[Real photo postcards of Composer Thurlow Lieurance performing music with Native Americans.]
[Real photo postcards of Composer Thurlow Lieurance performing music with Native Americans.]

[Real photo postcards of Composer Thurlow Lieurance performing music with Native Americans.]

[U.S., ca. 1925.]. 2 real photo postcards, 3.25” x 5.25”. Unposted.

Two real photo postcards picturing composer and researcher Thurlow W. Lieurance performing with Native American musicians.

Born in Iowa, Thurlow W. Lieurance (1878–1963) was a composer who did much to help advance and promote knowledge about Native American music. Lieurance is shown in both of these images in nature settings among Native Americans who are playing various flutes and woodwind instruments; in both images Lieurance is seated, and in one image he is holding sheet-music. In the image featuring a larger group, some of the Native Americans pictured may be singing. In one of the images a baby boy is being held by an older Native American; both images feature a Native American in headdress. These images appear to have been taken in the 1920s or the ‘30s, when similar photos of Lieurance were taken.

After serving as a bandsman in the Spanish–American War, Lieurance enrolled in the Cincinnati College of Music. Around 1905 he joined the Chautauqua Society, working in traveling tent schools teaching music to Native Americans. While working this job he started transcribing Indian songs and also began to teach himself the craft of making traditional Indian flutes. Also around this time Lieurance became disabled from polio, but nevertheless managed to stay quite mobile despite being unable to use his legs. In 1909 Lieurance bought a portable recording device which he often brought to record Indian performers. In Oct. 1911, while on a trip to Montana to visit his brother (who worked as an Indian Service physician), he recorded a Crow singer, Sitting Eagle, then living on the Crow Reservation in Montana. Lieurance later wrote: “That night marked an epoch in my life, opened to me a new world. What work I have since done has been due chiefly to that song.” From this recording, Lieurance adapted the melody for his song "By the Waters of the Minnetonka"—his best known work—published in 1913 as "an Indian love song." In 1917 he married Edna Woolley, who took part in his recital tours, wearing an Indian costume and performing in his recitals. From the success of these performances Lieurance was able to complete his degree at the Cincinnati College of Music in 1924. The couple retired from the concert scene in 1926 and Lieurance turned to teaching, working primarily at the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University). Lieurance eventually became the school's Dean of Fine Arts, serving from 1926 to 1945. In the 1930s he and his wife traveled to Europe, and upon their return Lieurance was given a grant by the federal government to support his research on Native American music. Upon retiring in 1945, Lieurance and his wife moved to Kansas and then finally Colorado. Lieurance wrote over 300 works, consisting of songs, works for choir, and an opera. Much of Lieurance's research collection is held at the Smithsonian, including over 1,500 records of Native American music.

REFERENCES: Kansas Historical Society. Thurlow Lieurance at kshs.org; Tanner, Beccy. American Indians Inspired Kansas Composer at kansas.com; Wolff, Michele. Who Was Thurlow Lieurance? at libraries.wichita.edu.

CONDITION: Good, slight wear at edges, slight paper loss to versos from mounting in album.

Item #6784