Baylor University, the Texas Collection

Jules Bledsoe papers, Inclusive: 1918-1943, Bulk: 1940-1943



Papers Summary

Creator Bledsoe, Jules
Title Jules Bledsoe papers
Dates: Inclusive: 1918-1943, Bulk: 1940-1943
Abstract The Jules Bledsoe papers consists of manuscripts collected by Jules (Julius) Bledsoe during the course of his musical career. These papers contain correspondence, diaries, financial papers, photographs, music, publicity materials, and other printed materials from his life and work.
Quantity: 8 document boxes and 12 oversize boxes.
Language of the Material English and French
Repository Baylor University, The Texas Collection

Biography/Profile

Julus Bledsoe was born as Julius Lorenzo Cobb Bledsoe on December 29, 1898, in Waco, Texas. At five years old, he gave his first public vocal performance. Bledsoe originally wanted to pursue a medical career, but instead began studying music under Luigi Parisotti. After years of musical study, including degrees from Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, Columbia University in New York City, and time in Paris, France, Bledsoe made his concert debut in New York City at twenty-three years old.

Bledsoe adopted the stage name “Jules Bledsoe” early in his career, and was commonly called by that name for the rest of his life. His long literary career included composing and performing music, acting in plays and operas, and writing poems. Bledsoe’s work took him around the world, with performances in France, United Kingdom, Norway, Italy, and back to New York City in vaudeville, radio, and television.

Bledsoe played in many productions, including “Showboat,” “Aida,” “Emperor Jones,” “Deep River,” “Abraham’s Bosom,” and others. His signature song was considered to be “Old Man River,” which he sang in most concerts he gave. Bledsoe also wrote and performed his own songs and operas, which included folk songs, spirituals, patriotic songs, and operas.

Jules Bledsoe’s contributions to his art went beyond his musical skill. He was the first African-American to perform with a United States opera company in America, in addition to performing in operas around the world. Bledsoe was also known as a multilingual singer, proficient in English, Italian, French, German, and Yiddish by 1936.

Jules Bledsoe also owned a resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains open only to African Americans. Called “Jessie’s Manna Farms,” it is unknown how much profit he made from this side business.

During World War II, Jules Bledsoe assisted in the war effort by giving a war bonds tour around the United States. During one stop in Waco, Texas, his performance was so well received by the 2,500 people in attendance that he gave multiple encores for more than an hour after his show ended.

Jules Bledsoe died on July 14, 1943, in Hollywood, California from a cerebral hemorrhage. Noted Baylor University scholar and head of the English Department, Dr. J.A. Armstrong, spoke at his funeral. Jules Bledsoe is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Waco, Texas.


Scope and Content

The Bledsoe Papers were acquired by gift in three separate transactions from private donors beginning in 1973, 1988, and concluding in 1992. The papers begin in 1918 and conclude in 1943 with Bledsoe’s death. These records include business and personal correspondence, diaries, financial papers, photographs, and an extensive collection of music. Many original musical, oratorical, and poetic compositions by Bledsoe are also present. Also included are such materials as press releases, programs, repertoire sheets, travel documents, and other mementos which Bledsoe collected throughout his career both in the United States and in Europe.


Arrangement

The Bledsoe Papers are arranged in 8 series: I. Correspondence, II. Financial Documents, III. Literary Productions, IV. Legal Documents, V. Photographic Material, VI. Music Manuscripts, VII. Oversize Materials, VIII. Media Recordings. A detailed listing of Bledsoe’s original music present in the collection is provided in Appendix A.
Prior processing had used the phrase “(last name) first name” to describe folders sorted by person, such as Bledsoe (Jules). This style of designation was retained.

Restrictions

Access Restrictions

All requests for copying of materials must be submitted to The Texas Collection in writing. Please use the Request Form for Copying Materials sheet. Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator (s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Physical Description

General condition: Unknown.


Index Terms

African American entertainers -- Europe.
African Americans -- Music.
Singers -- Texas -- Waco.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilian relief.
Bledsoe, Jules, 1898-1943.

