University Library System Acquires Bing Crosby Archives

An artist's rendition of Bing Crosby wearing a hat and a checkered jacket

Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is one of America’s most beloved holiday tunes. That recording, along with more than 3,000 record albums and CDs, are part of the Bing Crosby Collection recently acquired by the University Library System’s Center for American Music, housed at the Stephen Foster Memorial.

The collection, which also includes every Crosby film and television appearance, along with hundreds of books, periodicals, newspaper clippings and publications from global Bing Crosby fan clubs, was amassed by Crosby fan Frontis Wiggins. When Wiggins died, a close family friend from Pittsburgh, Robert Phillips, suggested the archive be given to Pitt.

The head of the Center for American Music, Kathryn Haines, says 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,” said Haines. “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,” said Haines. “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 and a finding aid for the archive will be available in the near future.