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From “Hide and Go Seek” to “Paddy’s Resource”:

  • e Dunn Family Collection of Captain

Francis O’Neill Cylinder Recordings.

By Ilana Harlow and Stephen Winick

“Hide and Go Seek”: A Hidden Collection Found

I n 2003, David Dunn of Milwaukee was looking through his departed grandfather’s attic for memorabilia. He came upon an old, dusty, brown- orange suitcase, and, upon opening it, discovered a fantastic portal to Irish music at the turn of the twentieth cen- tury. Inside were thirty-six wax cylinders, thirty-two of which were home recordings of master musicians made in the early 1900s by a renowned collector, Francis O’Neill.

The recordings were like buried trea- sure in the Irish music world; scholars knew that they had been made, but believed that they had been lost or destroyed long ago. Although we know that O’Neill and Dunn’s grandfather were friends, it is unclear exactly how the cylinders ended up in the Dunn home. It is very clear, however, that David Dunn’s search for his Grandpa’s firefight- ing coat and captain’s hat ended in a tremendous discovery for scholars and players of Irish music around the world. When Dunn, a medical doctor, found out exactly what he had in his possession, he was thrilled. “I was as high as I could be,” he said. “That was just a wonderful find. Not so much for myself but for the

Publicity photograph of Francis O’Neill as General Superintendent of Police, Chicago, ca. 1901.

people who are so involved in music. For them it was a treat.”

Dunn brought the cylinders to the Ward Irish Music Archives of Milwaukee. They, in turn, contacted the American Folklife Center for help in digitizing these

important recordings. In return for their assistance, AFC obtained digital copies, which will soon be available for research- ers to hear in our reading room, and may form part of an online presentation in the future.






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