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Marian Anderson Collection

Identifier: MS 068

Scope and Contents

This collection contains concert and tour programs from Marian Anderson's performances, publicity photographs, and original phonographic recordings (including 78 RPMs), focusing on the years of 1935-1965. Also included are several books about Marion Anderson, including her autobiography.


  • 1937-1980


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Ruth A. Haas Library Archives and Special Collections. E-mail:

Biographical / Historical

Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was a contralto widely held to be one of the twentieth century’s greatest singers and a civil rights advocate. She was originally from Philadelphia and and was introduced to vocal performance through her church choir. After high school, Anderson applied to an all-white music school, the Philadelphia Music Academy, but was rejected because of her race. In 1925 Anderson won first prize in a competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic which provided her an opportunity to perform in concert with that orchestra. Anderson's performance was very well received and launched her professional career. New York became her home over the next several years. Because of the career limitations posed by racial bigotry in her own country, Anderson performed in Europe in 1930, achieving significant success which she was able to capitalize on when returning to the U.S. in the middle 1930s. She met her long-time manager, Sol Hurok, in 1935. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall; the uproar from civil rights groups and others resulted in Anderson's famous performance to 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial. The 1930s also saw the beginning of her long recording association with RCA/Victor Records. Her preferred accompanist for much of her career was pianist Franz Rupp. In 1943, Anderson married Orpheus Fischer in Connecticut and lived in the Mill Plain area of Danbury at 'Mariana Farm.' She was active in the community and frequently performed at Danbury High School and at civic events. In 1993, Anderson died in Portland, Oregon, with family at the age of 96.

Basic Chronology of Anderson's career:

1922 (Columbus Ohio) Marian Anderson sang at the meeting of the National Association of Negro Musicians, where she received the Association's scholarship for the year.

10 December 1923 (Camden, NJ) Anderson made her first record for Victor Talking Records

23 April 1924 (New York City Town Hall) Anderson gave a recital that was poorly attended and for which she received some negative reviews. Anderson realized that she hadn’t been properly prepared and considered giving up music for a time

1925 Anderson entered a voice competition, against more than 300 other singers, where she won the first prize - which included a performance with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Lewisohn Stadium on 26 August 1925.

October 1927 Anderson made her first trip to England to study German lieder with Maestro Raymond Muehlen in Sussex.

September 1928 Anderson returned to the United States for scheduled performances

1928 Anderson recorded for Gramophone, Inc. (later EMI Records) in England, (it appears that she did not sign a formal contract with RCA Victor in the United States until sometime in the 1930s; the earliest account and royalty statements in the Marian Anderson Papers date from 1936).

1930 Anderson went to Germany to for more training

1931 Anderson was invited to Sweden and Norway for a concert tour, which, though short, proved to be successful.

6 November 1933 Anderson sang for composer Jean Sibelius.

December 1933 Anderson was told abruptly that she would not be allowed to continue her scheduled concerts in Denmark, with the reason that "foreign artists" were taking too much currency out of the country, however the underlying reason was racism propagated by the Nazi party.

1934 Anderson made her Paris debut. At one of her concerts in Paris that summer she was heard by concert manager Sol Hurok of New York.

15 July 1934 Anderson signs with Hurok.

1934-1935 Anderson toured Europe with great success. She visited eastern European capitals and Russia and returned again to Scandinavia, where "Marian fever" had spread.

December 1935 Anderson returned to the United States

19 February 1936, after concerts at Town Hall in New York and at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Anderson performed for the first time at the White House.

1936 Anderson returned again to Europe for the winter season.

1937 and 1938 Anderson toured South America

January 1939 Sol Hurok attempted to book Anderson in concert at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

9 April 1939 Anderson gives an open-air concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter, arranged through Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. More than 75, 000 people heard her sing in person there, and millions more heard her voice in a radio broadcast of the event.

June 1939 Anderson was again a guest at the Roosevelt White House, this time at a formal concert for the King and Queen of England.

2 July 1939, Eleanor Roosevelt presented Marian Anderson with the Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

October 1940 Anderson began performing with pianist Franz Rupp, who remained with her for the duration of her career.

1940 Anderson buys a farm in Danbury, Connecticut.

1941 Anderson received the Philadelphia Award in 1941, which included a $10, 000 prize, money that Anderson used to establish the Marian Anderson Scholarship Fund to assist the vocal training of young singers.

1941-1945 During WWII Anderson performed for servicemen and women and cooperated with the U.S. Office of War Information.

24 July 1943 Anderson married architect Orpheus Hodge Fisher, in a private ceremony performed by Methodist minister Jack Grenfell.

1943 The first award from Anderson’s fund was given, and continued annually through 1972, when the fund was discontinued. Anderson had no role in judging the awards.

June 1948 Anderson underwent surgery to remove a benign cyst from her esophagus.

1949 Anderson returned to Europe for a concert tour

January 1955 Anderson was invited by Rudolf Bing of the Metropolitan Opera to perform the role of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. Anderson was the first African-American to sing a role in a Met production

1955 Anderson toured Israel for the first time

January 1957 Anderson sang at the inauguration of President Dwight W. Eisenhower

1957 Anderson was sent on a tour of the Far East as a goodwill ambassador by the United States Department of State. On this tour she visited Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Pakistan.

30 December 1957 A documentary of Anderson’s goodwill trip was aired on CBS's "See it Now" television series.

July 1958 Eisenhower appointed Anderson an alternate delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations where she served for one session.

April 1959 Anderson was appointed by Eisenhower to consult on original plans for the National Cultural Center, later renamed the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

20 January 1961 Anderson sang for the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

6 December 1963 Anderson was awarded a Presidential Medals of Freedom by President Johnson, though she had been nominated for the award by President Kennedy.

21 to 28 May 1961 Anderson visited the Soviet Union as a member of the Second Informal United States-Soviet Conference held in Crimea. October 1964 through April 1965 was Anderson's farewell tour. It began in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., and ended on the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York.

28 June 1965 Anderson performanced in Philadelphia at the Robin Hood Dell with her nephew James De Preist conducting the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra.

1966 Anderson was appointed a member of the National Council on the Arts by President Johnson

2 May 1972 Anderson spoke at the dedication ceremonies of the Eleanor Roosevelt Wings of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York.

1976 Anderson received many requests to perform at celebrations for the Bicentennial of the Declaration, and most notably appeared at Philadelphia’s fourth of July ceremonies.

17 October 1978 Anderson was presented with a Congressional Medal by President Jimmy Carter.

This bio is based on the biographical historical note incluced with the Marian Anderson papers; Ms. Coll. 200 at the University of Pennsylvania; as well as, the New York Times and Anderson's autobiography.


1 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


This is a small collection of Marian Anderson memorabilia. Anderson was a world-renowned contralto in the 20th century and a long-time resident of Danbury, CT.


This Collection is arranged chronologically by material type


  1. Programs
  2. Photographs
  3. Phonographic Recordings

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials purchased in late 2017.

Marian Anderson Collection
Brian Stevens
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Western Connecticut State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Haas Library
181 White St
Danbury 06810 USA US
203.837.8322 (Fax)