The Rudolph Willard Collection

Funding from the Volkswagen Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.
This research is being developed with generous support from Github and Netlify.

About the Rudolph Willard Collection

Rudolph Willard (1892-1979) was a Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin from 1937-1964. Born Nikoloai Radouloff in Sofia, Bulgaria, he was adopted by an American mother at the age of eight. Willard attended Oberlin College and Yale University and taught at Yale and Wellesley before joining the faculty of the University of Texas. Though he specialized primarily in studies of medieval English, Willard was also the senior professor of linguistics in the Department of English, and he took advantage of recent technology to record local speakers with a Presto Model J portable disc recorder. The recordings in this collection were made between approximately 1937-1950.

In this collection, you can hear Willard himself reading excerpts of Old and Middle English texts alongside other noted professors of the time. However, Willard also embraced more contemporary methods of linguistic analysis. He presented participants with stories or sentences to read that were designed to get them to pronounce certain sounds. Most of these recordings focused on one of three stories: "Nine Needles," a piece by James Thurber published in the January 25, 1936 edition of The New Yorker; "The Young Rat," a version of the 1876 story "I Don't Know" by Gertrude Sellon; and "The Story of Horace," a short story written by University of Texas Professor of French Katherine E. Wheatley (1894-1977). Wheatley, an Austin native and University of Chicago graduate, also assisted in conducting several of the participant interviews. Additional extemporaneous interviews focusing on the town of Spicewood, Texas were collected by Carmelita Klipple (1912-1974).

Other materials in the collection either reproduce or supplement the work of noted Austin folklorist John Henry Faulk (1913-1990). Willard supported and encouraged Faulk's graduate work documenting the speech of African-Americans, and a number of the recordings in this collection are duplicates of those submitted by Faulk to the Library of Congress. Faulk also recorded himself reading some of Willard's elicitation stories, as well as performing other humorous storytelling. The influence between Willard and Faulk appears to have been mutual, as Willard made additional recordings of local groups such as The Paramount Singers and of students at historically black Prairie View College.

While this collection focuses primarily on English, Willard also made a number of recordings in other languages, seemingly taking advantage of whatever opportunity he could to document actual speech. The most well-represented language besides English in this collection is Texas German, particularly the variety spoken in and around the city of New Braunfels. These interviews were conducted by Fred Eikel, Jr. (1909-1967), a native speaker of the dialect who was encouraged by Willard to engage in linguistic study of his local community.

In addition to linguistic recordings, Willard also captured snippets of radio programs, live music performances, and daily life with his own family and friends. His collection paints a picture both of an academic who understood the possibilities that new recording technology could afford to his field and of an individual who enjoyed taking advantage of this technology at every opportunity. The Rudolph Willard Collection brings both the dialects and the day-to-day life of a bygone era to the attention of a new generation of listeners.


Carmelita Florence Klipple Robinson (1912- 1974) - Find A Grave Memorial. (2011). Retrieved from
Drake, C. (2009). You gotta stand up: The life and times of John Henry Faulk. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Scholars.
Eikel, F., Jr. (1966). New Braunfels German: Part I. American Speech, 41(1), 5-16.
Faulk, John Henry | Library of Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved from,+john+henry
Fred Eikel, Jr (1909- 1967) - Find A Grave Memorial. (2014). Retrieved from
Holloway, J. (1962, June). History in the homilies. The Alcalde, 7-9. (Image credit p. 9)
John Henry Faulk - Wikipedia. (2019). Retrieved from
Katherine Ernestine Wheatley (1894- 1977) - Find A Grave Memorial. (2008). Retrieved from
Klipple, C. (1945). The speech of Spicewood, Texas. American Speech, 20(3), 187-191.
MacMahon, M. K. C. (1991). The woman behind 'Arthur'. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 21(1), 29-31. doi:10.1017/S0025100300005983
MARC Display (Library of Congress Authorities. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Thurber, J. (1936, January 25). Nine needles. The New Yorker, 17-18.
Wright, C. C. (1985). A university reminiscence, 1928-1946. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 88(3), 283-296.