Skip to main content

Featured Item: Folklore Music Map of the United States

 By Laura Kane McElfresh.

Folklore Music Map of the United States

by Dorothea Dix Lawrence, from the Primer of American Music

NOTE: The map and historical information presented here include materials reflecting the attitudes, language, and stereotypes of an earlier time period. These materials are presented as historical resources in support of study and research. Inclusion of such materials does not constitute an endorsement of their content by the BTAA Geoportal, the University of Michigan, or the University of Minnesota.

What is the item?

Pictorial map of the United States. Each state has drawings including the local industries, folk cultures, and landmarks, plus the titles and notated samples of folk songs from the area. The map’s decorative border contains additional drawings of musical instruments. Music snippets and border illustrations are numbered; an “Explanation to Illustrations and Music on Map” features a numerical listing of the map contents, as well as a classified grouping of the songs by type of music. 

Map representing the people, places, and folk music of the United States, 1946

What BTAA Library submitted the item?

University of Michigan

Interesting tidbits:

  • A numbered index at the top of the map explains the illustrations on the map and in its border.
  • This map only includes the contiguous 48 states; it was published in 1946, prior to Alaska or Hawai’i statehood.
  • The top center of the map border shows the Zuni people’s representation of the musical scale using symbols and colors (below).

“Ancient [Zuni] symbols and colors representing the notes of the musical scale. Reading left to right: Do -- c -- yellow -- the Sun; Re -- d -- green -- a tree; Mi -- e -- blue -- the Horizon; Fa -- f -- red -- the Fire; Sol -- g -- brown -- Prayer for the dead; La -- a -- orange -- the Sunset; Ti -- b -- purple -- Supplication.” (From the “Explanation to Illustrations and Music On the Map”.)

Where can I find out more?

About the author:

  • Dorothea Dix Lawrence was an opera singer, folk music scholar, and promoter of American folk music. This news article from the University of Rochester Eastman School of Music has information about her life and careers.
  • The Dorothea Dix Lawrence papers are at the Library of Congress; the papers themselves are not available online, but they do provide a description of the collection.
  • Lawrence’s article “Musical Symbolism of the Indians”, published in Music Journal 14(3), p.13 (1956), provides further description of the Zuni musical notation.

About the map and its contents:

  • The University of Colorado podcast, CU At the Libraries, has an episode discussing the map: “Exploring the Folklore Music Map of the United States” (Ep. 7, 2019) is available as audio with transcript.
  • I was unable to find the Primer of American Music referenced by the map! However, there is a music book by Dorothea Dix Lawrence and Walter Rosemont, Folklore-Songs of the United States (published in 1959), that discusses the songs from the map. Readers may use WorldCat to check for a copy at a local library.
  • Reviewing Folklore-Songs of the United States, critic A. L. Lloyd writes that this “ingenuous compilation” provides only limited coverage of its collected music and lyrics, and that the included brief notes about the music are “not always relevant or informative”. Lloyd also takes issue with the ethnic and racial descriptions in the book. (Source: Folklore 71 (3), p.207-213, September 1960.)
  • The Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota has a physical copy of this map with G3701.E646 1950z .L2 as its call number. Check WorldCat for physical copies at other libraries.
  • The Clark Library Scanned Maps collection from the University of Michigan has more scans of vintage maps.

Have questions about this item, the BTAA geoportal, or maps and geospatial data in general? Please don’t hesitate to contact our project team!
Laura Kane McElfresh is the Cartographic Metadata Librarian at the University of Minnesota.