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Alice Person: Good Medicine and Good Music

Professional musician, patent medicine entrepreneur, women's rights advocate—all are appropriate titles for colorful North Carolinian Alice Morgan Person (1840-1913). This digital collection, an extension of the previous Alice Person: Good Medicine and Good Music digital exhibit, celebrates Alice’s unique life by presenting digitized versions of her published folk tune arrangements in both audio and visual formats along with a broad range of other images collected by Alice’s biographer and ECU music librarian, David Hursh. Alice’s complete biography (including a discussion of the ingredients of her celebrated remedy) is available from McFarland.

Thirty-two items appearing in the Alice Person: Good Medicine and Good Music digital collection are part of the Alice Morgan Person Collection (Manuscript Collection #1116) held in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of the Special Collections Department of J. Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University. The finding aid for the Alice Morgan Person Collection provides a complete, detailed list of its contents as well as links to contact information and hours of operation for those wishing to study the collection in person.

The Collection Name

The name of this collection is appropriate for one hosted on the ECU web site because it was inspired by a phrase in the following announcement from the "Spring Blossoms" column in the March 21, 1898 Greenville Reflector:

Creating the Collection

In the fall of 2000, ECU alumnus and great-great-grandson of Alice Person, Harry Stubbs, came to me with two collections of Alice's published music wishing to donate them to the music library. As I examined the well-used, century-old sheets, Harry related snippets of the composer's colorful life. My curiosity was piqued, so in the days that followed Harry's visit I did some research. I was delighted to find Alice had been given some attention in the published literature, and also that a group of her papers was part of the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. I could not, however, find any indication of efforts to preserve the tangible results of Alice's musical activity—the pieces donated by Harry. I hoped to fill that gap by digitally preserving these pieces for the benefit of future generations.

My interest in Alice's music spurred Harry to arrange dinner with his cousin and Alice's great-granddaughter, Louise Scott Stephenson. At our dinner I learned that Louise, or "Scottie" as she preferred to be called, was the one who donated Alice's papers to the Southern Historical Collection. She verified my findings with regard to the lack of attention to Alice's published music, was pleased to learn of my desire to preserve her cousin's donation, and was certain there were more pieces that should be included in such a project. Sadly, Louise passed away on April 15, 2002 before she could complete the task of rounding up the stray pieces of music. When Harry Stubbs informed me of her death he apologized for the fact that our plans with regard to a digital collection had been for naught. I suggested that perhaps they were not. What better tribute to a great lady and champion of Alice Person's memory than to dedicate an Alice Morgan Person digital collection to Louise?

Just a few months after my dinner with Louise, I mentioned Harry Stubbs' donation to the Friends of Joyner Library board at one of their luncheon meetings. After the meeting, board member Franceine Perry Rees shared with me the fact that not only was she a native of Franklin County, the county in which Alice Person resided for a number of years, she was by marriage a distant relative of Alice's. Several weeks later, Franceine brought me a folder full of invaluable information about Alice, her home, and her family. This information was the starting point for the years of research that resulted in this collection.

David Hursh
Head Music Librarian and biographer of Alice Morgan Person