Moloney and McNultys at Tamiment
Today’s post comes from Brendan Dolan, Project Archivist for the Archives of Irish America at the Tamiment Library. Brendan holds an MA in Irish Studies from NYU and has been working on the Mick Moloney Irish-American Music and Popular Culture Collection since January 2009.
If you have a chance, come visit the Tamiment reading room and take a look at two music-themed exhibits that I recently and very happily installed. The exhibits highlight two collections from the Archives of Irish America, which are part of Tamiment Library: the Mick Moloney Irish-American Music and Popular Culture Collection (AIA031) and the McNulty Family Collection (AIA051).
The McNultys were the top Irish-American music act in the U. S, from the 1930s through the 1950s. Trained on Vaudeville stages and billed as the “Royal Family of Irish Entertainment,” Annie “Ma” McNulty (1887-1970) and her singing and dancing children, Eileen and Pete sold out the Brooklyn Academy of Music annually with their Irish Show Boat stage review for two decades. With over 150 recordings on Decca and other labels, they single-handedly established the musical repertoire for the Irish-American community until Pete’s tragic death in 1960 at the age of 43.
The McNulty collection contains materials collected by the larger than life “Ma” herself, who seemingly amassed every printed reference to and advertisement for her performing family from the 1920s on. These clippings are supplemented by photographs, television and record contracts, correspondence and a host of handbills and show programs. There are also items of great musical interest, including sheaves of original arrangement manuscripts, handwritten lyric books, scripts for the family’s stage and radio shows and over thirty marquee posters. I selected and reproduced to scale five of these vintage posters for the exhibit in Tamiment; they illustrate the variety of venues in which the McNultys performed and I think give a feeling for the kind of cachet this group once had. I am eagerly looking forward to working with Eileen McNulty’s daughter, Pat Grogan, who will be coming to NYU in August to help process the rest of the collection.
Several parts of the Mick Moloney collection are now open for research and the exhibit in the Tamiment reading room displays a sampling of its colorful artifacts and provides a brief introduction to Moloney himself. Co. Limerick native, Dr. Moloney achieved early prominence with an influential Irish folk group, the Johnstons, before immigrating to Philadelphia in the early 1970s to pursue a doctorate in folklore from U. Penn. Moloney, who is now Global Distinguished Professor of Music and Irish Studies at NYU, has since become one of the leading experts on Irish music in America accruing a massive personal collection of Irish Americana which is now in the Archives of Irish America at Tamiment.
The Moloney collection contains around 1500 pieces of sheet music, some dating back to 1817, as well as dozens of 19th and 20th century songsters. Together with the nearly 800 postcards, tobacco cards, illustrations from Puck and Harper’s Weekly and assorted advertisements, the materials present a visually rich record of nearly two centuries of Irish-American experience.
If you’d like to see more, I recently created a Flickr version of the exhibit as well, which you can access through Tamiment’s website or the NYU Libraries Special Collections and Archives page.
I hope you enjoy. There is a lot more to the Moloney collection and I will post again about that in the future on the Back Table.