014, the Philadelphia Folksong Society continues to put on the Philadelphia Folk Festival annually at the Old Pool Farm in Schwenksville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and holds or sponsors various other programs and events related to folk and traditional music.

The Philadelphia Folk Festival, held annually every year since 1962, is now the longest continuously-running folk festival in the United States, averaging around 12,000 visitors and 5,000 campers in the 2010s. Over the years, performers have included Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt, The Decemberists, Jeff Tweedy, Jackson Browne, Tom Paxton, Alison Krauss, and many other musicians.


Rotenstein, David S. "Going Historical, Going Folk: The Philadelphia Folk Festival Comes of Age." Originally printed in the 2010 Philadelphia Folk Festival Program Book. Accessed December 31, 2014.

The Philadelphia Folksong Society records, 1957-2014, consist primarily of audio and audiovisual recordings of the Philadelphia Folk Festival (1962-2014), as well as photographs, clippings, programs, and ephemera relating to the Festival. There is also documentation of other Philadelphia Folksong Society events, especially recordings of performance events, and some organizational records.

The audio and audiovisual materials, which make up the bulk of the collection, are in a wide range of formats, including DAT, audiocassette tapes, VHS tapes, reel-to-reels, and CDs. The quality of identification for the recordings varies - some are unlabeled, some are labeled with only date, and some are labeled with performers' names. For a few events, there is a handwritten set list indicating performer, songs, and tape and tape reading (start-end times). Most of the recordings are of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, 1962-2014, but there are also recordings of other Philadelphia Folksong Society concerts, membership meetings, workshops, and other events.

There are some paper records in the collection, including administrative materials, printed matter and ephemera, and other event-related material. There are Board minutes, paid bills, other financial records, grant documentation, press releases, correspondence, contracts, information about community programs, and other organizational records. The printed ephemera includes programs and posters from every Philadelphia Folk Festival as well as additional programs, flyers, tickets, and ephemera from the Folk Festival and other Society concerts and events, and newsletters, calendars, and bulletins. Other event-related materials include ticket orders, anniversary event planning materials, Festival manuals, stage blueprints, and program design documents (including at least one floppy disk) and correspondence with advertisers.

Yearly scrapbooks about the Philadelphia Folk Festival, composed primarily of clippings with some programs and ephemera, date from 1979 to 2002.

There are a large number of photographs in the collection, mostly of Festival performers and attendees, as prints and on CDs, circa 1960s-2010s. The bulk of the photographs are organized into alphabetical files sorted by musician or by subject (such as dancing, crowds, kids, workshop/stage scenes, music scenes, and more). Many photographs are framed and on display. A small number of color slides are also found in this collection.

This collection includes a small but substantial amount of papers from George Britton (1910-2010), a musician and co-founder of the Philadelphia Folksong Society. There are manuscript song music and lyrics, a typescript of a memoir, and other documents relating to his musical career.

Additional materials that are stored off-site were not included in this survey.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Philadelphia Folksong Society directly for more information.

Philadelphia Folksong Society
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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Collection Inventory

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