Welcoming Recorded Music to the Public Domain

Every January the Internet Archive features works that are entering the public domain. And this year the big story is in recorded music.

Recorded Music from 1922 and earlier

Approximately 400,000 sound recordings made before 1923 will join the public domain in the U.S. for the first time due to the Music Modernization Act (read more at copyright.gov). You can peruse about 38,000 of them in our collection of digitized 78rpm records.

By 1922 we were solidly in the Jazz Age – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age was published in 1922, and the term was already in popular usage. Jazz migrated from Black American communities in New Orleans into the rest of the United States, having evolved from its roots in rag time, blues and Creole music.  In fact, 1922 was the year Louis Armstrong left New Orleans to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago.


Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1911) written by Irving Berlin and performed by Collins and Harlan

Peruse the collection to hear early jazz classics like Don’t Care Blues by Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, Ory’s Creole Trombone by Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra, and Jazzin’ Babies Blues by Ethel Waters.

Early recordings by Bert Williams (the first Black American on Broadway and the first Black man to star in a film), Fanny Brice (the real-life ‘Funny Girl’), Enrico Caruso (the legendary Italian operatic tenor), and so many others give life and flavor to our imaginings of the early 20th century.

Here are some of the top songs from 1922, to give you a taste:

But personally when I “flip through” these records I’m always drawn to the novelty songs.

There’s a whole genre of sound imitations, like Violin Mimicry where a violin is used to imitate people talking, Jingles from the Marsh Birds with a man imitating birds imitating popular songs (just as confusing as it sounds), and A Cat-astrophe with people imitating rather catastrophic cats to music.

You can also skip the jokes and go straight to laughing just for the sake of it with these gems:  Laughs You Have Met, Gennett Laughing Record, and The Okeh Laughing Record, or choose to have a little music with laughing choruses like Ticklish Reuben, She Gives Them All the Ha-Ha-Ha, Stop Your Tickling, Jock! or And Then I Laughed.

And perhaps my favorite of the bunch is Fido is a Hot Dog Now which seems to be about a dog who is definitely going to hell.


Fido is a Hot Dog Now (1914) by Billy Murray

Other Media from 1926

As usual, we are also welcoming some new books, movies, journals, and sheet music – this time from 1926! (Read about 1925, 1924, and 1923 in previous posts.)

Some popular first edition books from 1926:


The Clothes We Wear (1926) by Frank and Frances Carpenter

Other interesting books from 1926 that you might want to explore include Show Boat by Edna Ferber which was made into the musical Show Boat in 1927 with music by Jerome Kern, The Clothes We Wear by Frank and Frances Carpenter which is a child friendly exploration of how clothes are made all the way from the field through weaving and into sewing, or The Art of Kissing by Clement Wood which is pretty self explanatory.

We invite you to explore some of the other items dated 1926 in our collections to find your own fun items that may now be in the public domain.

Great Books by Women Authors

On March 8th New York Public Library’s Gwen Glazer published a wonderful list of books in celebration of International Women’s Day: 365 Books by Women Authors to Celebrate International Women’s Day All Year.

In the spirit of continuing to celebrate female authors past the confines of Women’s History Month, we’ve gathered some of these books into a special collection called Great Books by Women Authors to make it easier to find your next exceptional read. You will also find these books via Open Library as listed below. Happy reading!

