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Thomas Bethune/Thomas Wiggins/Blind Tom Collection (MC 169)


Biographical Information

Thomas Wiggins, also known as Thomas Bethune or simply as Blind Tom, was born into slavery on May 25, 1849. Blind from birth, young Tom had a unique talent for recreating sounds and setting them to music. His owner, James Bethune, recognized the economic potential of his prodigy and by 1858 had rented Tom out to promoter Oliver Perry for a nationwide concert tour. Tom would work for or with the Bethune family for the remainder of his life. After the Civil War, Tom continued to tour with James Bethune as his manager, playing venues in Great Britain, Scotland, Europe, Canada, and South America. An amazing pianist, his repertoire of music included some 7,000 pieces. Wiggins died at the age of fifty-nine on June 13, 1908 in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Scope and Content

This collection includes original sheet music, as well as recordings and biographical information about Blind Tom.

2 boxes (.5 linear feet)


Permission to Publish

Permission to publish material from the Thomas Bethune/Thomas Wiggins/Blind Tom Collection (MC 169) must be obtained from the Columbus State University Archives. Use of the following credit line for publication or exhibit is required:

Thomas Bethune/Thomas Wiggins/Blind Tom Collection
Columbus State University Archives
Columbus, Georgia


Box and Folder List

Box 1

Folder 1: "Discovering Blind Tom Wiggins: Creating Digital Access to Original Sheet Music at the Columbus State University Archives," by Reagan L. Grimsley (2006; Music Reference Services Quarterly)

Folder 2: "Oliver Gallop," Sheet music, 1860. (photocopy), "Battle of Manassas for the Piano," sheet music, 1866. (photocopy), "Sewing Song: Imitation of the Sewing Machine for Piano," by Blind Tom, sheet Music, 1886. (photocopy)

Item 1: Blind Tom: The Story of Thomas Bethune [video recording] (Los Angeles: KCET, 1987)

Item 2: John Davis plays Blind Tom [sound recording] (Newport, RI: Newport Classic, 1999)

Item 3: Geneva Southall, Pianist, Plays Music of Blind Tom [sound recording] (Minneapolis, Minn.: Challenge Productions, 1982)

Item 4: NPR's Morning Edition. March 6, 2002 [sound recording] (Washington, D.C.: National Public Radio, 2002)

Box 2

Item 1: Oliver Gallop, Sheet music, 1860. (2 copies: one with star 3 ½ on cover, one with star 4 on cover)

Item 2: Battle of Manassas for the Piano, sheet music, 1866.

Item 3: Sewing Song: Imitation of the Sewing Machine for Piano by Blind Tom, sheet Music, 1886.

Item 4: "The Phenomenon of 'Blind Tom': The Most Remarkable Instance of the Sub-conscious Mind in Music, New Information on the Subject supplied by 'Blind Tom's' Teacher." Anna Amalie Tutein, The Etude, February 1918. Original.

Item 5: Articles from the 1900s in the Columbus Enquirer Sun.

Folder 1

Item 1: Concert Program (tan) publishing information: Baltimore The Sun Book and Job print establishment. 30 pages listed with an additional special notice about "Blind" Tom and an advertisement for Steinway and Sons pianos. Musical genres selections: Descriptive music, songs, concertos, characteristics and parlor selections, plantations and original songs. Original.

Item 2: Concert Program (green) publishing information: New York French and Wheat Book and Job printers. 30 pages with an additional special notice about "Blind" Tom. Musical genres selections: Lists Classical Selects, Piano Forte Solos, Fantasias and Caprices, Marches, Imitations, Descriptive Music, Songs, Parlor Selections. Original. (2 copies)