Related Resources

Items in related collections

Irene Cobb Papers, Inclusive: 1886-1991, Bulk: 1960-1989
Smith-Cobb Family Collection, Inclusive: 1861-1968, Bulk: 1948-1965
[Waco] New Hope Baptist Church Records, Inclusive: 1875-1988, Bulk: 1922-1985

Related references

"Jules Bledsoe Heads 'Emperor Jones' Tour." Dallas Morning News, 2 September 1934.
"Negro Artist to Sing for British War Aid." Dallas Morning News, 1 April 1941.
"Negro Who Started Old Man River Buried on Brazos." Dallas Morning News, 22 July 1943.
Plunkett, Virginia. "Jules Bledsoe Remembered at Ceremony." Waco Tribune-Herald, 4 March 1984.
"'Showboat' to be Heard on Air Thursday." The Afro-American, 8 October 1932.
Tolbert. "'Musical Grave' Stirs Controversy." Dallas Morning News, 20 June 1968.
Tolbert. "'Musical Marker' for Jules Bledsoe." Dallas Morning News, 4 January 1968.
Tolbert. "Musical Notes Wrong at Grave?" Dallas Morning News, 29 May 1968.
Tolbert. "Great Singer's Grave Lost Among the Weeds." Dallas Morning News, 6 August 1972.
Cobb, Naomi. [Jules Bledsoe Biography]. Smith-Cobb Family Collection, The Texas Collection, box 23, folder 10.
Geary, Lynnette Geary." Bledsoe, Julius Lorenzo Cobb." Handbook of Texas Online. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbl22. Accessed November 8, 2013.
Geary, Lynnette. “Jules Bledsoe: The Original ‘Ol’ Man River.’” The Black Perspective in Music 17 (1989): 27-54.
Geary, Lynnette. “Jules Bledsoe’s Voice Still Rings.” Waco History Project.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Jules Bledsoe papers, Accession #2086, Box #, Folder #, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Acquisition Information

Accession No. 2086. Acquired 1973-05-00

Processing Information

Described by Paul T. Fisher. Released on 2013-06-17.

Archivist's Notes: Different parts of the collection were in various stages of organization at the time of processing. The music manuscripts were the most organized, but almost everything else had no discernable housing organization before this finding aid was written.

More extensive inventories of the music available in this collection is available.

The Media Recordings have no box number because they were already filed in the general cassette collection. This storage area was retained for this finding aid.


Detailed Description of the Collection

Correspondence 1918-1944, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains correspondence to and from Jules Bledsoe about his public performances, his personal life, the resort farm he ran in New York (Jessie's Manna Farms), and other facets of his life and career. Many of the letters are to or from Adrian Frederick Huygens, Bledsoe's longtime agent, who went by Freddy.
box folder
1 1 Correspondence 1918-1930
2 Correspondence 1931-1933
3 Correspondence 1934
4 Correspondence 1935 March
5 Correspondence 1935-1936
6 Correspondence 1937-1938
7 Correspondence 1939 January-May
8 Correspondence 1939 June-December
9 Correspondence 1940 January
10 Correspondence 1940 February-March
11 Correspondence: April-October 1940 1940
12 Correspondence 1940 November-December
13 Correspondence 1941January 4-9
14 Correspondence 1941 January 10-17
15 Correspondence 1941 January 18-23
16 Correspondence 1941 January 24-31
17 Correspondence 1941 February 1-11
18 Correspondence 1941 February 12-28
19 Correspondence 1941 March
20 Correspondence 1941 April 1-23
21 Correspondence 1941 April 24-30
22 Correspondence 1941 May-June 14
23 Correspondence 1941 June 16-30
box folder
2 1 Correspondence 1941 July-August 4
2 Correspondence 1941 August 6-30
3 Correspondence 1941 September-October 7
4 Correspondence 1941 October 9-31
5 Correspondence 1941 November-December 5
6 Correspondence 1941 December 6-30
7 Correspondence 1942 January
8 Correspondence 1942 February
9 Correspondence 1942 March
10 Correspondence 1942 April
11 Correspondence 1942 May
12 Correspondence 1942 June 1-25
13 Correspondence 1942 June 26-30
14 Correspondence 1942 July 2-August 7
15 Correspondence 1942 August 26-September 29
16 Correspondence 1942 October 3-November 18
17 Correspondence 1942 November 20-December
18 Correspondence 1943 January-February
19 Correspondence 1943 March-1944
20 Postcards undated
box folder
3 1 Correspondence (1 of 3) undated
2 Correspondence (2 of 3) undated
3 Correspondence (3 of 3) undated
4 Correspondence: Scrapbook 1943-1944



Financial Documents 1918-1942, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains financial items from Jules Bledsoe. Many of them have to do with running Jessie's Manna Farm.
box folder
3 5 Bank Statements, Checks 1930-1942
6 Bills, Receipts, Statements: Jessie’s Manna Farms (1 of 3) 1940-1942
7 Bills, Receipts, Statements: Jessie’s Manna Farms (2 of 3) 1928-1932
8 Bills, Receipts, Statements: Jessie’s Manna Farms (3 of 3) 1940
9 Tax documents 1932-1941, undated
10 Bills, Receipts, Notes (1 of 2) 1918-1941, undated
11 Bills, Receipts, Notes (2 of 2) 1941-1942, undated



