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Collection Information


William Allen (Andrew?) Shirk collection


Music and Performing Arts Library Special Collections (scrapbooks, with index); University Press Building Library storage area (78-rpm records); Collections File (register of recordings).


Personal library of donor, a University of Illinois graduate, class of 1912.

When acquired



Total of 1,165 78-rpm records, chiefly operatic, but also several other prominent figures in the entertainment world. “Drama from will Rogers to Sarah Bernhart. Stage personalities from Eva Tanguay to Bea Lillie. Singers from Caruso & Schumann-Heink to Tony Martin & Kate Smith. However, majority of recordings are of such opera stars as Witherspoon, Tetrazzini, Sembrich, Patti, Plancon, Marsh, Melba, McCormack, Lilli Lehmann, Journet, Hempel, Homer, Garden, Gadski, Gluck, Galli-Curci, Farrar, di Reszke, Destinn, Culp, Calve, Chaliapin, Amato, Alda.” (Unsigned memo, Collections File folder, “Shirk”). Among the total, 495 are on the Victor label, 172 Columbia, 45 Brunswick, 185 International Record Collectors Club, and about 25 other record manufacturers.

A series of 15 small (octavo-size) scrapbooks, containing clippings, photographs, advertisements, etc., along with copious commentary by Shirk himself, accompanied the donation.

v.1-2: A number of general topics, including Shirk’s description of how he developed his interest in opera and his record collection (v.1); personnel lists of Chicago opera during specific years ( v.2 ) .

v.3-14: Entries arranged alphabetically by name of performer (mainly singers).

v.15: Index by name of singer, listing specific recordings in the collection, as well as brief lists by record manufacturer/serial number .

An additional handwritten register. (“Opera Records” binder, about 500p. ) is arranged by name of composer, providing information as to titles of vocal works, performers, and labels plus serial numbers. Along with the recordings and related scrapbooks, Shirk also donated to the University of Illinois a number of books about music, as well as books and pictorial materials on topics other than music, which were distributed to appropriate Library units. In 1956 Shirk sent eight tinted mounted plates of opera stars in costume (11″ x 15.5″), plus an additional unidentified portrait of a woman. “As the Music Library has no facilities for housing such things, we hope they may be taken care of in Ricker Library…”. (Memo, Music Librarian Jay Allen, December 17, 1956).

Access/Finding Aids/Bibliography

Scrapbooks can be found in Music Library Special Collections at  782 SH65; Shirk, William Allen. Stars of the past.

Refer to Shirk’s scrapbooks and register (500 pages), as described above. No list exists at present within the Music Library of the specific books which Shirk sent to the University, although his letter to School of Music director Duane Branigan of January 4, 1957, refers to such a list. The Collections File folder includes a number of notes and memos prepared by Jay Allen relating to appraising, processing, and housing the collection, as well as copies of numerous letters between Shirk and Branigan. Non-music donations by Shirk are described briefly in Major (cited below). Additional documentary information may be available in University Archives in two record series for Duane Branigan, as well as one series for William Shirk (class of 1912; entered under “William Andrew Shirk”)–see University Archives for more information.

Index terms

Recordings: 78 rpm
Shirk, William

See also

Major, Jean A. Collections acquired by the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign, 1897-1974:  a catalog. (Champaign, University of Illinois, 1974), entry no.1571 p.47. [ Z881 U752 1974]