Great Books by Women Authors
Leila Aboulela, The Kindness of Enemies
Susan Abulhawa, The Blue Between Sky and Water
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
Anna Akhmatova, The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Svetlana Alexievich, Voices From Chernobyl
Clare Allan, Poppy Shakespeare
Sarah Addison Allen, Lost Lake
Isabel Allende, Eva Luna
Karin Altenberg, Island of Wings
Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies
Tahmima Anam, The Good Muslim
Natacha Appanah, The Last Brother
Chloe Aridjis, Asunder
Bridget Asher, All of Us and Everything
Margaret Atwood, Oryx & Crake
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Mariama Bâ, Scarlet Song
Toni Cade Bambara, Those Bones Are Not My Child
Gioconda Belli, The Inhabited Woman
Karen Bender, Refund
Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III
Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Gwendolyn Brooks, The Bean Eaters
Lauren Buekes, The Shining Girls
NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
Leonora Carrington, The hearing trumpet
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee
Susan Choi, American Woman
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Sonya Chung, Long for This World
Caryl Churchill, Top Girls
Lucille Clifton, Mercy
Simin Daneshvar, Sutra & Other Stories
Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions
Edwidge Danticat, Claire of the Sea Light
Meaghan Daum, Unspeakable
Dola de Jong, The Tree and the Vine
Grazia Deledda, After the Divorce
Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day
Emily Dickinson, The Poems of Emily Dickinson
Joan Didion, Democracy
Rita Dove, On the Bus With Rosa Parks
Yasmine El Rashidi, Chronicle of a Last Summer
Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood
Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues
Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower
Paula Fox, Desperate Characters
Lauren Francis-Sharma, Til the Well Runs Dry
Ru Freeman, On Sal Mal Lane
Rivka Galchen, Atmospheric Disturbances
Mary Gaitskill, The Mare
Petina Gappah, The Book of Memory
Elena Garro, First love ; &, Look for my obituary
Louise Gluck, Faithful and Virtuous Night
Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist
Jorie Graham, Erosion
Linda LeGarde Grover, The dance boots
Paula Gunn Allen, America the Beautiful: Last Poems
Marilyn Hacker, Names
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route
Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus
Bessie Head, The Collector of Treasures
Amy Hempel, Reasons to Live
Cristina Henriquez, The Book of Unknown Americans
Christine Dwyer Hickey, The Cold Eye of Heaven
Patricia Highsmith, The Price of Salt
Arlie Hochschild, The Second Shift
Alice Hoffman, Survival Lessons
Sara Sue Hoklotubbe, Deception on All Accounts
bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
Keri Hulme, The Bone People
Dương Thu Hương, Paradise of the Blind
Hồ Xuân Hương, Spring Essence
Ulfat Idilbi, Grandfather’s Tale
Elfriede Jelinek, Women As Lovers
Han Kang, The Vegetarian
Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club
Kazue Kato, Blue Exorcist
Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
Porochista Khakpour, The Last Illusion
Vénus Khoury-Ghata, A House at the Edge of Tears
Suki Kim, Without You, There Is No Us
Jamaica Kincaid, See Now Then
Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Natsuo Kirino, Out
Sana Krasikov, One More Year
Jean Kwok, Girl in Translation
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland
Laila Lalami, Secret Son
Nella Larsen, Passing
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Random Family
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
Yiyun Li, Kinder Than Solitude
Gloria Lisé, Departing at Dawn
Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star
Inverna Lockpezer, Cuba: My Revolution
Alia Mamdouh, The Loved Ones
Dacia Maraini, The Silent Duchess
Ronit Matalon, The Sound of Our Steps
Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Eimear McBride, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing
Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs
Ai Mi, Under the Hawthorn Tree
Gabriela Mistral, Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral
Nadifa Mohamed, Black Mamba Boy
Lorrie Moore, Bark
Marianne Moore, The Poems of Marianne Moore
Toni Morrison, Sula
Bharati Mukherjee, The Tree Bride
Alice Munro, Family Furnishings
Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head
Eileen Myles, School of Fish
Azar Nafisi, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books
Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You
Hualing Nieh, Mulberry and Peach
Sara Nović, Girl at War
Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, I Do Not Come to You by Chance
Silvia Ocampo, Thus Were Their Faces
Nnedi Okorafor, Binti
Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic
Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox
Ruth Ozeki, All Over Creation
Cynthia Ozick, Foreign Bodies
ZZ Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Grace Paley, The Little Disturbances of Man
Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog
Shahrnush Parsipur, Kissing the Sword
Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
Anna Politkovskaya, A Russian Diary
Katha Pollitt, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
Claudia Rankine, Citizen
Alifa Rifaat, Distant View of a Minaret and Others Stories
Suzanne Rivecca, Death Is Not An Option
Riverbend, Baghdad Burning
Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Vedrana Rudan, Night
Sonia Sanchez, Does Your House Have Lions?
Sappho, The Complete Works of Sappho
Noo Saro-Wiwa, Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria
Åsne Seierstad, The Angel of Grozny
Anne Sexton, The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
Kyung-sook Shin, Please Look After Mom
Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book
Ana Maria Shuah, The Weight of Temptation
Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead
Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Marivi Soliven, The Mango Bride
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will
Ahdaf Soueif, The Map of Love
Gertrude Stein, Fernhurst, Q.E.D., and other early writings
Aoibbhean Sweeney, Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking
Elizabeth Crane, When the Messenger Is Hot
Amy Tan, The Valley of Amazement
Valerie Taylor, The Girls in 3-B
Lygia Fagunda Telles, The Girl in the Photograph
Lynne Tillman, No Lease on Life
Dubravka Ugresic, Thank You For Not Reading
Chika Unigwe, On Black Sisters Street
Kirstin Valdez Quade, Night at the Fiestas
Jean Valentine, Little Boat
Lara Vapnyar, There Are Jews in My House
Marja-Liisa Vartio, The Parson’s Widow
Josefina Vicens, The Empty Book
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Sarah Waters, Fingersmith
Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter
Phillis Wheatley, The Poetry of Phillis Wheatley
Zoe Wicomb, You Can’t Get Lost In Cape Town
Joy Williams, The Visiting Privilege
G. Willow Wilson, Ms. Marvel
Virginia Woolf, Orlando
Alexis Wright, Carpentaria
Sarah E. Wright, This Child’s Gonna Live
Tiphanie Yanique, Land of Love and Drowning
Samar Yazbek, Cinnamon
Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen
Haifa Zangana, Dreaming of Baghdad

