Collection Dates: 1948 -- 1957
.5 linear ft.
This document describes a collection of materials held
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
Posted to Internet: November 1997
Addendum: 2003, 2010
Acquisition Note: This collection was donated to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1952 by Mr. Willson.
and Restrictions: This
collection is open for research.
This collection is open for research.
Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.
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Meredith Willson (1902 -- 1984), author, musician, composer, lyricist, and librettist, made his home town of Mason City, Iowa, famous in his Broadway musical, The Music Man, which he based on his own memories and town lore. As a child, Willson took the obligatory piano lessons and played the flute and piccolo in the high school band. After graduation he left for New York and the Institute of Musical Art (now the Juliard School). At nineteen, he became a member of John Philip Sousas famous band. Five years later, he joined the New York Philharmonic, then under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. From there he traveled to the West coast where he served as a musical director, first with the American Broadcasting Company and then the National Broadcasting Company. In that capacity he became an active composer, at times writing more than a dozen musical programs each week. He also scored films for Hollywood, including Charlie Chaplins The Great Dictator. During World War II, Willson headed the musical division of the Armed Forces Radio Services. At wars end, he turned his talent to network radio and television work. In 1949, the Meredith Willson Show debuted.
Meredith Willsons greatest success came in 1957, with the Broadway musical The Music Man. He wrote the book, music and lyrics for this Tony award winning show, which earned him both an Oscar for the movie version and the first Grammy ever presented for best album. Willson went on to write three other Broadway shows: Heres Love, 1491, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, which was also made into a movie musical. He authored five books, including the autobiographical And There I Stood with My Piccolo. Willson is remembered for his popular tunes such as May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You as well as the boisterous Iowa Fight Song which he wrote in 1950.
Mason Citys favorite son died at the age of eighty-two.
The papers of Meredith Willson consist of 0.5 linear feet of his manuscripts and musical compositions. Arranged alphabetically by title and dating from 1948 to 1957, they include the typescript of his autobiographical novel, And There I Stood with My Piccolo and a publisher's typescript of his book, Who Did What to Fedalia?, as well as a final script of The Music Man. There is sheet music for three songs relating to Iowa, including the Iowa Fight Song.
And There I Stood with My Piccolo. First typescript draft with revisions, 1948.
Holograph sheet music.
Phonograph record. In Oversized Box 1
Iowa Fight Song. Holograph sheet music.
Iowa Indian Song. Sheet music with holograph revisions.
The Music Man. Final script, September 23, 1957.
What Every Young Musician Should Know. New York: Robbins Music Corporation, 1938. Photocopy.
Who Did What to Fedalia? Publishers typescript with corrections and revisions.
Letters and postcards
Letter to Karl Goedecke; 1 to Abe Meyer; 2 to Viv and Mac McCracken; 1 postcard to the McCrackens; 1 postcard to Abe Meyer. 1 Happy Chanuka card with no addressee
Items transferred from the administrative file, October 2008
--- The Iowa Fight Song
--- The Music Man
--- Willson at the Rose Bowl. Print and negative
Programs and playbills
Radio and television shows featuring Willson, 1937-1959
Leoma. Holographic sheet music with words. Written for Helen Leoma Riha. Includes a photograph of her shortly after her marriage to Lee Wulff. Gift of her son and daughter-in-law, Barry and Ella May Wulff. In Oversized Box 1