TRUMAN STATE UNIVERSITY Pickler Memorial Library Truman State University

Ms Collection H1


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In 1957, as part of Northeast Missouri State Teacher’s College’s 90th Anniversary, Dr. P.O. Selby contacted famous persons in all walks of life asking them to contribute a signed card or photograph to an Anniversary Autographs Collection which, when completed, would be placed in the College Archives.  One of those who responded to his request was composer W.C. Handy and his signed card is in Volume I of the Collection.  Handy also sent Dr. Selby some other signed items which Selby donated separately to the Library’s manuscripts collection on September 30, 1958. 

William Christopher Handy (1873-1958) was one of the originators of the music form known as the “Blues” and one of his most famous compositions was “The Saint Louis Blues”.  Written in 1914, the piece was based on Handy’s experiences in 1893 when he tried for a time to find work as a musician in St. Louis, MO.  Unable to find work at first, he slept on the streets and in chairs in pool halls.  He later began to find odd jobs and eventually enough music gigs to make his way as a musician.  In one of his letters to Dr. Selby, he recalls playing Kirksville with a traveling show “back in the nineties”.

The collection contains the following items:

  • Two letters to Selby from Handy on the letterhead of Handy Brothers Music Co., Inc., 15 Feb and 4 Nov 1957

  • Autographed* black & white 8x10 photo of Handy [Photo Archives No. OS.0013]

  • Sheet music for four of Handy’s songs published by the Handy Brothers Music Company*
              The Memphis Blues, ©1912
              The Saint Louis Blues
    , ©1914
              They That Sow in Tears (Shall Reap in Joy)
    , ©1950
    by Walter Malone and W. C. Handy, ©1934

  • Two Christmas cards: one with picture of Handy & his wife with his 83rd birthday party cake on front, from Mr. and Mrs. William C. Handy; and one with same picture (Mrs Handy cropped from the shot), from William C. Handy and the Staff of Handy Brothers Music Co

  • “W.C. Handy Dies; Father of the Blues” clipped from unknown newspaper; dateline New York, March 28, 1958

  • Five issues of The Handy News (Vols. 8-12), “published every now and then by the Music House of Handy”

  • Three sales flyers from Handy Brothers Music Co

*All autographed items have the same inscription: “P.O. Selby / William C Handy / 2-15-57”

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