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John B. Secrist, Jr. Collection

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Record collector and mathematician John Bert Secrist, Jr. was born in Kansas City, Kansas on August 14, 1918 to Florence and John B. Secrist. Secrist received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics (Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Richmond in 1939 and a Master of Arts in Mathematics from the University of Virginia in 1941. He taught math for several years at the United States Naval Academy, Emory University, and Columbia University where he continued his graduate course work.

In 1953 he joined the staff of IBM in New York, working as a mathematician. His projects included computer technology, satellite communications and missile defense.

Secrist began acquiring records as a high school student, and continued to have an interest in collecting vocal recordings throughout his college career. After moving to New York in 1945 and meeting others who shared his interests, he became a more avid collector, and was a founder and member of the Vocal Record Collectors’ Society, a non-profit organization for those interested in collecting classical vocal recordings of all eras.

Secrist collected early record catalogs and began compiling more detailed discographies for his favorite artists. The first, of Rosa Ponselle, was published in the 1950 issue of The Record Collector. While compiling the Ponselle discography, Secrist was granted an interview with Miss Ponselle, and became a friend for many years. In 1951 he published a discography of Enrico Caruso in the same journal and later published it in conjunction with Francis Robinson’s Caruso, his life in pictures..

As a prominent record collector, Secrist he was known for his exacting standards. Although he kept much of his collection in his parent’s home in Atlanta, a large portion was held in New York as well, especially items he kept for trade. Secrist was meticulous in his efforts to find not just a copy of particular recordings, but those as close to perfect as possible. Discographer Aida Favia-Artsay referred to his methods in the following way: "His was the selective, purposeful way: only classical vocal recordings, related material, and mainly quality above quantity!"

Secrist died in New York City at the age of 40 on October 11, 1958. In January of 1963, his parents transferred the majority of his collection (1700 opera recordings) to the Library of Congress.

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This collection of papers comprises a small part of the major collection of nearly 1700 operatic recordings acquired by John Secrist. Strengths of this collection include large runs of Enrico Caruso and Rosa Ponselle recordings; the collection is further distinguished by being in near-mint condition due to Secrist’s exacting standards. The papers in this collection further explain and index the Secrist recordings, while discographic and photographic materials provide information on the artists whose work he collected.


This collection was donated to the Library of Congress in 1963 by John B. and Florence Secrist in memory of their son, John Secrist.

Link to Series I.

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  Home >> John B. Secrist, Jr. Collection
  The Library of Congress >> Especially for Researchers >> Research Centers
  May 15, 2006
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