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The Story

Sidney Robertson Cowell was a talented writer who told her stories better than anyone.
Click on the symbol srcthroughout the text to read her accounts of her collecting in Wisconsin.
The Walkers, used with permission of the Cowell Estate
Mrs. and Mrs. Robert Walker of Crandon, Wisconsin, ca. 1937. Photo by Sidney Robertson Cowell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Used with permission.

Yet it wasn’t a Kaintuck who would prove to have the best ballad recall. Warde Ford, a New York State transplant to Wisconsin, had a keen memory and could sometimes recite a song after hearing it only once. Robertson’s 1937 recordings of Ford would mark the beginning of a fifteen-year folksong relationship that would go on at intervals in Wisconsin, California, and in Berlin, Germany. Robertson estimates that she recorded around 200 songs from Ford, “at least two-thirds of them long ballads about historical events.”

© Nicole Saylor

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