Literary Productions 1915-1976, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains literary items written by or about Jules Bledsoe. Notable items include a handwritten biographical manuscript about Bledsoe written by his aunt, Naomi Cobb. There are also many programs from Bledsoe's performances, pamphlets on Jessie's Manna Farm, and other literary items.
box folder
3 12 Journals 1940, undated
box folder
4 1 Programs 1916-1939
2 Programs 1940
3 Programs 1941
4 Programs 1943-1959
5 Programs undated
6 Clippings (1 of 3) 1936
7 Clippings (2 of 3) undated
8 Clippings (3 of 3) 1936-1976, undated
9 Clippings: non-personal 1936-1943
10 Speeches 1943
11 Essays undated
12 Orations, Poems, Plays (1 of 5) 1941, undated
13 Orations, Poems, Plays (2 of 5) undated
14 Orations, Poems, Plays (3 of 5) 1916, undated
15 Orations, Poems, Plays (4 of 5) undated
16 Orations, Poems, Plays (5 of 5) undated
17 Plays: “John Henry” undated
18 Plays: “Showboat” undated
19 Biographies: Cobb (Naomi) (1 of 2) undated
20 Biographies: Cobb (Naomi) (2 of 2) undated
21 Autobiographies undated
22 Musical Repertoire undated
23 Essays: Labor Bulletin of Aberdeen undated
box folder
5 1 Manuscripts: Music Venues undated
2 Awards 1915
3 Books: Handbook of Freemasonry 1928
4 Reports: Queen Wilhelmina Fund 1943
5 Broadsides and Flyers 1943, undated
6 Notes: Handwritten undated
7 Notes: Handwritten undated
8 Notes: Handwritten undated
9 Notes: Handwritten undated
10 Brochures, Flyers: Jessie’s Manna Farms 1939-1940
11 Manuscripts: Identification 1935-1942
12 Manuscripts: Obituary Book 1943
13 Sketches undated



Legal Documents 1934-1942

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains various legal documents having to do with Jules Bledsoe's life and music career.
box folder
5 14 Inventories undated
15 Insurance Policies (1 of 2) 1941-1942
16 Insurance Policies (2 of 2) 1940-1941
17 Contracts (1 of 2) 1934-1941
18 Contracts (2 of 2) 1939



Photographic Materials 1935-1938, 1941-1943, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains photographs of Bledsoe, primarily during his time traveling the world as an international opera star. There are also extensive publicity pictures of him in the various roles he played on stage.
box folder
6 1 General (1 of 7) undated
2 General (2 of 7) undated
3 General (3 of 7) undated
4 General (4 of 7) undated
5 General (5 of 7) undated
6 General (6 of 7) undated
7 General (7 of 7) 1941, undated
8 Publicity undated
9 “Aida” undated
10 “Emperor Jones” undated
11 “Faust” undated
12 “Old Man River” undated
13 “Pagliacci” undated
14 Jessie’s Manna Farms (1 of 5) 1935, 1938, undated
15 Jessie’s Manna Farms (2 of 5) undated
16 Jessie’s Manna Farms (3 of 5) undated
17 Jessie’s Manna Farms (4 of 5) undated
18 Jessie’s Manna Farms (5 of 5) undated
19 Funeral 1943



