MG-310. JOHN DUSS PAPERS, 1882-1951.
John Samuel Duss (1860-1951) served as the last trustee of the Harmony Society from 1890 to 1903. Founded by Johann Georg Rapp in 1805, the Harmony Society was a religious community which exerted a major influence on the economic development of western Pennsylvania. Duss was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and after his father was conscripted into the Confederate Army in 1862 his mother, Sarah Duss, took her son to the Harmonist community of Economy, Pennsylvania. Duss lived with the society at various times throughout his life, was made a co-trustee in 1890, and wrote a book about his experience there entitled The Harmonists: A Personal History (Harrisburg, 1943). Duss was also a musician and a band leader (1883-1950) who conducted the Economy Band which merged with the Great Western Band of Pittsburgh in 1900 to form the Duss Concert Band and Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra. The collection includes correspondence relating to Duss’s Band, a manuscript of Duss’s book on the Harmonists, as well as other personal memorabilia. References to African Americans were found in two series.
Correspondence File, 1905-1950. The bulk of the correspondence pertains to the restoration of Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, a portion of the last community founded by the Harmonists, which is now operated as a historic site by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In a 1914 letter, George Kallitz, a young composer, asked Duss for his opinion on a project in which Kallitz planned to reintroduce the songs of Stephen Foster. He planned to "write a selection called 'Old Favorite Songs’ and mention all the names of the songs . . . and Foster." Songs Kallitz wished to include were "Massa’s in the cold, cold ground," "Old black Joe," and "My old Kentucky home."
Manuscript File, [ca. 1940]. This file consists of handwritten and typed drafts for Duss’s book The Harmonists: A Personal History. Duss told of his experience as a teacher in the Kansas State Reform School, mentioning "little Jimmie Williams (one of my negroes)" and "Big Bill Reynolds (a negro)." Other references are made to these same boys in this chapter.