The Sedalia Katy Depot, a restored historic landmark is a moving symbol of one of Sedalia’s great periods in its history–the railroad era. Today, the Depot tells many other stories about Sedalia’s grand past; one of those gaining excitement is an archive project about its musical heritage of Ragtime music and its greatest composer, Scott Joplin–the “King of Ragtime.”
Activity involving the Sedalia Ragtime Archive continues to grow as more people learn of its mission. Major contributions of sheet music, piano rolls and miscellaneous ephemera were donated this past year. A most unexpected contribution came from Mr. Charles Hanna who donated copies of 40 letters he and Rosemary Burrowes received from Brunson Campbell between1945 and 1950. Hanna and Burrowes were the editors of the Sedalia Capital and Sedalia Democrat newspapers during that period. Charles collected and archived Campbell’s letters encouraging Sedalia to memorialize Joplin and realize the city’s importance to American music. This collection along with the Sedalia letters Larry Karp obtained from the Campbell estate, provides the other half of that Sedalia correspondence. He also included an important letter from W.C. Handy regarding the importance of ragtime to the development of Blues and to American music in general.
Several requests for specific information have been fulfilled including a fascinating inquiry about the name of the George R. Smith College mascot, the “Dewey Tiger,” from author Glenn Arthur Pierce who wrote Naming Rites: A Biographical History of North American Team Names. It is interesting that this small detail informed author Sue Attilla who is working on a marvelous study of influences on Joplin’s Treemonisha. She found many connections with Booker T. Washington’s philosophies and with his Tuskegee Institute in Joplin’s opera. She was interested in Washington’s influence on Smith College’s values and ideals. It seems that colleges influenced by the Tuskegee model all had tiger mascots with varying descriptive adjectives honoring Tuskegee’s “Golden Tiger” mascot. It appears Dewey was a shade of blue, perhaps associated with an African-American men’s club in Sedalia at the time. It is fascinating how such seemingly disassociated information can be linked through research.
Reponses to inquiries from teachers about Scott Joplin, especially during Black history month have resulted in packets of information appropriate for all grade levels having been sent to these schools. The Patrick Henry School in Anaheim CA forwarded a nice account as to how the Archive materials were used. Larry Melton continues to respond to many of the Archive inquiries as he slowly conserves, indexes and stores additions to the SRA.
A new exhibit titled “Treasures of the Sedalia Ragtime Archive” is being prepared for the KATY Depot museum. It spotlights significant elements of the collection. If you have yet to visit the Katy Depot, make your plans to come this year!