By Liza Posas, Head, Research Services and Archives
“Manuela Garcia was Charles Lummis’s most important informant. She had a repertoire of songs that surpassed 200 or 300 in number and she recorded about 110 for Charles Lummis.”
—Ethnomusicologist, Dr. John Koegel, in an interview by Huell Howser
on a “lost episode” of the California Gold television series, 1996
“Miss Manuela C. Garcia of Los Angeles” sang over 100 Spanish language songs for Charles Fletcher Lummis between 1904 and 1905, which he recorded on to wax cylinder. These recordings became part of Lummis’s collection of “Spanish Songs from Old California.”
As part of the Autry’s #ArchivesAtHome efforts, library staff set to work in uploading as many of the digitized wax cylinder recordings as possible onto the Internet Archive, starting with those sung by Garcia, which (as Lummis exclaimed) she did with “full words!” from “sheer memory.”
Posting these songs online is the result of a multi-year digitization project that started back in the 1990s and ended in 2016 with great thanks to a team of committed volunteers and “sound recording aficionados” that include Dr. Michael Heisley, Michael Khanchalian, Mark Ulano, and two Dan Reeds (no relation).
Autry library staff welcomes you to reap the fruits of this 30(ish) year endeavor by listening to Manuela Garcia and her fellow musicians sing!
Images (Click image for details):
- Photograph of Manuela Garcia, taken between 1886-1927. Autry Museum; P.32319
- Manuela Garcia songbook, circa 1920s. Charles Fletcher Lummis Collection, Autry Museum; MS.1
- First page of Manuela Garcia songbook, circa 1920s. Charles Fletcher Lummis Collection, Autry Museum; MS.1
- Boxes containing wax cylinders recorded by Charles Fletcher Lummis. Photo by Vlasta Radan, 2016. Retrieved from the “Echoes of History: Charles Lummis' Wax Cylinder Recordings” video story by Oliver Wang, KCET.org, May 20, 2020
To delve deeper into the history of the Lummis wax cylinder recordings and digitization, check out KCET stories and video segments that also includes a lost episode of Huell Howser’s California Gold.