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Register of the Collection of




7 ft.

MSS 75


Monique Bourque

March 1990


Thomas Caulfield was born in 1903 in Ballinlough, County Roscommon, Ireland.  He began to play the violin as a young man; though he was also a stepdancer and singer, playing violin was his primary contribution to the Irish music scene in Philadelphia.

Caulfield came to the United States in 1924 and settled in Philadelphia with his aunt and uncle, and there became acquainted with a number of Irish-born musicians who were, or would become, prominent in Philadelphia's Irish community.  In 1934 Caulfield married a local schoolteacher, Helen Convey, whose parents were both born in County Offaly, Ireland.  They had three children: John, Michael Thomas (known as Thomas), and Marie Theresa.  Caulfield worked as a meat cutter for most of his adult life, employed at several grocery store chains including Acme.  Caulfield returned with members of his family to Ireland twice after he emigrated, once in 1948 and again in 1977.

Caulfield was active in the 1930s through the 1950s in both producing music and in the activities of Local No. 1 of the Irish Musicians Union, for which he served as Secretary and as Treasurer.  Caulfield directed and played in the Erin's Pride Orchestra, which cut several records and appeared frequently on Caulfield's broadcasts of "The Irish Hour" on local radio stations, playing traditional dance music and playing backup for local singers.

Caulfield was perhaps best known for his programs of Irish music, which aired at various times on stations WHAT, WTEL, and WCEM.  These broadcasts featured a number of local musicians active in the Irish Musicians' Union, several of whom such as Ed. Reavey, Sr., had earned international reputations for both composition and execution of traditional Irish music.  Caulfield's broadcasts were the first live broadcasts of traditional Irish music in the Philadelphia area.

Like other Philadelphia Irish musicians such as Ed Reavey, Sr., Caulfield collected traditional Irish tunes, and a number of those he that performed were his own arrangements.  Caulfield also participated in the regular Ceilis held by the Philadelphia Ceili Group, playing at several Ceili Group Festivals with Ed. Reavey, Sr., during the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Caulfield died in 1987.


The Robin O'Brien Hiteshew Collection is an assemblage of materials collected by Robin O'Brien Hiteshew for the Balch Institute, which document Irish music in Philadelphia.  These materials include the personal papers of area musicians and radio broadcaster such Thomas Caulfield, Seamus McGill, Owen B. Hunt, and William Regan, as well as radio broadcast scripts, sheet music, scrap books, and phonograph records.  The collection also contains a quantity of printed ephemera such as flyers, posters, and programs from events sponsored by area musical organizations such as the Irish Musician's Union and fraternal organizations such as the Donegal Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Galway Society.  Within the Hiteshew Collection, personal papers are grouped under individuals' names.  Much of the ephemera was donated with Hiteshew's papers.  It is hoped that the collection will eventually include taped interviews with some of the individuals who donate their papers to the institution.  Also included are artifacts such as ribbons and buttons, Irish American newspapers, and photographs of area musicians and musical events.

Hiteshew is an area contractor who has been active in the Irish musical community in Philadelphia for some years.  He has been a member of the Philadelphia Ceili Group since 1979, and served as president of the group, which promotes Irish music and culture, in 1986-1987.  He as participated in the arrangement of many Philadelphia Ceili group programs, and the bulk of his personal papers donated to the Institute relate to that group.  The tape archives for the Philadelphia Ceili Group have been donated to the Institute under his auspices (See MSS 74).

The collection is intended to augment the Balch Institute's Irish holdings, which already contain collections such as the papers of radio broadcaster Patrick Stanton (MSS 31) and Historian Dennis Clark (MSS 37), helping to establish a strong Irish presence in the Institute.  By documenting Irish musicians and radio broadcasters in particular, this collection will help illuminate the strong connections in musical traditions between Irish and Irish Americans, and the ties between both Ireland and America's pasts and their present.

Thomas Caulfield's papers are the only group currently processed; the collection receives frequent additions.

The Thomas Caulfield Papers (1911-1968) are personal papers and ephemera donated to the Balch by Mr. Caulfield's widow Helen through Robin Hiteshew.  They document Caulfield's activities as secretary of the Irish Musicians' Union (the years of his tenure are not clear), and his years in broadcasting Irish music for Philadelphia radio stations WHAT, WTEL, and WCEM.  The bulk of the collection is undated sheet music, much of which has no particular ethnic content.  Virtually all correspondence is located in series two and is therefore concerned with his radio shows.  The papers as a whole provide some insight into the Irish musical community in Philadelphia, in terms both of professional relationships and what musicians were playing and citizens were listening to.  The collections provides little insight into Caulfield's personal life.

SERIES I, Irish Musicians' Union Records, is of value to the documentation of a performers' union.  While the records available of any given type are spotty, collectively they furnish some information as to how the union's members saw their responsibilities to the union and to each other as professionals, and what they believed the purpose of the union to be.  The minutes are of the most value in this regard.

SERIES II, Radio Show Material, is the most informative as far as the Irish community as a whole is concerned.  While much of the advertising script material is repetitious, it is of interest in terms of which organizations and individuals advertised on the show and how they sought to reach their audience.  The scripts for the show provide a good picture of not only what was said and played on the broadcasts, but of where particular advertisements were placed.  The correspondence sheds light on the relationships between Caulfield and his listeners, and Caulfield and his advertisers.  These materials also provide some information on Irish American community events such as dances, concerts, and beauty contests.

