Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project

Verses in Vogue with the Vulgar


This project is the result of decades of work carried out at the American Antiquarian Society. Arthur Schrader worked assiduously with this collection, and Kate Van Winkle Keller, who is the primary author of the content here, consulted with Schrader until shortly before his death in 2004. Caroline Sloat, then AAS director of book publication, worked with Keller on what was to be a three-volume book with images of the broadsides accompanying Keller’s prose on the ballads as a whole and on the content, both graphic and textual, of each broadside. AAS president Ellen S. Dunlap increasingly saw the potential for a dynamic digital project, and with the help of funds left by Arthur Schrader to continue work on the broadsides, Dunlap charged AAS’s digital humanities curator and ACLS public fellow Molly O’Hagan Hardy with managing the project you see here. Thirty of the ballads have been performed and recorded by David and Ginger Hildebrand of the Colonial Music Institute


For a complete list of the works cited, please visit:

Please also join our Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Zotero Group.

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Please visit AAS’s Order Copies/Images or Request Permission to Publish page for details. 



Other Contributors

A Note from Kate Van Winkle Keller


Dianne Dugaw wrote “Modes and Voices of Early American Song: An Introduction.” Professor of English and Folklore at the University of Oregon, Dugaw has performed folk music and lectured at universities, libraries, conferences, and festivals in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Mexico. Her five-volume study and edition, Memoirs of Scandalous Women (Pickering and Chatto, 2011), makes available the life-stories of memorable 18th-century women, two outspoken courtesans and four cross-dressing soldiers. Her discussions of balladry appear in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton U Press, 2012). “Heroines Gritty and Tender, Printed and Oral, Late-Breaking and Traditional,” a chapter in Ballads and Broadsides in Britain, 1500–1800, eds. A. Guerrini and P. Fumerton (Ashgate, 2012) revisits the topic of her first book, Warrior Women and Popular Balladry, 1650–1850 (1996) and, together with her CD Dangerous Examples—Fighting & Sailing Women in Song ( continues her ongoing study of gender and sexuality in British and American folksongs, literature, and history.

Kate Van Winkle Keller authored all of the text of Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads: Verses in Vogue with the Vulgar (unless otherwise noted). Keller co-directed The National Tune Index, Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources, 1589-1839, and The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690 -1783. In 2007 her major work on early dance was published as Dance and Its Music in America, 1528-1789. A graduate of Vassar College, Keller was an officer and executive director of The Society for American Music from 1977 to 2000, given the Society’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1995 and Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. She was elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society in 2004.

Marcus A. McCorison (1926-2013) authored “Fanny Hill and Thomas’s Broadside Ballads.” Between 1960 and 1992, McCorison was the AAS’s librarian, director, and then president. Throughout his distinguished career, he also served as president of the Bibliographical Society of America, on the Board of Governors of the Research Libraries Group, as a founder of the Independent Research Libraries Association, trustee of the Vermont Historical Society, and councilor of The Grolier Club. McCorison authored numerous books, pamphlets, and scholarly articles.


Other Contributors:

Ken Albers designed the site in Omeka.

Elena Despotopulos was a research assistant.

Molly O’Hagan Hardy was the project manager.

Alicia Murphy was a research assistant.

Kate Simpson was the copy editor.

David and Ginger Hildebrand performed and recorded the music.


A Note from Kate Van Winkle Keller:

Arthur F. Schrader (1925-2004) worked with the Isaiah Thomas broadsides from 1956 to 1977 as a ballad singer and music associate at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts focusing on rural New England, 1790-1840. In 1978, Arthur obtained a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work on the project at the American Antiquarian Society. After that time, he continued to work on the project and to conduct his freelance performing business, “Singing History.” Over the years he collected much background material, made many notes, and published several articles about items in the collection, including an overview in the American Antiquarian Society’s Proceedings, “Broadside Ballads of Boston, The Isaiah Thomas Collection.” In 2002, Arthur asked me to help him finish the project. The Society offered me a month-long residency at the Goddard-Daniels House to give me the opportunity to visit with him on a daily basis to do an oral history on his work and to collect enough information from him to complete the work. That residency was highly successful and in a year I had a draft ready for his approval. Another month-long stay at Goddard-Daniels in 2003 allowed me to follow up on a number of questions and delve into areas that had not yet been researched. I met with Arthur a final time in November 2003.

Thus, while I am able to thank those who have helped me with the project, I cannot begin to adequately recount Art’s forty years of indebtedness to friends and colleagues in the way he would have wanted. Some are clear, however. His notes and correspondence indicate great appreciation for help from Bill Bonyun, colleague at Old Sturbridge Village; Irving Lowens, president of The Sonneck Society, now the Society for American Music; James Mooney and Mark McCorison of the American Antiquarian Society; and S. Foster Damon and Roger Stoddard of the Harris Collection at Brown University. Over the years Alan Buechner, Samuel Bayard, Kenneth Goldstein, Jennifer Post Quinn, Edward Ives, Anne and Frank Warner, Frank Proffitt, Evelyn Wells, Nym Cooke, Daniel Allen Hearn, Margaret MacArthur, Richard Hulan, Richer Castner, and Jerome Epstein have participated in the project in myriad ways.

He was particularly grateful for the essays by Ty Martin, a retired naval officer who commanded three ships and served in the Korean and Vietnamese wars. Since retirement, he has become a prize- and award-winning naval historian, generally recognized as an authority on the U. S. Navy in the Age of Fighting Sail and especially USS Constitution.

John Hench, Alan Degutis, Tom Knoles, Caroline Sloat, Georgia Barnhill, and the reading room staff at the American Antiquarian Society helped both of us in many ways. I also thank David and Ginger Hildebrand, Raoul F. Camus, Bruce Olson, and Susan Cifaldi for their assistance with aspects of the project.

Robert M. Keller has been an integral part of the project since our first collecting sessions with Arthur. He has helped with all aspects of the research, working beside me combing city tax records, collecting woodcut images, searching for maps, and hunting down elusive bits of information.

Finally, the project is dedicated to the late Penn-Elizabeth Burke Schrader, in recognition of her research assistance, editing skills, unflagging support, and general cheerleading.