Through the generous donation of the Welk family, North Dakota State University acquired the Lawrence Welk legacy in 1993. The NDSU Libraries and the Institute for Regional Studies Archives were given responsibility for preserving and making available the music and memorabilia of Lawrence Welk.
Welk was an American cultural icon, whose music and musical family touched the lives of millions of people. When we think back to the early years of television in the 1950s, invariably we recall the Lawrence Welk Show on Saturday night. Welk is one of North Dakota’s most famous native sons, born and raised in the German Russian community of Strasburg, North Dakota. In 1961 he received the state’s highest honor by being the first recipient of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award. In 1965, Mr. Welk received an honorary doctorate of music from NDSU.
The archives staff processed, organized and indexed the extensive collection in order to make it accessible to researchers as well as to interested fans and admirers. The Lawrence Welk Collection contains over 10,000 music arrangements, as well as scrapbooks, manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, record albums, publications and oral histories. This collection will help preserve the memories of Lawrence Welk and his television family in the hearts and minds of future generations of Americans. We continue to acquire related music and memorabilia for the collection, and we welcome donations of Welk materials.
An extensive collection of Lawrence Welk related articles, photographs and links has been assembled as part of the NDSU Germans from Russia Heritage Collection web site. The Welk legacy also lives on at the Welk Resort in Branson, Missouri where members of the Welk Musical Family occasionally perform.
Lawrence Welk Resources
Lawrence Welk Music Arrangements
In 1994, the Institute staff automated a 10,000 item card index to the Lawrence Welk music arrangements and is now available as an online searchable database (currently in text mode). This card file had been developed by the Welk staff for easier accessibility to the arrangements. A printed index of the database provides access to the music arrangements by song title, and reflects what was listed, or not listed in some cases, on the individual cards. Through data verification some of the arrangements were found to be missing and some had no cards made for them. These arrangements were subsequently added to the database. A printed version of the database is also available.
Lawrence Welk Record Collection (with song title index)
The Lawrence Welk Record Collection currently contains 695 albums, with over 8,700 song titles. The records in this collection span the years of Lawrence Welk’s musical legacy, and include records and recordings of his orchestra and musical family. Christmas editions and other special album sets are also included. Both record titles and song titles have been entered into a database, and a printed version is available at the Institute Research Room.
Lawrence Welk Scrapbooks
The Lawrence Welk scrapbooks span the years 1938-1942 and 1951-1982, and include photographs, articles, and newspaper clippings about Welk, his orchestra, and musical family. They trace the career of Welk from its beginnings in 1938 on radio, to the days when his orchestra traveled and performed throughout the country. The scrapbooks also cover the years of Lawrence Welk’s television show, from its infancy through the final broadcast in 1982. The scrapbooks are not indexed. Photocopies of the scrapbooks for 1938-1942 and 1951-1953 are available at the Institute Research Room. All others are in remote storage.
Lawrence Welk Television Show Logs
The television show logs document each Lawrence Welk show from July 2, 1955 to Sept. 28, 1982. The consecutively numbered log sheets list the songs used and name of the performers for each. The ABC logs cover from 1955 to 1971 and the syndicated shows from 1971 to 1982. Also available is a separate index to the collection by song title. The original log sheets and the song title index have been photocopied and are available at the Institute Research Room.
Welk Manuscript Collections
A number of individuals have donated personal papers and other Welk related papers that are now part of the Lawrence Welk Collection. For those that have been fully organized, a finding aid is available online and they are open for public use. These collections are located in off-site storage and a twenty-four time period is need to retrieve them for use at the Institute Research Room.
Welk Photograph Collections
Photographs documenting Lawrence Welk, members of his musical family as well as his own family have been acquired through the a number of private donors. For those that have been fully organized, a finding aid is available online. These collections are located at the archives and available for public use. No photographs were donated by Welk Syndication, except a small number that are found in the scrapbooks collection.
A collection of over 70 books and periodicals documenting Lawrence Welk and his musical family is available in the Institute Research Room. All are cataloged in the NDSU Libraries online catalog.
Access to Resources
Except for the published book materials which is located in the Institute Research Room, all other Welk resources (arrangements, phonograph records, scrapbooks, artifacts, manuscripts, etc.) are located in off-site storage. The Archives staff needs a 24-hour notice to transfer desired materials to the Institute Research Room for public use. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact staff via e-mail or telephone prior to visiting.