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Duncan Blackie MacDonald Emrich was born on April 11, 1908 in Mardin, Turkey of missionary parents. Prior to World War I, they returned to the United States. Emrich entered college preparatory courses at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in 1926, and continued on to attain his BA at Brown University (1932), MA at Columbia University (1933), Doctor en Letras at the University of Spain at Madrid (1934) and a PhD at Harvard. He married Sally Richardson Seldon in 1955.
In 1939, Emrich became an English Professor at Columbia until 1942 when he served in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to Military Intelligence and later achieved the rank of major as the official American historian in the Secretary of the General Staff's office, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force. In 1945 he was appointed chief of the Archives of the American Folk Song section of the Library of Congress. From 1955-66 he held various positions with American Embassies in Greece, India, Togo, then returned to a desk officer job in the U.S. Information Agency in Washington until 1969. In 1969, he returned to the teaching profession and was a Professor of American Folklore at American University until 1977. Emrich died on August 23, 1977.
For additional biographical information, consult Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, volume 9 and Current Biography, 1955.
Scope and Content Note
Emrich's papers include his collection of folklore, broken down into 35 labeled binders. In addition to the actual folklore, he has collected important journal articles, newspaper clippings, speeches, and classroom notes. He was able to attain the assistance of students, colleagues and the general public in the acquisition of American Folklore. Between October 1953, and June 1954, he participated in a weekly NBC series called "Weekend". He appealed to people to send him their particular traditions, rituals, tongue twisters, and any other folkloric influence.
The papers have been kept as close to the degree of organization that Emrich used, except a few instances. His method was topical, and so they are arranged alphabetically by topic. The same headings have been preserved with the following changes.
Folklore had been named such because there was no title on that particular binder.
Intro-class has been renamed from Touchstones for clarity. Its contents relates to what seems to be his introductory lecture on folklore.
Names-more has been changed from Names so as not to be confused with the other folder on Names.
The Collection was given to the American University Library in September 1989 by Henry Taylor of the Department of Literature.
Box & Folder Listing
Memorandums and documents
Two military photos, one of Eisenhower
Correspondence regarding a book on campus folklore; misc. folklore at AU
Compilation of folk recipes with beans as the main ingredient
Bibliography 1 & 2
List of references on folklore.
Collection of folklore regarding cures, parts of the body, sneezing, etc.
Legends and myths regarding St. Nicholas, the Christmas card, and other related customs; Journal and newspaper articles related to Christmas folklore.
Words and music to college songs of Brown, Harvard, Yale, and Nevada
Collection of popular cowboy songs and Western oriented songs particularly related to 49'ers
Rough draft of book on love and courtship, article on the folklore of love, and collection of folklore from Adams County Illinois related to courtship
Definition and examples of folk etymology includes a student project on Children’s definitions of big words
Beginning of a collection on the art and use of excuses-especially by college students
Collection of drawings
Articles and information on tattoos
Riddles of Texas Mexican Children, and other folklore
Beginning work on text for high school use
Child ballads-a paper
Draft of his book by that name
Information regarding definition and relating to his class at AU
More specifically oriented to his class on American Folklore at AU; important points-touchstones, destructive forces and fields of folklore
Language, Speech, & Grammar
Examples of various folk language and regional speech
Luck, Magic, and Astrology
Collection of folklore related to topic.
Songs related to love; arranged alphabetically
Folk customs related to marriage and weddings and rough draft of the Folklore of Brides and Bridals
Statistics and facts regarding distribution and commonality of names
Articles related to the regionality of place names
Few papers of what might appear to be the beginning of a new book includes directory of colleges
Articles against "psuedo-folk" singers; criticisms of Joan Baez and Pete Seeger
Teasing, ball bouncing and skip rope, and hopscotch rhymes
Collection of Riddles
Collection of Folk Songs
Risks, rituals, omens, etc
Folklore of superstitions from Adams County Illinois file
Collection of Tongue Twisters
Collection of myths related to wishes and wish making
Books by Duncan Emrich on file:
Riddles and Jokes and Foolish Facts
Who Shot Maggie in the Freckle? and other ballads of Virginia City, Nevada
Casey Jones and other Ballads of the Mining West
Tongue Twisters and Tricky Tanglers
The Book of Wishes and Wishmaking
It's an Old Wild West Custom
The Whim Wham Book
American Folk Poetry, An Anthology
Nonsense Book of Riddles, Rhymes, Tongue Twisters, Puzzles, and Jokes from American Folklore
Articles by Duncan Emrich on File:
The Legend of Avicenna, The Moslem World October 1942
Duncan Emrich's Life of Happy Coincidences, Brown Alumni Monthly, October 1974
Yankee gift to a Calcutta merchant, Smithsonian February 1976
A Certain Nicholas of Patara, Catholic Digest December 1962