Helen Hartness Flanders

Helen Hartness Flanders (1890-1972) extensively collected folk songs in Vermont and New Hampshire between 1930 and 1940, accompanied on various collecting trips by George Brown, Phillips Barry, and Alan Lomax. In 1940, she changed the name of what had become a prodigious effort from the Vermont Archive of Folk-Song, located at her home in Springfield, to the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection. Her collecting scope also broadened to other New England states when she donated the Collection to Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT.

Though Flanders collected from Lena Bourne Fish in East Jaffrey, NH, in 1940,Marguerite Olney using the same disc recorder obtained from Fish many of the 175 ballads and songs apparently learned in the eastern Adirondacks. After 1950, Flanders and Olney turned to reel-to-reel audio recording, including re-recording some of the singers, but too late for Fish.

Given the magnitude of its size, scope, and varied contents (not limited to folk ballads), the Flanders Ballad Collection has special importance for situating “roots” traditional Adirondack folk music in wider, and especially New England, regional context. Copies of the nearly 4,500 field recordings are housed at Middlebury College, as well as at the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Flanders, with others, published a series of books featuring texts and tunes gleaned from the Collection; for an example, with annotations, see Ancient Ballads Traditionally Sung in New England, 4 vols., 1960-1965.