The University Library System has added another famous name to its archives — Bing Crosby.
The Bing Crosby Collection, which was amassed by Crosby fan Frontis Wiggins, was recently acquired by the University Library System’s Center for American Music, housed at the Stephen Foster Memorial. In the past year, the library system also has acquired the official collections of filmmakers George Romero and playwright August Wilson.
The Crosby collection, which is largely material held outside of the singer’s family, includes more than 3,000 albums and CDs from recordings made from the 1920s to ‘70s, every Crosby film and television appearance, along with hundreds of books, periodicals, newspaper clippings and publications from global Bing Crosby fan clubs.
The main Crosby collection is located at the singer’s alma mater, Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. Crosby’s childhood home in Spokane, which also is owned by Gonzaga, serves as a museum to the star.
Wiggins, a retired foreign service officer who lived in Virginia, served for decades as the American representative for the International Club Crosby, according to his obituary. When Wiggins died in 2019, a close family friend from Pittsburgh, Robert Phillips, suggested the archive be given to Pitt.
Crosby had one big link to Pittsburgh — he was part owner of the Pirates from 1946 until his death in 1977.
He also was a big fan of Stephen Foster’s music and recorded many of his songs, all of which are included in the collection’s recording.
Kathryn Haines, head of the Center for American Music, said on Pittwire that it’s fitting that the collection be housed at Pitt because it represents a continuum of what was happening in American music following the Stephen Foster years.
“Mr. Crosby grew up on Foster music and had an affinity for it,” Haines said. “He recorded many Foster tunes and was a trailblazer in the same way Foster was.”
Haines explained that Crosby was one of the first vocalists to perform with a microphone, making his performances more intimate. Between 1946 and 1948, he revolutionized the entertainment industry by advocating for prerecorded shows, which became the model for both radio and television.
“Bing Crosby was more than the eternal crooner,” Haines said. “He was also a powerful force in the development of recording technology, motion pictures and broadcasting.”
Archivists are currently performing an inventory of the collection.
— Susan Jones
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