Frank C. Di Prima papers

Collection 3450

1938-1962, undated
(0.6 Linear feet 2 boxes)

Summary Information

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Di Prima, Frank C.
Frank C. Di Prima papers
1938-1962, undated
0.6 Linear feet 2 boxes
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Randall M. Miller.
Mixed materials [Box]
Frank Di Prima was born in Sicily in 1897 and came to the United States when he was seven years old. He became a musician, playing the guitar, banjo, violin, and mandolin. In addition to performing in schools as a WPA musician, Di Prima played with well-known performers including Ray Miller, Paul Whiteman, and Al Jolson. After his marriage to Amelia Marta, a second-generation Italian, the family settled in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. The collection contains sheet music, some compositions by Di Prima, materials on music theory, printed matter, and photographs.

Preferred citation

Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], Frank C. Di Prima papers (Collection 3450), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Background note

Frank Di Prima was born in Sicily, Italy, in 1897. His family immigrated to the United States around 1914 and settled in Rochester, New York. Di Prima's father and grandfather were both bandmasters, and Di Prima chose to follow in their musical footsteps by teaching himself to play the guitar, banjo, violin, and mandolin. Concurrently, he learned to read music so as to be employed by a band. During the 1930s, Di Prima worked as a Work Projects Administration musician performing for schools. He eventually found employ as a professional musician and played with a number of well-known big bands of the early twentieth century, including those led by Glenn Miller, Ray Miller, and Paul Whiteman. Di Prima also worked with Al Jolson, Lucille Ball, Shirley Booth, and other entertainers.

In 1923, Di Prima married Amelia Marta of Philadelphia. The couple had two children and eventually moved to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Locally, Di Prima appeared with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra and played with orchestras of touring Broadway shows that stopped in Philadelphia. Di Prima died in 1962 while on tour with the Broadway show Carnival.

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Scope and content note

The Frank C. Di Prima papers span two boxes and date mostly from the early twentieth century. The collection contains mostly musical scores, either compositions that Di Prima wrote (Box 1, Folders 2-3) or published (printed or handwritten) songs that Di Prima collected (Box 3). Comprising the published scores is popular music dating from the later 1900s to the 1930s. There are also two folders of papers on music theory (Box 1, Folders 4-5). Altogether, these materials may have been among those that Di Prima consulted to teach himself music. The folder of photographs and articles (Box 1, Folder 6) contains a copy of Di Prima's obituary from an unidentifed newspaper. The photographs and other articles concern the bands for which Di Prima played. He may be in some of the photographs, but they are unidentified. Other than the obituary, there are no papers in the collection on Di Prima's personal life or family.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

 The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ; 2015

1300 Locust Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19107


Gift of Carmel Di Prima to the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 1992.

Accession number M92-14.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Big bands--United States--History.
  • Italian Americans--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--Music.
  • Italian Americans--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Musicians--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.
  • Musicians.
  • Popular music--1901-1910.
  • Popular music--1911-1920.
  • Popular music--1921-1930.
  • Popular music--1931-1940.

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Copyright certificates 1945-1946 

1 1

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Compositions and arrangements 1938-1960, undated 

1 2-3

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Materials on music theory 1960-1961, undated 

1 4-5

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Photographs and articles 1962, undated 

1 6

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"Book 1" (collection of published music removed from binder) circa 1908-circa 1930 

    Box Folder
Text (00015139)   1 7
    Box Folder
Text (00015140)   2 1-2

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Box Folder

"Book 2" (collection of handwritten music removed from binder) undated 

2 3-5

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"Past popular and incidental numbers" (removed from binder) undated 

2 6-7

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