Where are you from / where do you live?
I grew up outside of Portland, Oregon. In 1998, I moved to Eugene, Oregon, to attend the University of Oregon.
What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?
I earned an M.A. from the Folklore Program at the University of Oregon. My research focused on the musical traditions of the American labor movement. The title of my terminal project was More Than A Labor Singer: Converging Traditions in the Harry S. Stamper, Jr. Papers, and it involved archiving and analyzing the recorded and written works of the late Harry S. Stamper, Jr., a folksinger and longshoreman from Charleston, Oregon. I currently work as an independent folklorist, a bookstore clerk, and a musician with Low Tide Drifters
, a folk music band.
Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in?
I collect books on labor and occupational songs. Specifically, I collect rare songbooks, many of which were printed by labor unions, political organizations, or independent publishers. I also collect related academic and popular books on labor songs and other forms of working-class cultural expression. My good friend Mark Ross, a noted folksinger and book collector, helped me get started by introducing me to musicians, folklorists, and others who published books on labor and occupational music. In graduate school, James Fox, Head of Special Collections & University Archives, and Nathan Georgitis of the Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore taught me how to preserve my rare song books.
How many books are in your collection?
I have about twenty songbooks, and at least a dozen of them are rare. I have another 25 or so books on the subject of labor songs and occupational traditions.
What was the first book you bought for your collection?
The first book that I consciously bought for my collection was the 2005 centenary edition of The Little Red Songbook, the famous the songbook that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been publishing since 1909. The IWW was a labor union founded in 1905 that produced hundreds of songs, many of which have become folk music standards or have been recorded by popular artists. For anyone interested in IWW songs, the noted folklorist Archie Green wrote extensively on the subject. In 2007, he edited The Big Red Songbook, a detailed collection of IWW songs, which I highly recommend.
How about the most recent book?
I just bought a nice second printing of Starlight on the Rails & Other Songs by U. Utah Phillips. Phillips was a well-known folksinger and activist who wrote songs about the labor movement, trains, and the American West, as well as many other subjects. I purchased the book from Ken Saunders Rare Books, an antiquarian bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
And your favorite book in your collection?
It’s definitely hard to choose a favorite, but it’s probably my IWW song book from 1945. It’s the twenty-eighth edition and is the oldest song book in my collection. I’d love to get some older ones, though!
Best bargain you’ve found?
I just found a nice copy of Joe Glazer and Edith Fowke’s Songs of Work and Freedom. It was only a couple of bucks, so that was exciting. To be honest, I’m always looking for a deal. That’s part of the fun. Anyone can go online and find a book that they want for a lot of money, but I like searching the thrift stores and used book stores for a bargain and a treasure!
How about The One that Got Away?
I try not to dwell on those.
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
I would absolutely love a copy of “Coal Dust on the Fiddle” by George Korson. Korson was a pioneering occupational folklorist who documented the songs and stories of coal miners, especially in Pennsylvania. He was also one of the first American folklorists to illustrate how immigrant traditions influence occupational folklore in the United States.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
Right now, I work at Tsunami Books
in Eugene, Oregon. I find great titles there every day! I recently found a very unique book called “Men and Machines: A Story about Longshoring on the West Coast Waterfront.” It’s a photographic essay about the technological changes that occurred on the waterfront in the last half of the twentieth century.
What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?
Well, I actually do have a number of other collections. I collect LPs (work/labor music, folk and country, blues, and old punk records). I also have an extensive CD and cassette collection. Oddly enough, I also have a growing science fiction book collection as well.
Thanks to Nathan Moore for participating in our series. Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org