Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Into the Archives!

This week (Wednesday to Tuesday) has been about learning to use the Library of Congress. Have you ever used the Library of Congress? It is fucking amazing. Even when I can't find what I want, it is amazing! An example:

I am looking at published piano-vocal sheet music from the 1913 musical, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The Library has 18 songs out of an unknown number (I think 19, actually, but I haven't quite figured that out), but it doesn't have a script. The New York Public Library has an early draft of the script, but it doesn't match the songs. What does the helpful librarian in the Performing Arts Reading Room suggest to me, when I ask about a script? Look in the copyright deposit. In the same building, a few yards away, they keep the actual copy that was dropped off when every single play was copyrighted (copywritten? copyritten?). All of them! Every published drama for the history of this country supposedly has a copy of its published script somewhere in the Library of Congress.

Sadly, the one I wanted seems not to have been submitted when the copyright was filed. In 1909. In Chicago. Under a different title. And yet I still was able to definitively find out that the copy wasn't submitted. And simultaneously find out that on the same day that L. Frank Baum submitted The Rainbow's Daughter for copyright (February 23rd, 1909), he also submitted for copyright a work called The Koran of the Prophet, a musical extravaganza.

Sadly, the work that in my head is already retitled Koran: The Musical! was also copywrote without depositing a printed copy. What a loss to the world! Or perhaps what a gain! Can you imagine what a white midwesterner in 1909 would have written on the subject? I can't. But now I'm trying, all thanks to the Library of Congress!

Next week, I will (hopefully) examine their photos of Charlotte Greenwood playing Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo in The Tik-Tok Man. You may (and I certainly do) remember her as Aunt Eller in the film version of Oklahoma!, forty-two years later. When I started this chapter, I had no idea that Oklahoma! and Tik-Tok of Oz had anything in common, beyond having played two too large roles in my childhood. Research is a fascinating business!

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