SERIES III, Miscellaneous Publications, is most valuable in its inclusion of mailings from several Irish groups such as the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, which are interesting in terms of their presentation of the political turmoil in Ireland to Irish Americans, and several Avoca Company record listings of ethnic music.  Also of mild interest in terms of marketing efforts is the travel information, which all concerns Ireland.

SERIES IV, Songbooks, Manuals, and Sheet Music.  This is the largest series in the collection, and perhaps the least informative.  Much of the sheet music and several of the songbooks were published or printed in Ireland and consist of arrangements of traditional Irish popular songs and dance music.  Irish and Irish American singers are represented in some of this material, appearing on the covers of collections of their "favorite" songs or on sheet music for songs for which they were known.  American popular song is also well-represented, especially show-tunes of the 1940s and 1950s; there is also a quantity of music for pop-songs of the late 1960s-1970s, much of which may have been intended for the use of Caulfield's daughter.  Included is a small number of popular songs from the twenties as well.  This material could be more informative if it could be established which of this material Caulfield actually used and which belonged to his daughter.  The handwritten sheet music and music notebooks consist primarily of traditional Irish music, and are of particular interest in that at least some of them appear to be Caulfield's own arrangements of the songs.  Much of the handwritten sheet music may have been used by members of the Caulfield-directed Erin's Pride Orchestra, which often appeared on Caulfield's radio show, and may be useful in rounding out the information in Series II on the broadcasts in which the orchestra participated.  The series as a whole would be of most use to a researcher interested in the music rather than in Caulfield.

SERIES V, Sound Recordings.  The recordings complement the sheet music in that many of the traditional songs represented in the sheet music also appear on the audio disks.  While these records are not necessarily informative in and of themselves, they might usefully be combined with more academic materials in the study of the developing of Irish American music and the connections between Irish and Irish American musicians.


Some ephemera (programs, flyers) and several books have been removed from Caulfield's papers to the Library.  Photographs have been placed in the main photograph sequence as  Photo Group 272.  The Union seal has remained with the papers in the archives, as have the phonograph records.


The files are arranged in five series as follows: I. Irish Musicians' Union Records; II. Radio Show Materials; III. Miscellaneous Publications; IV. Songbooks, Manuals, and Sheet Music; V. Sound Recordings.  Arrangement within each series is by records type or subject as described below.

SERIES I: IRISH MUSICIANS' UNION RECORDS, 1932-1967, and n.d.  Arrangement: files are organized by record type and chronologically.

This series includes minutes from both the Irish Musicians' Union, Local No. 1, and two conventions of the Irish Musicians' Association.  With the exception of one ledger containing entries regarding a 1960 Irish Musicians' Association convention, all membership lists and financial records refer to the Irish Musicians Union, Local No. 1.  Also included are lists for performance fees and the Union's constitution and by-laws.

SERIES II: RADIO SHOW MATERIAL, 1948-1965, (5 inches).  Arrangement: in order as described below.

Contains correspondence from listeners and advertisers, scripts for the show and for advertisements and public service announcements, and a small number of copies of advertising contracts and receipts.  Advertisers represented include both large chain stores such as Lane Bryant and smaller individually-run businesses in television repair, contracting, and the like.

SERIES III: MISCELLANEOUS PUBLICATIONS, 1939-1960 (2 inches).  Arrangement: Alphabetical by title.

Contains several small music-related publications such as a pocket music dictionary and a manual on conducting orchestras, several catalogue listings from a company specializing in Irish music, public-relations information on Ireland and travel there, a community newsletter, scripts for two children's plays, and several mailings from Irish political groups.  Also included are two programs from recitals in which Caulfield's daughter Marie appeared, a 1953 Moore's Irish almanac, and an issue of Arpeggio, the journal of Local 77 of the Philadelphia Musical Society.

SERIES IV: SONGBOOKS, MANUALS, AND SHEET MUSIC, 1911-1968 (approx. 3 feet).

This series is arranged in four subseries as follows: A. Songbooks; B. Sheet Music: Irish; C. Sheet Music: Non-Irish; D. Sheet Music: Handwritten.  Within each subseries the material is arranged alphabetically by title.  This series contains material used by Caulfield in performances with other musicians, presumably both in union-organized group playing (including parades as well as concerts or functions) as well as with the Erin's Pride Orchestra.  The series also contains several piano instruction manuals and recital or practice pieces used by Caulfield's daughters Marie and Theresa.


Contains LPs, 78 and 45-rpm recordings of traditional Irish Songs and dances performed by both Irish and Irish Americans.  The 78-rpm recordings include several by the Erin's Pride Orchestra, which was directed by Caulfield.  The records include both dance music and recital material.  Included are several recordings of Scottish music, several of operatic recitals by famous Irish tenors such as John McCormack, and one of Irish humor.  The recordings are arranged alphabetically by musician or band.  Most are in fair condition; those which are not playable have been indicated as such.

The box list of the Register of the Records of the Robin O'Brien Hiteshew Collection, Tommy Caulfield Papers, is seventeen pages long.