Meredith Willson Papers

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

Identity elements

referentie code


Name and location of repository




Meredith Willson Papers


  • 1902 - 2006 (Vervaardig)


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.

Naam van de archiefvormer

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


Robert Meredith Willson (May 18, 1902 – June 15, 1984) was born in Mason City, Iowa, to John David and Rosalie Reiniger Willson. The entire Willson family was musical – both parents, Meredith, and his two siblings all played instruments and sang. Willson started on the piano and then took up the flute.

He was recruited to play flute and piccolo with the John Philip Sousa band in 1921, and continued playing with them until 1923. From 1924 through 1929, he played with the New York Philharmonic under Arturo Toscanini. He left the Philharmonic and travelled to the West Coast, where he worked as music director for a number of radio stations and radio shows. During World War II, he served as an officer in the Armed Forces Radio Service of the US Army.

Willson married three times: first to Elizabeth “Peggy” (née Wilson), to whom he was married from 1920 until their divorce in 1947; second to Ralina “Rini” (née Zarova), to whom he was married from 1948 until her death in 1966; third to Rosemary (née Sullivan), his former secretary, to whom he was married from 1968 until his death in 1984.

In his early professional career, Willson was best known as a musician and radio/television music director. He also composed original orchestral and band music, and wrote several books, including memoirs and a novel. His first big musical success was his smash hit, The Music Man, which premiered on Broadway in December of 1957. It has since had three Broadway revivals, in 1980, 2000, and 2022. He followed the success of The Music Man with three more musicals: The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Here’s Love, and 1491. He was a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), The Songwriters Guild of America, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, among others. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982.

Content and structure elements

Bereik en inhoud

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.


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

Voorwaarden voor raadpleging

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

Voorwaarden voor reproductie

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

  • Chinees
  • Engels
  • Duits
  • Japans
  • Pools
  • Spaans

Scripts of the material

Taal en schrift aantekeningen


Uploaded finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Geschiedenis beheer

Directe bron van verwerving

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

Bestaan en verblifplaats van originelen

Bestaan en verblijfplaats van kopieën

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;

Related descriptions

Publicatie aantekeningen

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

Notes element

Algemene aantekening

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.
  • Conservering: Obsolete audiovisual materials have been transferred to digital format.

Alternative identifier(s)

Description control element

Regels of conventies

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.

Aantekeningen van de archivaris

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.


Onderwerp trefwoord

Geografische trefwoorden

Naam ontsluitingsterm

Digitaal object metadata






1.6 MiB


30 november 2020 12:25

Digitaal object (Master) rights area

Digitaal object (Referentie) rights area

Digitaal object (Thumbnail) rights area

Voorwaarden voor raadpleging en gebruik

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

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