Meredith Willson Papers

Meredith Willson leads the North Iowa Band Festival parade, June 19,1962.

Identity elements

Reference code


Name and location of repository

Level of description



Meredith Willson Papers


  • 1902 - 2006 (Creation)


112 lft; 59 Paige boxes, 1 banker's box, 2 gray half-document boxes, 1 drop-front print box, 1 gray card file box, 44 scrapbooks, 3 gray audiocassette boxes, 8 16' transcription disc boxes, 1 white 45rpm box, 5 metal slide boxes, 1 slide projector, 1 slide carousel, 2 8TB hard drives, 1 4TB hard drive, 3 2TB hard drives, 1 1TB hard drive.

Name of creator

(1902-05-18 - 1984-06-15)

Biographical history

Meredith Willson (1902-1984) was born Robert Meredith Willson in Mason City, Iowa. Willson’s first career was as a flautist with the John Philip Sousa Band and the New York Philharmonic. He later pursued a career as conductor and music director in both radio and television. Following a stint in the Army during World War II, he saw success with the production of “The Music Man,” for which he wrote the music, lyrics, and the book. He also wrote the musicals “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “Here’s Love,” and “1491.” He was married three times, to Elizabeth Wilson (divorce), Ralina “Rini” Zarova (her death), and Rosemary Sullivan (his death).

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The personal and business papers of Meredith Willson, author and composer of "The Music Man" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," along with photographs, sheet music and arrangements, sound recordings, and audiovisual recordings from his personal collection.

System of arrangement

The Meredith Willson Papers are divided into five series: Personal, Business: Musicals, Business: Other, Meredith’s Music Collection, and Audiovisual Materials. Within each series, items are broken down into alphabetized categories.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Access to and use of some of the materials in this collection is restricted because of the nature of the material. Access is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please consult the staff of the Library & Archives.

Physical access

Some of the materials in this collection are fragile due to age and/or poor physical condition and may be inaccessible. Consult the Library and Archives staff in advance of your visit to ensure access to these materials is available.

Technical access

Obsolete audiovisual materials in this collection have been digitally preserved. Access copies are available through Indiana University's streaming platform Media Collections Online. Consult the Library and Archives staff at for access to these materials.

Conditions governing reproduction

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to the Great American Songbook Foundation. Music written prior to 1923 is in the public domain. For more information, please consult the staff of the Library & Archives.

Languages of the material

  • Chinese
  • English
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Polish
  • Spanish

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Received from The Music Man Foundation, formerly the Meredith and Rosemary Willson Charitable Foundation, on September 5, 2012.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Meredith Willson Music Collection, The Juilliard School;
Kermit Bloomgarden Papers, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
W. Earl Hall Papers, University of Iowa Special Collections;

Audio items can be found digitally at Indiana University Media Collections Online.

Related descriptions

Publication notes

McHugh, Dominic. 2021. "The Big Parade: Meredith Willson's Musicals from The Music Man to 1491." New York: Oxford University Press.

Notes element

General note

Separated materials: Published materials were removed from the collection and cataloged. They can be found in Worldcat and Libraryworld.

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Meredith Willson Papers, The Great American Songbook Foundation.
  • Conservation: Obsolete audiovisual materials have been transferred to digital format.

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Rules or conventions

Sources used

Cross, Lucy E. “Meredith Willson.” The Official Masterworks Broadway Site, Sony Music Entertainment,

Who's Who in America: 39th Edition, 1976-1977. Marquis Who's Who, 1977.

Willson, Meredith. But He Doesn’t Know the Territory. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1959.

Archivist's note

Initial finding aid created by Jessica Frederick and Janice Roger in March 2014. Processing and finding aid completed by Elisabeth Hedges in March 2023.
AtoM description created by Ashlee James, December 2017. Edited by Elisabeth Hedges, March 2023.

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Digital object metadata

Digital object (Master) rights area

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