Frances Densmore: Song Catcher

Magic Lantern Show

Experience a presentation about Frances Densmore's life work, much as she herself might have told it, in an online interpretation of a "magic lantern show."



IN THE EARLY PART of the 20th century, most Americans believed that American Indians were doomed to cultural extinction. The U.S. government demanded that Indians abandon their tribal languages and religions. Indian's were told to learn "white people ways" and join mainstream America.

With little scientific training, and only a modicum of outside support, the young music teacher from a respectable Midwestern family vowed to preserve the old Indian songs in wax. Frances Densmore spent her life trying to gather up scraps and artifacts of the old Indian ways, shipping them off to the high ground of the Smithsonian Institution before a tide of American progress rose to carry them away.

Download Song Catcher - Frances Densmore of Red Wing.

Life Story Narrative

Trace Densmore's life, from its beginnings through her monumental field work and lonely old age.

Author's Introduction

Table of Contents

Minnesota Humanities


This project was made possible with funding from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature.

"Song Catcher, Frances Densmore of Red Wing" is made possible, in part, by the Minnesota Public Radio Documentary Fund, whose major support comes from Phyllis Poehler, in memory of Walter Stremel.

Magic Lantern Show - Life Story - Table of Contents
Author's Introduction - Bibliography - Credits - Search

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