Ward Irish Music Archives Collections

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Full List of Collections

Sheet Music Collections

WIMA's sheet music collections consist of two major collections: the Ed & Cathy Ward Collection and the Milwaukee Irish Fest Collection. Combined, these two collections contain over 5,000 pieces of Irish related sheet music. The collection holdings range from early sheets from 1750 to the modern music of U2. Special collections within these holdings are of Harrigan & Hart, George M. Cohan, Chauncey Olcott, Bing Crosby, Morton Downey and art covers by the famous Illustrator Alfred Concanen. While the range and scope of this collection is wide, the core of the collection, 35%, is from the era of Tin Pan Alley, 1900-1920. The collection also contains some Scottish sheet music. 

Digitized holdings from both collections can be browsed online at the Irish Sheet Music Archives.

The Dunn Family Collection, c. 1904 - c. 1935

Donated to WIMA by David K. Dunn, this collection contains the manuscripts, books, sheet music, recordings, and ephemera collected by Michael Dunn. Musician and instrument maker/repairer Michael Dunn (1855 - 1935), also a captain of the Milwaukee Fire Department, was a contemporary and associate of the famed Irish music collector, Francis O'Neill. It is believed that Dunn received field recordings and possibily manuscripts belonging to O'Neill after the death of Sergeant James Early of Chicago in 1914. This collection contains 32 wax cylinders recorded sometime between c.1902 and c. 1905 by Francis O'Neill of Chicago. The cylinders capture performances by noted uilleann piper Patrick Touhey, as well as Chicago musicians James Early, Bernard Delaney, John McFadden, and Edward Cronin. The collection also includes five hand-written manuscripts of Irish tunes, notated copies of O'Neill's Music of Ireland and Dance Music of Ireland (including hand-written music gathered from Touhey and Turlough McSweeney, the Donegal piper), as well as instruments, books, sheet music, and other items from Michael Dunn.

This material can be browsed online at the Dunn Family Collection. Or, purchase a CD at our online shop!

The Maureen O'Looney Collection

Born Maureen Staunton on February 8, 1922 in Bohola, Co. Mayo, Maureen O’Looney was one of Chicago’s most renowned and beloved Irish figures. A passionate devotee of Irish games, politics, and music, O’Looney also helped thousands of newly arrived Irish immigrants find employment, accommodations, and support.

Maureen O’Looney’s collection of audio recordings consists of recordings used for her radio program and includes 119 78 rpm discs and 620 LPs. The collection represents a broad range of Irish music, including recordings of Irish traditional music, Irish American recordings of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as a large selection of folk and ballad recordings.

Read more about Maureen O'Looney and her collection...

The Michael and Mary Comer Collection

Donated to Irish Fest in May of 1998, this collection contains over 5,ooo reel-reel, CD, Cassette, LP, 45 rpm and 78 rpm records. Most of the collection is on Irish labels and was collected in Ireland by Michael Comer. Materials date from the 1940's through 1980's with a strong focus on 1960's and 1970's LP's. Most of these would be very difficult to find today. The Comer Collection also contains over 30 pieces of recording and play back equipment used by Michael Comer in his basement broadcast studio. His radio show "Echoes of Erin" ran for over 25 years in Cleveland, Ohio. Several dozen of Mr. Comer's Commendations and plaques came with the collection.

The Ed and Cathy Ward Collection

The base of this collection was 400 plus LP's, CD's and cassettes which Ed Ward has collected since the 1970's. In the late 1970's Ed and Chuck Ward ran Irish Music Ltd. which distributed for numerous Irish Recording labels. Operating in the early years of Green Linnet and Shanachie, Ed was able to collect many of the early releases. More recently, Ed has focused on acquiring items that would complement the Comer Collection assembling over 1,000 pieces of Irish sheet music, several thousand Irish and Irish-American 45 rpm and 78 rpm records, hundreds of song books and music periodicals and a number of authentic antique phonographs and juke boxes.

The Milwaukee Irish Fest Collection 

The Milwaukee Irish Fest Collection numbers over 6,000 items including many of the LP's, tapes and CD's collected from bands sending material to Irish Fest for possible booking. Some of these items date back to the early years of Irish Fest. The festival still receives several dozen CD's each month from groups who want to play here. Since the archives moved to its current location many items have been donated to this collection by individuals who wished to give their Irish related items a good home. Also included in this collection are purchased items such as a player-piano, hundreds of turn-of-the-century sheet music and many books.

Irish Fest John McCormack Collection

This is one of the world's largest public collections of the great Irish tenor's recordings. Eleven very rare cylinders from 1903 and 1904 are included in this collection. Many rare recordings include McCormack 78 rpm records on such labels as Odeon, Columbia, Regal, Okeh, Gramophone G & T, HMV and Victor. The collection also has advertisements, books, postcards, over 40 photographs and over 50 LP's.

The Stapleton Bing Crosby Collection

Through the efforts of Barry Stapleton this Bing Crosby Collection is the largest public collection of his recordings outside of Gonzaga University. Most of this collection was donated from Crosby fans across the U.S.. The collection includes recordings but also includes many books, photos and Crosby memorabilia.

The Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School Collection

The Irish Fest Summer School, held annually prior to Irish Fest, has recorded many of the internationally acclaimed musicians, dancers and educators who have taught at the school since 1994. Certain sessions of the Summer School have been either audio or videotaped and placed in the archives.

The Jerry Kelly Collection

This collection contains over 1,000 LP's and cassettes. Jerry, of Philadelphia, was a colorful and avid collector of Irish music. At his death he gave his collection to Irish entertainer Seamus Kennedy who donated the collection to the archives.

Michael Corenthal Collection

Michael Corenthal is the proprietor of Yesterday's Memories in Milwaukee and is also a well-known music collector and historian. He has been helpful in establishing our John McCormack Collection and is interested in Jewish-Irish material from the turn-of-the-century.

David Giovannoni Collection

Collection of previously published and unpublished Irish music 78 rpm recordings released between 1900 and 1950. David Giovannoni has been playing old records ever since he could climb a box and peer into a Victrola. His interest in sound led to a career in radio and a modest and fluid collection of 78s and cylinders currently numbering over 20,000 selections — each compulsively catalogued, cleaned, and shelved. His focus is on the earliest discs and cylinders, home recordings, recordings of historical interest, hot dance and jazz through the 1920s, and rock 'n' roll at 78 rpm.

Neil Corning Collection of John McCormack Materials

In WIMA's efforts to learn more about the great Irish Tenor, John McCormack, we were put in touch with Neil Corning of Peabody, MA. Neil was a lover of John McCormack and many other opera personalities. We invited Neil to Milwaukee in 2000 and he gave a beautiful presentation to the Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School.

Soon after, we purchased 12 very rare John McCormack cylindersfrom Neil. In January, 2011 WIMA purchased the whole Neil Corning Collection.

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