Joe Hickerson, with the help of an assistant, arranged and described his papers prior to transferring them to the Archives, with the inclusion of an item-level inventory (available upon request). It appears that this arrangement was at some point amended or disturbed. Thus Hickerson’s inventory will not always reflect the actual contents of a given series. Only minor changes to the original arrangement were made for clarity. The few photographs were kept with the related textual material files, as in the original order.
The materials are arranged into fourteen series, outlined below. Overall the collection covers a long date range from 1953, Hickerson’s first semester at Oberlin College, to the year the collection was donated, in 2018. It documents Hickerson’s activities as an Oberlin student and alum, particularly in relation to his beginnings as a folk musician, his touring and recording with the performing group formed at Oberlin, The Folksmiths, and his lifelong connection to those and other folk musicians. Hickerson was a curator at the Library of Congress Folk Archive for thirty-five years, but the papers do not reflect his career there, with the exception of a file on Oberlin students who interned with him.
Hickerson first saw a performance by Pete Seeger at a Progressive Party campaign event in 1948; Seeger’s later appearances at Oberlin in the 1950s were highly influential for Hickerson and others, and provided Seeger with bookings he could not get elsewhere as a suspected communist. Series 2 holds material generated for and about Seeger concerts during Hickerson’s student years and beyond, and later email correspondence by Hickerson and associates as well as clippings and articles. A file compiled for an Oberlin Alumni Magazine article published in 2014 is a rich source of information on Seeger.
The series are relatively small in size, only one or two folders in some cases. The largest series, but still less than two archival case boxes, are Series 3, The Folksmiths, Hickerson’s folk ensemble, and Series 4, Joe Hickerson at Oberlin after June 1957. The Folksmiths series reveals the activities and recording files of the ensemble. Like Pete Seeger, the group collected songbooks and folk dance booklets, described as demonstration materials. These can be found in three folders. Series 4 holds files on various class reunions, special reunions, and a Folk Music/Ethnomusicology Conference and Reunion at Oberlin in 2004. A significant amount of email and Facebook post print-outs document these activities. Much of the electronic correspondence also consists of reminiscences and information sharing.
The collection includes sound recordings on reel-to-reel tape, phonograph records, and CD-ROMs. The reel-to-reel tapes are live performances of Hickerson’s folk ensemble The Folksmiths in the summer of 1957 after his graduation. The phonograph records include the group’s 1958 Folkways record, “We’ve Got Some Singing to Do,” and a record of song highlights from a musical by the Mummer’s Club at Oberlin. The CD-ROMs represent a live performance by Hickerson and others at a folk music conference at Oberlin in 2004, and music by The Folksmiths transferred from tapes, produced by the Smithsonian Institution in 2005. Recordings on media other than CD-ROMs are restricted.
[Dates are spans]
Series 1. Joe Hickerson’s Student Years at Oberlin College, 1953-2016
Series 2. Pete Seeger at Oberlin, 1954-2015 (0.16 l.f.)
Series 3. The Folksmiths, ca. 1940s-2017 (0.44)
Series 4. Hickerson at Oberlin after June 1957, 1981-2016 (0.68 l.f.)
Series 5. Other Folk and Ethnomusicology Activities at Oberlin after June
1957, 1958-2016 (0.22 l.f.)
Series 6. Oberlin Clubs, 1972-2014 (0.15 l.f.)
Series 7. Oberlin Alumni in Folk Music and Ethnomusicology after 1957,
1975-2018 (0.15 l.f.)
Series 8. Oberlin Students and Alumni as Interns at the Library of Congress
Folk Archive, 1973-2018 (0.01)
Series 9. Tom Reid Tape/CD Archive of Folk Music and Oberlin-Related
Material, 2006-2015 (0.01 l.f.)
Series 10. Hickerson’s Donations to Oberlin College, 1990-2018 (0.15 l.f.)
Series 11. Correspondence with the Oberlin College Archives, 2006, 2018
Series 12. Materials for Oberlin College Exhibit, 1950s (0.02 l.f.)
Series 13. General and Miscellaneous, 1995-2010 (0.02 l.f.)
Series 14. Sound Recordings, 1955-2005 (1.66 l.f.) RESTRICTIONS
Subseries 1. Reel-to-reel Tapes, 7”
Subseries 2. Phonograph Records
Subseries 3. CD-ROMs