Jeff Roth’s Archival Pick: Pete Seeger

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This is another in a mini-series of archival selections from Jeff Roth, a remarkable archivist and storehouse of little known knowledge, who has not only helped with some of my projects but runs the New York Times morgue, where folders filled with clips and photographs are buried. I’ve asked him to chose five of his favorite images and tell us why. Today he reflects on the file of the great American folk singer and social activist “Pete Seeger.”

Pete Seeger“Some of my earliest memories are of singing along with the Weavers LP’s. How could any sprite not love Pete Seeger? He spent his whole life in pursuit of Peace through participatory singing. The Seeger clan was steeped in words and song. Papa Charles, America’s pioneering musicologist, Mother Constance, concert violinist, Uncle Alan, the tragic poet of war (“I Have a Rendezvous With Death”) and of course, half-sister and brother, Peggy and Mike, the great folksingers.”

“I look up “Charles Seeger’s” name in our card catalog, pull the file and in plain sight since 1921 are two shots of that two-year old mudlark in short pants, Pete Seeger. He’s holding his Mama’s hand and then sitting on his Father’s lap.”

“I ring Pete and he tells me they were heading South of Brooklyn to find songs, got as far as D.C.,then the car died. He only has the paper clipping. We print him some 8 x 10 glossies and when he dies, almost ninety-three years after the photos last ran, the one on his Pop’s lap makes it into the obituary.”

Pete Seeger Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger

PETE SEEGER on his father’s lap. Age 2. Published in NYTimes 05/29/1921. Published Caption: Playing their way across the continent: Professor Charles Louis Seeger with his wife Constance de Clyver Edson Seeger, and children, giving an open air concert at their camp at Washington in their tour like the minstrels of the olden time.
Photo Description: The children are Charles, John and Peter on his father’s lap. Morgue Folder 5150 (originally National Photo). Photo Credit: (Times Wide World). NYTCREDIT: The New York Times

Pete Seeger

PETE SEEGER holding his mother’s hand.. Published in NYTimes 06/30/1921 (Mid-Week Pictorial). Published Caption: WASHINGTON, D.C. Constance and Charles Seeger, with their three small boys, playing their way across the continent. Mr. Seeger, a composer, is a brother of Alan Seeger, the young American poet who perished in the war. His wife is a distinguished violinist. (Morgue Folder 5150 (originally Harris & Ewing). Photo Credit: (Times Wide World)

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