January 1st brings public domain riches from 1925

On January 1st, 2021, many books, movies and other media from 1925 will enter the public domain in the United States. Some of them are quite famous — jump ahead to see lists of those well known books and movies that you can enjoy on the Internet Archive — or take the scenic route with me.

Book cover: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

What does this all mean? Essentially, many items created in 1925 in the US that are still under copyright will become free and open for people to use in any way they see fit in the new year. But check out Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain article for a more in-depth explanation.

We have a party every year to celebrate the new works entering the public domain, and this year is no exception. Join us on Thursday, Dec. 17th to toast these newly available additions.

Traveling from Home

As part of this yearly ritual, I explore our collections to unearth these newly freed items, and I invariably run across a few things that hit a nerve. This year, it started with this intertitle in “Isn’t Life Terrible?” Less than 20 seconds into this 1925 film, and suddenly I’m dumped back into 2020.

Silent film intertitle that reads, "Charley Chase as The poor young man with only two places to go -- Front yard and back yard"

Rude, right? I don’t even have a front yard to enjoy during shelter in place.

But the magic of media is that it can transport us to different places and times. Photo books like Picturesque Italy, Picturesque Mexico, and Picturesque Palestine, Arabia and Syria show us both how much and how little has changed in the past 95 years.

Screen shot thumbnail images from the book Picturesque Italy. The 12+ photos feature tourist sites in Venice, Italy like the Doges Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, and Piazza San Marco.

Gondolas still glide under the Bridge of Sighs, and the Tower of Pisa is still leaning, but the 1925 version of the Colosseum certainly lacks today’s fake gladiator photo ops.

Looking at the past with the eyes of today

Every toe dipped into the past has the potential to surprise or shock. The story of a pantry shelf, an outline history of grocery specialties is only mildly interesting on the surface. Essentially, it’s a sales pitch to food manufacturers encouraging them to advertise in a set of women’s magazines. The book contains short case histories of successful food brands like Maxwell House Coffee, Campbell Soup, Coca Cola, etc. (all of whom advertise with them, naturally).

The book gives you a glimpse of why people were so enthusiastic about mass produced, packaged foods. Unsanitary conditions, bugs in your sugar, milk going bad over night; things modern shoppers never think about.

It puts this glowing praise of Kraft Cheese into perspective: “…a pasteurized product, blended to obtain a uniformity of quality and flavor, a thing greatly lacking in ordinary types of cheese.” (page 149)

That’s pretty entertaining if you’re a cheese lover. I think most people would agree that Kraft cheese is no longer on the cutting edge.

But keep poking around and you find a much deeper cultural divergence. While The story of a pantry shelf is extolling the virtues of the home economics training available at Cornell, you stumble across this horrifying sentence (page 12).

Passage from "The Story of a Pantry Shelf" which reads, "Indeed, the Practice House, where students learn housekeeping in its every phase, even includes the complete care of a baby, adopted each year by Cornell for the benefit of these 'mothers' who, under the direction of trained Home Economics women, feed, bathe, dress and tend an infant from the tender age of two weeks throughout the session."

I was not expecting to read about orphaned babies being used as “learning aids” while flipping through stories about Jell-O. Intellectually, I know that attitudes towards children have changed over the years — the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set federal standards for child labor, wasn’t even passed until 1938. But this casual aside tossed in amongst the marketing hype still packs an emotional punch. It’s important to remember how far we have come.

