New archives: the Fuller family singers

A modestly sized but interesting collection has been added to Rare Books and Special Collections- the Fuller family fonds contains the records of a family of musicians- Rosalind, Cynthia and Dorothy Fuller were the talent, brother Walter acted as their manager. The Fuller sisters originated from Dorset, England, but these records are from their American tour in the mid to late 1910’s. The Fuller sisters performed English, Irish and Scottish folk songs, in Victorian costume and accompanied by harp.  Their travels took them throughout America, but primarily in the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Walter Fuller was based during this time New York, and managed their bookings and other business matters. It appears that the family moved back to England after the end of the First World War.

The Fuller sisters, from a program (File 1-10)

The Fuller sisters, from a program (File 1-10)

The collection contains correspondence between Walter and the sisters, as well as business documents such as contracts and receipts. Additionally there are concert programs, reviews, requests from audience members, and printed music broadsides which the family had printed and sold. Photographs show the sisters and Walter, and sketches and drawings show some of their impressions from their travels.

There are few, if any, secondary sources related to the Fuller sisters’ musical contributions, although some mention of their performances can be found in historic publications by searching Google Books for their names. Their brother Walter does have a famous connection though- while in America, he married Crystal Eastman, feminist activist and co-founder of The Liberator magazine and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Walter’s own feelings on the War are revealed in a 1917 letter to his sister Dorothy:

As to the question of giving the concert for ourselves or of sharing profits with the Red Cross, I really cannot make up my mind… I am constantly having the idea in my mind, of our giving these concerts for some more innocent sufferers from the war than the soldiers. There is for instance the Blue Cross, which does good things for the horses at the front, and then, or course, there are various funds in aid of children in all the countries.” (From file 1-1).

Advertising card, File 1-10

Advertising card, File 1-10

This collection came to Rare Books and Special Collections as part of the Phillip J. Thomas Popular Song Collection, which consists mostly of sheet music and books about popular forms of song, including ballads, folk music, hymns, work songs, and more.

One response to “New archives: the Fuller family singers”

  1. Karen Charbonneau

    I have a book of poetry published in 1930, titled Red Shoes, by Katherine Ellis Barrett; the illustrations throughout are by Dorothy Fuller Odell. I would have thought her other than a Fuller Family singer had it not been for the Introduction, which states: Dorothy Fuller Odell, “the one who sang low” of the ballad-singing Fuller Sisters, came across these verses somehow — perhaps when Charles’ ship put in at some Kentish bay — and with her own little Carol to dance over them for her, butterfly-wise, she made some sketches. And lo! we have a book.

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