Beyond the Hall: A Day of Conversation about Commemoration, Historic Preservation, & the Study of History

A Sound Recording of the Booker T. Washington Ceremony in the NYU Archives

There are many collections at the New York University Archives that reflect the origins, operation, and growth of the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, but of all those materials, there is only one sound recording.

Cover of the Washington ceremony, courtesy of the NYU Archives

The recording comprises one part of an induction ceremony for a bust into the Hall of Fame. The recording dates from 1946 and commemorates the induction of Booker T. Washington into that . According to the label on the phonodisc, the recording is #3 of an unknown number and was recorded by the NBC Radio-Recording Division.

Why might NBC have recorded an induction ceremony? A search for the answer to this question leads to the NBC archives at the Library of Congress. Archivists there located a radio traffic logbook indicating that at least part of the recording may have been broadcast on local NBC affiliate radio station WEAF. Further perusal of records from the Library of Congress and records here at the University Archives indicated that the recording at the University Archives is likely a courtesy copy of the recording of the event given to the University by NBC. Dr. James Rowland Angell, who was at the time director of the Hall of Fame, was also employed by NBC as a consultant on educational programming, which might explain why at least one Hall of Fame event was broadcast over local NBC stations.


How can we know who appears on the recording? Among the University Archives records are programs for many induction ceremonies. In this recording, you can clearly hear a solo vocalist performing (according both to the ceremony program and to a May 24, 1946, article in The New York Times, she was soprano Dorothy Maynor) as well as one of the speakers (Jackson Davis, then Associate Director of the General Education Board).

Contributed by Janet Bunde, University Archivist, New York University

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