The West Virginia Folklore Society was founded in Morgantown, July 15, 1915, by John Harrington Cox and Robert Allen Armstrong of West Virginia University and Walter Barnes of Fairmont State Normal School (now Fairmont State University). The society, which was one of the earliest state folklore societies in America, remained active until 1917, mainly collecting traditional ballads and songs that were later published in Cox’s book, Folk-Songs of the South (1925). Cox was the society’s first president.
In 1950, Barnes, along with Patrick Gainer of WVU and Ruth Ann Musick of Fairmont State College, revived the society. As president in 1951, Barnes encouraged the establishment of West Virginia Folklore, the official publication of the society, which Musick edited until 1967. Gainer was president from 1959 to 1964 and directed the society’s participation in the 1963 West Virginia Centennial, including publication of a song book, The West Virginia Centennial Song Book of 100 Songs.
The society operated intermittently in later years, with Gainer spearheading revivals during spring meetings at West Virginia University in 1970 and at Fairmont State in 1974. West Virginia Folklore continued to be published annually at Fairmont State until 1980. After 13 years of dormancy, in 1993, West Virginia Folklore was reissued under a new format and title, Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness, and is published annually at Fairmont State University. In 1998, the Folklore Society evolved into the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University, which houses the archives of the society.
This Article was written by Judy Prozzillo Byers
Last Revised on November 12, 2010