Scope and arrangement
The Henry Cowell Papers consist of over 82 linear feet of material covering every aspect of Cowell's life and career in extensive detail. They include correspondence, including letters to and from Cowell while he was incarcerated at San Quentin prison; scores and sketches, including notebooks from his early music studies with Charles Seeger; concert programs from throughout Cowell's career; photographs and scrapbooks depicting every stage of Cowell's life; iconography, including posters advertising Cowell's performances; publicity material; autobiographical and biographical manuscripts written by Sidney Cowell; an extensive set of news clippings and articles; financial records; lists of Cowell's compositions, recordings and performances; teaching material associated with the various schools at which Cowell taught and information about Cowell's students; information about Cowell's world tours for the U.S. State Department; books owned by Cowell; awards and honors Cowell received; and material documenting the history of the collection itself and the whereabouts of other portions of Cowell's archives. Major portions of the collection consist of notes, manuscripts, correspondence and other papers of Cowell's widow, Sidney Robertson Cowell; her notes are incorporated into all parts of the collection.
The Henry Cowell papers are arranged in seventeen series:
- 1884-1994 and undated30 boxes
In addition to correspondence to and from Henry and Sidney Cowell (and a few others), this series also contains writings and other supplementary material by or associated with certain correspondents. Correspondence to and from Cowell is also found in other series in the collection.
- Sub-series 1: Henry Cowell, 1884-1979
- Sub-series 2: Sidney Cowell, 1938-1994 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Others, 1901-1979
- 1911-1994 and undated31 boxes
This series consists of at least partially complete scores to many of Cowell's compositions. All are full scores unless otherwise noted. Most of the scores are photocopies of originals housed at other repositories, the notable exception being the notebooks in sub-series 1. All compositions described by William Lichtenwanger in his book The Music of Henry Cowell: A Descriptive Catalog are arranged and identified by the numbers Lichtenwanger assigned them. This book is held by the Music Division (call number JND 87-22).
- Sub-series 1: Juvenile Compositions, undated
- Sub-series 2: Unpublished Compositions, 1911-1965 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Published Compositions, 1922-1989
- Sub-series 4: Published Collections, ca. 1963-1988
- Sub-series 5: Oversized Scores, 1915-1979
- Sub-series 6: Supplementary Composition Material, undated
- Sub-series 7: Composition Catalogs, 1930-1994 and undated
- Sub-series 8: Music Publication Correspondence, 1922-1994 and undated
- Sub-series 9: Composition File Cards, undated
- 1913-1994 and undated12 boxes
This series documents the performance, presentation and recording of Cowell's music. It contains information on performances of particular compositions, concert programs, promotional material, performance lists and discographies.
- Sub-series 1: Performance File, 1921-1994 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Programs, 1913-1994 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Performance Presentation, 1920-1966 and undated
- Sub-series 4: Performance Lists, 1926-1992 and undated
- 1892-1989 and undated24 boxes
Series IV contains biographical documentation conducted by Cowell's mother, Clarissa, his step-mother, Olive, and his wife Sidney; Sidney Cowell's work was the most extensive. It also contains a small set of Cowell autobiographical transcripts, Cowell's datebooks and address books, official records and documents about Cowell and his extended family, and two folders of medical records, which are restricted by New York State Law.
- Sub-series 1: Clarissa D. Cowell Biographical Work, 1914-1916 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Olive T. Cowell Biographical Work, 1897-1935 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Sidney R. Cowell Biographical Work, 1944-1989 and undated
- Sub-series 4: Henry Cowell Interview Transcripts and Autobiographical Material, 1962 and undated
- Sub-series 5: Datebooks and Address Books, 1930-1965 and undated
- Sub-series 6: Official Records and Correspondence, 1892-1982 and undated
- 1894-199426 boxes
This series contains both personal and professional financial information for Henry and Sidney Cowell, as well as contracts and financial statements from publishing and recording companies. It also includes a small set of investment and insurance records.
- Sub-series 1: Income Tax, 1915-1980
- Sub-series 2: Royalty Statements, 1920-1980
- Sub-series 3: Contracts, 1922-1994
- Sub-series 4: Bank Records, 1924-1965 and undated
- Sub-series 5: Other Financial Records, 1894-1984 and undated
- 1936-1988 and undated4.5 boxes
This series documents the period between Henry Cowell’s arrest and incarceration at San Quentin Prison in 1936 to his parole in 1940. It contains private and official police, court and legal correspondence; court and police records; statements written by Cowell and others in his defense and to secure his release, parole and pardon; documentation of his activities in prison; and Sidney Cowell’s writings on the subject.
- Sub-series 1: Henry Cowell Correspondence, 1936-1947 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Official Records, 1936-1975
- Sub-series 3: Defense Correspondence, 1936-1962 and undated
- Sub-series 4: Parole Board Correspondence, 1936-1962 and undated
- Sub-series 5: Prison Activities 1940-1941
- Sub-series 6: Sidney Cowell Writings on Henry Cowell's Prison Years, 1969-1988
- 1923-1987 and undated10.5 boxes
This series contains correspondence, meeting minutes, publicity and other materials from organizations pertaining to Henry Cowell’s activities as an employee or board member of those organizations. The significant exception is the section on the Rockefeller Foundation, which co-sponsored a lengthy world tour in 1956-1957 for Cowell to facilitate intercultural musical exchange. Each stop on the tour generated correspondence and associated literature and memorabilia, and at the tour’s conclusion Henry and Sidney Cowell produced final reports for the Foundation describing their activities in each country and city. There is also significant correspondence with the U.S. State Department, which was the other co-sponsor for the world tour.
- ca. 1906-1975 and undated13 boxes
This series contains both Cowell’s published and unpublished writings and documentation about them. It includes work-in-progress, final drafts, proofs, promotional material and correspondence with publishers.
- Sub-series 1: Published Books, 1929-1975 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Published Articles, 1921-1964 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Unpublished Writings, ca. 1906-1961 and undated
- Sub-series 4: Oversized Material, ca. 1936-1954 and undated
- 1900-1994 and undated10 boxes
This series includes texts of posthumous radio programs about Cowell, text and correspondence regarding academic writing about Cowell, and general news clippings spanning Cowell’s life until Sidney Cowell’s death.
- Sub-series 1: Radio Programs, 1977-1981 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Academic Writing and Recording Liner Notes, 1967-1993 and undated
- Sub-series 3: General News Clippings and Articles, 1900-1994 and undated
- 1933-1967 and undated1 box
This series contains material documenting Cowell’s interest in and research of folk music from around the world. It has two divisions: Research materials contains Cowell’s notes and other research on folk music and cultures, including arrangements of vocal and instrumental music. Transcriptions and discographies contain transcriptions of folk songs and information on recordings of indigenous music.
- 1920-1977 and undated5 boxes
This series contains documentation of Cowell’s long career as an educator and lecturer in various schools and universities across the country. It includes correspondence with schools and students, teaching materials and work by students, lecture texts and symposia transcriptions, promotional material, and information about radio broadcasts and public discussions in which Cowell participated.
- Sub-series 1: Teaching Materials and Correspondence, 1927-1977 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Information On Students Of Cowell, 1951-1962 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Lecture/Recitals and Symposia, 1927-1965 and
- Sub-series 4: Juries, Committees and Panels, 1937-1965 and undated
- Sub-series 5: Radio Broadcasts, 1933-1960 and undated
- Sub-series 6: Programs and Promotional Material, 1920-1962 and undated
- 1851-1968 and undated17 boxes
This series contains imagery documenting Henry and Sidney Cowell and the Cowell family and extended family in both America and Britain. Most of the series documents Henry Cowell’s life in great detail. The posters promote performances of Cowell’s music, mostly in Europe.
- Sub-series 1: Photographs, 1851-1968 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Negatives, 1901-1968 and undated
- Sub-series 3: Scrapbooks, 1870-1960s
- Sub-series 4: Posters, 1927-1962 and undated
- Sub-series 5: Art, 1923-1966 and undated
- 1934-19645 boxes
This series contains awards and honors in the form of documents, plaques and objects. It also contains further documentation and correspondence about the awards, and invitations the Cowells received to ceremonies and other honorary events, some not honoring Cowell; these include invitations to the White House. Major awards and events include Cowell’s induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Juilliard School’s concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of Cowell’s performance debut.
- 1940-1991 and undated8 boxes
This series contains information about the history of the Cowell Collection itself, including information on other repository holdings and correspondence between Sidney Cowell and The New York Public Library.
- Sub-series 1: Repositories, 1940-1994 and undated
- Sub-series 2: Repository Listings, undated
- Sub-series 3: Biographers, 1964-1991
- 1912 and undated4 folders
Contains short writings, activity lists and drawings by Cowell from his youth, undated name and address notes and business cards, and illegible notes.
- 1937-19924 boxes
This series contains writings and research carried out by Sidney Cowell that were mostly unrelated to Henry Cowell. It includes her autobiographical unpublished manuscript Chapbook Of Cheer and a manuscript about animals, Many Nations. Small portions of the former may deal with Henry Cowell. The series also contains some research on folk music.
- 1933-1986 and undated2 boxes
This series contains published items that contain notes, author autographs or other inscriptions. Most are inscribed to Cowell by the authors.