Lawrence Rodgers (editor), Jerrold Hirsch (editor); AMERICA'S FOLKLORIST; University of Oklahoma Press (Social Sciences) $34.95 ISBN: 9780806141114
Byline: Edward Morris
America may be forgiven for not knowing that Benjamin Albert Botkin (1901a1975) was its folklorist, since Botkin's greatest popular impact occurred in the 1930s and 1940s, arguably peaking in 1944 with the publication of his bestselling A Treasury of American Folklore. He continued to be important within the folklore community long after that, of course, collecting folk material and publishing books and articles on specific areas of American lore virtually until the time of his death. Born in Boston to Jewish parents (he was a cousin of George and Ira Gershwin), Botkin graduated from Harvard at age nineteen and went on to earn his master's degree from Columbia and his doctorate from the University of Nebraska. It was while teaching English at the University of Oklahoma in the 1920s and 1930s that he fully immersed himself in folklore. His prominence in the field subsequently won him appointments in the Federal Writers Project, the Works Progress Administration, and the Library of Congress.
Botkin believed folklore was everywhere -- from songs and stories, to workplace lingo, to comic strips -- and that since...