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Avery Robinson papers

Identifier: Ax 247

Scope and Contents note

The papers include 59 pieces of manuscript music by Robinson, a collection of his published works, correspondence with music publishers and family members, material related to Robinson's service in World War I, photographs, and family memorabilia. There are two notebooks with manuscript transcriptions of Negro hymns collected by Mildred J. Hill of Vagabondia and Louisville, KY, about 1893.

The music series of the collection includes fifty-nine pieces of manuscript music by Robinson, a collection of his published works, and correspondence with music publishers, 1923-1929. There are also newspaper reviews of his compositions and of Robeson’s and Roland Hayes’s performances of them. There are two notebooks with manuscript transcriptions of Negro hymns collected by Mildred J. Hill of Vagabondia and Louisville, Kentucky, about 1893, and several notebooks from Robinson’s study of composition with Norman O’Neill.

The World War I field orders for the 3rd Division November 30, 1918 to December 7, 1918 are part of the collection, as is a report, Operations 3rd FA Brigade November 1-7, 1918, handwritten by Brigadier General G.H. Bishop. There are several training manuals and lecture notes from Fort Sill, Oklahoma and from Coup de Souge, France, 1917-1918. There are also several German documents including an official report of a military court-martial in 1918, an aerial balloon reconnaissance photograph, and a topographical map of the area on the border of Belgium and Germany.

Avery Robinson, his wife, and family members were active in business, politics, and society in the south, New York, and England. There are newspaper clippings, mementos, and correspondence relating to these activities.

Robinson’s affection for his family and pride in their accomplishments, especially of his wife and daughter, are demonstrated in his letters to them and the memorabilia he saved. The correspondence with his daughter Carley Dawson, 1917-1964, is part of the collection, as are several of her unpublished essays.

Photographs in the collection are of Robinson family members, their homes, and art work.


  • Creation: 1895-1964

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

George Avery Robinson (1878-1965) was born in Louisville, KY He attended Flexner’s School there, then Harvard from 1896-1898. After leaving college, he worked for an architect, managed a woolen mill, then formed a partnership for the sale of steel products and cordage. He married Mary Grace Chess in 1907. His daughter Grace Carley Robinson, who also later became a musician and composer, was born in 1909. Avery Robinson served as an aide-de-camp to General H.G. Bishop in France (1918-1919) during World War I. In 1920 he moved to England where he studied composition with Norman O’Neill and was treasurer of the Royal Philharmonic Society. Returning to the United States in 1931, he lived primarily in New York City where his wife established the perfume company Mary Chess, Inc.

Robinson composed and arranged both classical and popular music, as well as American folk music, including the song Waterboy, which was popularized through Robinson's jazz arrangement in the 1920s. He worked closely with Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson, among others, and transcribed and documented countless Black spirituals and other African-American folk music throughout the American South. In 1950 he was awarded membership, which he had long pursued, in the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.


19 linear feet (16 containers) : 5 flat clamshell boxes, 3 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box, 3 small photo boxes, 1 phonograph box, 1 standard oversize box, 1 custom oversize box

Language of Materials



George Avery Robinson (1878-1965) was born in Louisville, Kentucky. After attending Harvard and working as a business manager, Robinson served in France during the First World War. He moved to England in 1920 to study music composition and work as treasurer for the Royal Philharmonic Society. He returned to the United States in 1931 where he continued to compose and arrange music, work with numerous popular musicians such as Roland Hayes and Paul Robeson, and work with his wife's perfume company, Mary Chess, Inc. This collection contains manuscripts of his musical works, as well as correspondence, photographs, and other records related to Robinson's professional pursuits and family life.


Collection is organized into the following series:

Series I: Music Series II: Professional and Financial Records Series III: Family and Non-business Papers Series IV: Military Records Series V: Artifacts Series VI: Photographs Series VII: Oversize

Related Materials

Related materials are found in the following collection:

Carley Robinson Dawson papers, Ax 759, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

Processing Information note

Collection was processed by Mahala Ruddell in February 2023.

Guide to the Avery Robinson papers
Avery Robinson papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by University of Oregon Libraries, Archivists' Toolkit Project Team
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA