July 15, 1915: West Virginia Folklore Society Founded in Morgantown

The West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University

The West Virginia Folklore Society was founded in Morgantown on July 15, 1915, by John Harrington Cox and Robert Allen Armstrong of West Virginia University and Walter Barnes of Fairmont State.

One of the earliest state folklore societies in the nation, it remained active for only two years. However, during this time, the society collected traditional ballads and songs that were later published in Cox’s classic book Folk-Songs of the South.

In 1950, Barnes, along with Patrick Gainer of WVU and Ruth Ann Musick of Fairmont State, revived the folklore society. Barnes pushed to create the society’s official publication, West Virginia Folklore, which Musick edited until 1967. Gainer directed the group’s participation in the 1963 West Virginia Centennial, including publication of a songbook.

The society operated intermittently in later years. West Virginia Folklore continued to be published annually at Fairmont State until 1980. In 1993, the journal was reissued under a new format and title, Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness. In 1998, the folklore society evolved into the West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University, which houses the society’s archives.