Music Manuscripts 1892-1942, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains Bledsoe's library of sheet music, much of which he used to sing in performances across the world. Many of the documents contain his handwritten notes.
box folder
9 OVZ 1 Religious (1 of 2) undated
2 Religious (2 of 2) undated
3 Spirituals (1 of 5) 1917-1941, undated
4 Spirituals (2 of 5) 1917-1941, undated
5 Spirituals (3 of 5) 1917-1941, undated
6 Spirituals (4 of 5) 1917-1941, undated
7 Spirituals (5 of 5) 1917-1941, undated
8 Spirituals Books 1 1905
9 Spirituals Books 2 undated
box folder
10 OVZ 1 General (1 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
2 General (2 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
3 General (3 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
4 General (4 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
5 General (5 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
6 General (6 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
7 General (7 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
8 General (8 of 8) 1899-1939, undated
9 “Little Black Boy” undated
10 “I’m Troubled in Mind” undated
box folder
11 OVZ 1 “Pickin’ Cotton” undated
2 Song of the Mojave” undated
3 “If You Please” undated
4 “Figaros Hochzeit” undated
5 “Chloe” undated
6 De Glory Road” (1 of 2) undated
7 De Glory Road” (2 of 2) undated
8 General Books (1 of 3) 1919-1934
9 General Books (2 of 3) 1919-1934
10 General Books (3 of 3) 1919-1934
box folder
12 OVZ 1 Opera Sheet Music (1 of 3) 1901-1924, undated
2 Opera Sheet Music (2 of 3) 1901-1924, undated
3 Opera Sheet Music (3 of 3) 1901-1924, undated
4 “L’Africaine” (1 of 2) undated
5 “L’Africaine” (2 of 2) undated
6 “L’Africaine” (2 of 2) undated
7 Emporer Jones undated
8 Music: Opera Books 1 1897-1928, undated
box folder
6 20 Music: Opera Books 2 1921
21 Music: Opera Books 3 undated
box folder
7 1 Music: Opera Books 4 undated
2 Music: Opera Books 5 1904
3 Music: Opera Books 6 1901
4 Music: Opera Books 7 undated
5 Music: Opera Books 8 undated
6 Music: Opera Books 9 1928
box folder
8 1 Music: Opera Books 10 undated
2 Music: Opera Books 11 1906
3 Music: Opera Books 12 undated
4 Music: Opera Books 13 1897
5 Music: Opera Books 14 undated
box folder
13 OVZ 1 Classical Sheet Music (1 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
2 Classical Sheet Music (2 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
3 Classical Sheet Music (3 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
4 Classical Sheet Music (4 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
5 Classical Sheet Music (5 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
6 Classical Sheet Music (6 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
7 Classical Sheet Music (7 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
8 Classical Sheet Music (8 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
box folder
14 OVZ 1 Classical Sheet Music (9 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
2 Classical Sheet Music (10 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
3 Classical Sheet Music (11 of 11) 1898-1933, undated
4 Classical Books (1 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
5 Classical Books (2 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
6 Classical Books (3 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
box folder
15 OVZ 1 Classical Books (4 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
2 Classical Books (5 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
3 Classical Books (6 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
4 Classical Books (7 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
5 Classical Books (8 of 8) 1884-1914, undated
6 Patriotic (1 of 2) 1940-1942, undated
7 Patriotic (2 of 2) 1940-1942, undated
box folder
18 OVZ 1 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (1 of 8) 1939, undated
2 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (2 of 8) 1939, undated
3 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (3 of 8) 1939, undated
4 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (4 of 8) 1939, undated
5 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (5 of 8) 1939, undated
6 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (6 of 8) 1939, undated
7 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (7 of 8) 1939, undated
8 Composed or Arranged by Jules Bledsoe (8 of 8) 1939, undated
9 "Bondage" (1 of 2) undated
10 "Bondage" (2 of 2) undated
11 “My Old Kentucky Home” undated
box folder
19 OVZ 1 Bledsoe Works: "The Good Old British Blue" undated
2 Bledsoe Works: “Money in Kamben” undated
3 Bledsoe Works: “Fear I Aught” undated
4 Bledsoe Works: “Franky and Johnny” undated
5 Bledsoe Works: “Ode to America” undated
6 Bledsoe Works: “Hush Thee Baby” undated
7 Bledsoe Works: “Zulu Dance Song” undated
8 Bledsoe Works: “Legionnaire” 1942, undated
9 Bledsoe Works: “Maybe He’s Your Boy in Khaki” 1942, undated
10 Bledsoe Works: “Ole Man River” undated



Oversize Materials 1917, 1934-1943, 1978, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains several oversize items, including several scrapbooks detailing Bledsoe's career. There is also a scrapbook about Bledsoe's funeral at Waco's New Hope Baptist Church.
box folder
16 OVZ 1 Scrapbook (1 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
2 Scrapbook (2 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
3 Scrapbook (3 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
4 Scrapbook (4 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
5 Scrapbook (5 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
6 Scrapbook (6 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
7 Scrapbook (7 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
8 Scrapbook (8 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
9 Scrapbook (9 of 9) 1934-1943, undated
box folder
17 OVZ 1 Funeral Scrapbook 1943
2 Guest Book undated
3 Scrapbook 1927-1943
4 Posters 1927
5 Photographs 1926, undated
6 Diploma 1917
box folder
20 OVZ 16 Plaque 1978



Media Recordings undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Unknown.
Biography/Profile
This series contains several tapes of Bledsoe singing several spiritual. Also included is a recording of Bledsoe singing his most well-known piece, "Ol' Man River."
item
1 Media: Audio Recording Tape: Spirituals 1 undated
item
2 Media: Audio Recording Tape: Spirituals 2 undated
item
3 Media: Audio Recording Tape: Spirituals 3 undated