Skip to main content

People's Song Library Records

Identifier: LR000452

Scope and Content

Part 1: Part one of The People's Song Library Collection is comprised of songs collected by the Almanac Singers from 1941 to 1943; People's Songs, Inc., from 1946 to 1949; People's Artists, Inc., from 1950 to 1957; and Sing Out, Inc., from 1958 to 1970.

Important subjects are: Almanac Singers American Youth for Democracy Civil Rights CIO Communism Cuban Revolution Election Songs of 1940's Farmers' Union Folksong - Topical Folksong - Traditional Hootenannies Integration ILGWU IWW Leftist Movement of 1940's Lumberjacks Mining New Deal Pacifist Movement Rosenberg Trial Spanish Civil War Unemployment Union Organizing Songs Wallace, Henry A. World War II

Among the songwriters and correspondents are: Allan, Lewis Badeaux, Ed Casetta, Mario "Boots" Copland, Aaron Cunningham, Agnes "Sis" Dunson, Josh Dusenbery, Emma Guthrie, Woody Hays, Lee Hill, Joe Hille, Waldemar Horton, Zilphia Jackson, "Aunt Molly" Justus, May Lampell, Millard Ledbetter, Huddie "Leadbelly" Lomax, Alan MacColl, Ewan Ochs, Phil Ogan, Sarah Partlow, Vern Paxton, Tom Reynolds, Malvina Robinson, Earl Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Pete Segal, Edith Silber, Irwin Terry, Sonny White, Josh

Series List: Series I: Scores, Topical and Labor Songs Series II: Scores, Traditional and Popular Songs Series III: Scores, Songs of Songwriters and Collectors Series IV: Concerts, Festivals, Folksong Clubs Series V: Books and Articles on Folksong, Other Series VI: People's Songs, People's Artists, Sing Out!
Part 2: Part two contains clippings, correspondence and other published materials from the years 1945 to 1964 relating to folk song topics.

Clippings, broadsides, correspondence, and other materials concerning folk music and related topics mainly covering the years 1961 to 1964. There is information about folk artists, songs, performances, records, books, and the development of folk music from varied sources including the periodicals Sing Out, Notes, and New York Folklore Quarterly.


  • 1940 - 1975
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1955


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


The Almanacs was a loosely organized group of folksingers based in New York from 1941 to 1942. In 1942, a splinter group left to form the Detroit Alma- nacs, which continued to perform until February of 1943. The major collecting and singing interest of the Almanacs was labor songs.

People's Songs, Inc., was organized in December of 1945 to collect, publish, and promote folksongs, particularly labor and protest songs, though many traditional folksongs were also collected. In addition to publishing the Bulletin of People's Songs, the group also published broadsides and songbooks and sponsored hootenannies. Pete Seeger served as National Director until People's Songs was dissolved in 1949.

In 1950, People's Artists, Inc., (originally a booking agency for People's Songs), was formed to continue the work of People's Songs. People's Artists published Sing Out! magazine (1950 to the present), sponsored many hootenannies and concerts, and founded Hootenanny Records. Irwin Silber served as Executive Director of People's Artists and Editor of Sing Out! from 1950 until the bankruptcy of People's Artists in 1956. People's Artists was also based in New York.

Sing Out was incorporated in 1957 to continue the publication of Sing Out! magazine, with Irwin Sibler continuing as editor. The song-collecting emphasis shifted somewhat away from labor songs to civil rights songs.


23.5 Linear Feet (10 MB, 9 OS)


The People's Song Library is comprised of songs collected by the Almanac Singers (1941-43); People's Songs, Inc. (1946-49); People's Artists, Inc. (1950-57); and Sing Out, Inc. (1958-70). Scores, songbooks, and lyrics by Aaron Copland, Woody Guthrie, Joe Hill, "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, Alan Lomax, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Malvina Reynolds, Peggy and Pete Seeger, Josh White, and lesser-known and some anonymous authors dealing with civil rights, the Cuban Revolution, election songs of the 1940s, labor, pacifism, and war. Included are traditional folksongs and some of more recent vintage.


Part 1: Arranged in 6 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-11), Series 2 (Boxes 12-16), Series 3 (Boxes 17-20), Series 4 (Boxes 21-22), Series 5 (Boxes 23-24), and Series 6 (Boxes 25-26). Folders are arranged alphabetically.
Part 2: Arranged in 1 series - Series 7 (Boxes 27-30), Files arranged alphabetically.


The People's Song Library Collection was placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in February of 1971 by Happy Traum of Sing Out, Inc., and was opened for research in June of 1971. Additional papers were processed and opened for research in March of 1984.


Approximately 15 photographs and negatives, and 2 recordings relating to folk music and folk artists have been placed in the Archives Audiovisual Collection.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in June, 1971 and revised in March, 1984.
Guide to the People's Song Library Records
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA