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W. Amos Abrams papers

 Collection — oversize: E1, drawer: 18
Identifier: AC-114

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of audio recordings, printed and handwritten folksongs, Dr. Abrams' personal correspondence, speeches, education notes, and memorabilia. Audio materials include audio cassettes, sound discs, and reel to reels. Most recordings were made in the 1940s and include political speeches from the Depression and World War II.

Series I: Recordings contains audio recordings of folk songs, speeches, and events by Dr. Abrams. Subseries A: Sound Discs consists predominantly of 78 rpm recordings of folk songs collected by Abrams. Subseries B: Reel-to-Reel recordings includes recordings of folk songs and speeches. Subseries C: Audio Cassettes contains tape copies of folk songs, speeches, and an interview with I. G. Greer. Subseries D: Digital and User Copies consists of CDs of speeches and the Abrams Folk Song Collection. Subseries E: Edison Cylinders contains commercial and unlabeled [possibly field recordings] cylinders as well as a cylinder player, cylinder player accessories, and notes on "Uncle Josh" records.

Series II: Folk Songs and Ballads holds manuscripts of folk songs and child ballads collected by Dr. Abrams. Subseries A: Folk Songs contains manuscripts of folk songs collected by Dr. Abrams. Subseries B: Child Ballads contains American variants of Child Ballads collected by Dr. Abrams.

Series III: Personal Papers contains Dr. Abrams personal correspondence, speeches, and educational papers. Subseries A: Correspondence consists of Dr. Abrams personal correspondence. Subseries B: Speeches holds manuscripts of speeches and note cards of speeches given by Dr. Abrams. Subseries C: Educational Papers contains teaching materials on literature used by Dr. Abrams as well as publications, newspapers clippings, a thesis on "The Italiante Englishman", and editions of the "Merry Devil of Edmonton."

Series IV: Visual Materials and Artifacts consists of photographs and memoribilia pertaining to Dr. Abrams' career and personal life. Subseries A: Visual Materials contains photographs, including a panel by panel documentation of an English Sword Dance held on the campus of Appalachian State, as well as a pen and ink portrait of Abrams. Subseries B: Artifacts contains Dr. Abrams' Chancellors Award, a Musical Casket No. 2 [a roller organ], and Lions Club pins.


  • Majority of material found in 1884-1984


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for use in the Dougherty Reading Room. An appointment for research is recommended. The Dougherty Reading Room is located on the 4th floor of Belk Library in Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

No interlibrary loan.

Biographical note

William Amos "Doc" Abrams (September 18, 1904 - July 25, 1991), originally from Pinetops in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, was a professor of the English Department of Appalachian State Teacher's College from 1932 to 1946. He was appointed head of the English department in 1937, when the institution first appointed administrative chairman. He possessed both his A.B. (1926) and M. A. (1927) degrees from Duke University and his Ph. D. (1932) from Cornell University. From 1946 until his retirement in 1970, he served as editor of the North Carolina Education Association publications. Abrams was married to Lillian Cost and had one son, "Bill."

Starting in the 1930s, Abrams built a reputation as an enthusiastic collector, scholar, and promoter of North Carolina folklore. A significant number of folksong Variants in his collection (some collected in association with Dr. Frank C. Brown and later with Dr. Cratis D. Williams) appear in the seven volume publication, The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore (1962). Abrams served multiple terms as president of the North Carolina Folklore Society and contributed a number of articles to its Journal. The Society presented Abrams its Brown-Hudson Award in 1974 and named the prize for the outstanding undergraduate student essay in its annual contest after him. Abrams received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Appalachian State University in 1974 and received Appalachian State University's Chancellor's Award in 1984. He was also very active in the Lions Club. He was the District Governor of the Western North Carolina District in 1943-1944 and also the chairman of the Board of Councilman.


31 Linear Feet (42 boxes, 1 half-sized manuscript box, 3 CD boxes, 6 small shoeboxes, 1 large shoebox, 2 flat boxes, 3 oversize folders, 7 album boxes in cold storage)

Language of Materials



The Abrams Papers contains the papers and research of Appalachian State University English Professor and folksong scholar William Amos Abrams. It includes audio recordings including folksongs and presidential speeches from the 1940s, written folksongs and ballads, correspondence, speeches, and education notes. The audio recordings were recorded primarily in Watauga County. Digitized copies of ballads and folksongs are available online at Documenting Appalachia's "So Mote It Ever Be."


The collection is arranged into four series.

Series I: Recordings is arranged into five subseries. Subseries A: Sound Discs is arranged by disc. Subseries B: Reel-to-Reel recordings is arranged by reel. Subseries C: Audio Cassettes is arranged by cassette number followed by additional unlabeled and unnumbered cassettes. Subseries D: Digital and User Copies are arranged by title. Subseries E: Edison Cylinders are contained in five boxes with cylinder player and accessories separated due to size.

Series II: Folk Songs and Ballads contains two subseries. Subseries A: Folk Songs is arranged alphabetically by song title [variants are included under most common song title]. Subseries B: Child Ballads is arranged alphabetically by title [ballad variants are included under those titles used in Francis Child's collection].

Series III: Personal Papers consists of three subseries. Subseries A: Correspondence is arranged by year with each year being divided alphabetically. Subseries B: Speeches is arranged by individual speeches with additional materials removed from note cards held in folders identifying the speeches from which they were removed. Subseries C: Educational Papers is arranged by work with Abrams' notebook and notes followed by publications and speeches. Materials on the "Merry Devil of Edmonton" are included at the end of the subseries.

Series IV: Visual Materials and Artifacts consists of two subseries. Subseries A: Visual Materials is arranged alphabetically with an additional portrait of Doc Abrams included at the end. Subseries B: Artifacts is arranged by individual artifact.

Acquisitions Information

Transferral of materials occurred prior to 1990. The Folksong Subseries were housed in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection's open stacks for a number of years before being housed in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection's closed stacks [AC.2011.034]. Additional materials were added from AC.500: Appalachian Cultural Museum Records in September 2013 [AC.2013.060].

Related Materials

The collection is related to Frank C. Brown's North Carolina Folkore Volume 7, AC.500: Appalachian Cultural Museum Records, and AC.148: Moses Adams Papers.

Processing Information

Inventoried by Deborah Bell, 1994. Processed in March 2002, revised 2007-2008. Finding aid revised 2010. Folksongs digitized by Paul Robertson, 2007. It was opened to the public in 2002. Additional materials were added from Appalachian Cultural Museum Records [AC.500], the collection reorganized and finding aid revised by Trevor McKenzie, September 2013. This collection was reprocessed as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The grant funded extensive processing of the backlog within the W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection between 2012 and 2014.

AC.114: W. Amos Abrams Papers, 1884 - 1984, undated
Processed by: Kathryn Staley; machine-readable finding aid created by: Kathryn Staley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository