Sunday, June 30, 2013

Columbia's Educational Sets

A couple of weeks ago, when I discovered Sam Hopper's marvelous Columbia Masterworks 78rpm Album Discography, I was perusing his page devoted to Columbia's "E" series of sets - a little-known series that, as far as I can tell, was limited to eleven sets, all released in 1941-42 - when I remembered that I actually had one of them!  And while this set, devoted to readings of speeches and prose writings by American political figures, will probably only be of documentary interest to most people, it is at least appropriate to the upcoming Independence Day holiday, and contains a reverently subdued reading of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to recommend it.  (And I didn't remember until after doing the transfer that the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is this week!  Serendipity?)  Here are the details:

Masterpieces of Literature, Vol. 2 ("Our American Heritage")
1a. The Mayflower Compact
1b. The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges - excerpt
2. The Declaration of Independence
3. Washington's Farewell Address - selections
4. Jefferson's First Inaugural Address - excerpt
5. Daniel Webster: Sacred Obligations - excerpt
6. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
7. Edward Everett: The History of Liberty - excerpt
8. Lyman Abbott: Patriotism
9. Elihu Root: A Pan-American Policy - excerpt
10. Theodore Roosevelt: Our Responsibilities as a Nation - excerpt
11. Woodrow Wilson: Americans of Foreign Birth - excerpt
12. Mary Antin: The Promised Land - excerpt
Wesley Addy, reader
Recorded May 5-8, 1941
Columbia set E-6, six 10" 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 107.58 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 61.40 MB)

A teacher's manual is included with the set, which has been reproduced as a PDF file.

As I said, there were eleven of these Educational sets, of which two of the others were also under the "Masterpieces of Literature" rubric.  Both of these contained six records of poetry, one volume read by Norman Corwin, the other by Basil Rathbone.  "Our American Heritage" is further described as "Prose Album I" which suggests that further prose volumes were intended, but they never materialized.  The other eight sets were collectively entitled "Student Music Library Series" and contained four sets of Piano Literature, played by Sergius Kagen, two of Violin Literature, played by Alexander Cores, and two of Cello Literature, played by a young Bernard Greenhouse.  Each of these volumes contained three records.  I imagine they are quite rare.

Wesley Addy
I had never heard of Wesley Addy (1913-1996), the reader on these records, before acquiring this set, but he seems to have been a highly regarded character actor for dramatic roles in film and TV.  But at the time this recording was made, all that was years in the future and his reputation was based solely on stage work, particularly Shakespeare.  He appeared opposite Orson Welles and Maurice Evans, both of whom had made Shakespeare recordings for Columbia.


  1. Just watched "Tora Tora Tora" again. Addy played LtCdr Kramer, USN....

  2. I thought I recognized his voice! He was great in Kiss Me Deadly and Network!

    "Well, I don't fancy myself the president of a whorehouse..."