Even writing that was forward-thinking for the time, like the booklet Homo-sexual life, is terribly backward according to today’s standards. It’s from the Little Blue Book series — we have many that were published in 1925, and the publisher was quite prolific for many years. The series provided working class people with inexpensive access to all kinds of topics including philosophy, sexuality, science, religion, law, and government. Post WWII, they published criticism of J. Edgar Hoover and the founder was subsequently targeted by the FBI for tax evasion. But in 1925, they were going strong and one of their prolific writers was Clarence Darrow.

Controversies of the Age

Darrow was writing about prohibition for the Little Blue Book series in 1925, but that is also the year he defended John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in his Tennessee classroom. The Scopes Trial generated a huge amount of publicity, pitting religion against science, and even giving rise to popular songs like these two 78rpm recordings from 1925.

The John T. Scopes Trial (The Old Religion’s Better After All) by Vernon Dalhart and Company

Monkey Biz-ness (Down in Tennessee) by International Novelty Orchestra with Billy Murray


Like the Scopes trial, prohibition had its passionate adherents and detractors. This was the “Roaring 20s” — the year The Great Gatsby was published — with speakeasies and flappers and iconic cocktails. And yet the pro-prohibition silent film Episodes in the Life of a Gin Bottle follows a bottle around as it lures people into a state of dissolution.

We even see an entire book about throwing parties that includes no alcoholic beverages at all.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

But as much as some things have changed, other aspects of our lives remain unchanged. People still want to tell you about their pets, rely on self help books, read stories to their kids, follow celebrities, tell each other jokes, and make silly videos.

And the most unchanging part of this particular season, of course — children still anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus with questions, wishes and schemes.

The silent film Santa Claus features two children who want to know where Saint Nick lives and how he spends his time. We follow him to the North Pole (Alaska in disguise) to see Santa’s workshop, snow castle, reindeer, and friends and neighbors. Jack Frost, introduced around 14:20, appears to be wearing the prototype for Ralphie’s bunny suit in “A Christmas Story” (but with a magic wand). Stick around for the sleigh crash at 20:45, and right around 22:20 Santa wipes out on the ice.

And just in case you’re still doing your holiday shopping, I feel like I should pass on a recommendation from this ad in a 1925 The Billboard magazine: Armadillo Baskets make beautiful Christmas gifts. And you can still buy vintage versions online – trust me, I looked. You’re welcome.

Advertisement with a picture of an armadillo and a basket made from an armadillo. Text reads, "Armadillo Baskets Make Beautiful Christmas Gifts. From these nine-banded horn-shelled little animals we make beautiful baskets. We are the original dealers in Armadillo Baskets. We take their shells, polish them, and then line with silk. They make ideal work baskets, etc. Let us tell you about these unique baskets. Write for Free Booklet. Apelt Armadillo Co., Comfort, Texas."

The Famous Stuff

And now on to the blockbusters of 1925…

Books First Published in 1925

Movies Released in 1925

Juneteenth – Freedom Day

cover of the Proclamation of EmancipationThe Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1st, 1863, legally freeing 3.5 million enslaved people in the Confederate states. But of course, this executive order from President Abraham Lincoln came in the midst of the United States Civil War, which didn’t end until April of 1865 – the order could not be enforced until the war was over.

Juneteenth celebrates when enslaved people actually became free in 1865. The date, June 19th, commemorates General Gordon Granger of the Union Army announcing the executive order in Galveston, Texas, freeing all enslaved people in Texas.

Community access TV stations around the country have shown local celebrations of Juneteenth for years, and we thought this 2013 talk by Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott at the Allen Public Library in Texas (via Allen City TV) was particularly helpful in understanding the history of this important day.

More resources:

Happy Pi(e) Day

In honor of the esteemed mathematical constant, we invite you to celebrate Pi Day with us!

If you’re a math geek, we have you covered:

If your mathematical knowledge could use a little refresher, maybe try this one instead:
Sir Cumference and the dragon of pi : a math adventure.

You could listen to multiple people recite the first 50 digits of pi in various styles, including to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (my personal favorite), in the voice of Bullwinkle, as an infomercial, in Latin, while laughing, in Morse Code, and while eating actual pie.

If you’re just obsessive, here’s

Have insomnia? Listen to the first 1,000 digits of pi for 9.5 minutes straight… problem solved!

But most importantly, if you want to celebrate by eating pie we can help you make one! Winner of the Best Title Award definitely goes to Pies and tarts with schmecks appeal by the inimitable Edna Staebler. A close second goes to Tarts with Tops On by Tamasin Day-Lewis. But take your pick from amongst a wide array of pie cookbooks to find the right one for you.

And most importantly, we wish you infinite pi(e).