Finding aid prepared by Processed by: Archives Staff ; machine-readable finding aid created by:Eric Weig
John Jacob Niles papers
University of Kentucky Special Collections
Organized into the following Series: Correspondence, Personal, Career, Rena Lipetz, Manuscript - Music, Manuscript - Books, Manuscript -Plays, Manuscript - Radio Programs, Manuscript - Articles, Manuscript -Miscellaneous, Audio-visual (Removed to A-V Archives). The series are arranged chronologically within topical subseries.
Open for research. However, literary rights remain vested in the Niles family. Permission to publish or quote extensively must be obtained from Mrs. John Jacob Niles.
[Identification of item], John Jacob Niles papers, 1900-1981, 1M82M9, Special Collections and Digital Programs, University of Kentucky.
65.7 Cubic feet
Composer, Performer, and Author. Niles was born in Louisville in 1892. Coming from a musical family, Niles began to play the dulcimer at an early age. As a teenager he worked with a surveying team in eastern Kentucky. During this time he kept a notebook in which he recorded lyrics and music of old folk songs known in the area. Niles served as a U.S. Army pilot in World War I and made numerous reconnaissance flights until he suffered serious injuries in a plane crash. After the war he studied music at the University of Lyon and the Schola Cantorium in Paris. Niles completed his musical education at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He renewed his search for folk songs in Appalachia as he accompanied noted photographer Doris Ulmann on her travels through the mountain region. He set traditional songs in new arrangements and composed many original songs.
These papers contain the correspondence, musical and literary manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, and other materials written or collected by John Jacob Niles. Much of the correspondence is between Niles and his music publisher, G. Schirmer, Inc. Original drafts of Niles choral works, instrumental pieces, orchestral oratorios, song arrangements, and other musical compositions total approximately thirteen cubic feet. A significant portion of these materials is unpublished. The papers contain an interesting series of photographs, including several taken of Niles by well-known photographers such as Van Deren Coke, Alfred Eisenstaedt, George Kossuth, and Doris Ulmann. There are also original photographs taken at the 1903 launching of Orville and Wilbur Wright's airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. There are also a number of World War I era shots of Niles' flying group, The Lafayette Escadrille, and various Niles family pictures.
Other important items include the diaries and notebooks Niles used to record the folk songs, his World War I scrapbooks, autobiographical notes and drafts, original plays, radio scripts, and manuscripts of his published books. There are approximately 164 tapes of Niles performances as well as film and videotapes of three documentaries about his career. Miscellaneous materials include greeting cards and printed material on Anglo-Saxon balladry. There is also a series of materials relating to Niles' wife, Rena Lipetz Niles. The series includes personal correspondence, diaries, travel journals, and memorabilia.