The Allen G. Debus collection is a rich collection of early American recordings and related material including over 12,000 78rpm discs, 3,500 cylinder recordings, sheet music, correspondence and research files, ephemera, vintage playback machines and other materials. The collection was highly curated and assembled in nearly 70 years of collecting. Highlights include over 100 Berliner discs, unique copies of early 78rpm discs by vaudevillians Bert Williams & George Walker, rare Silas Leachman cylinders, and extensive and complete runs of recordings by early American recording artists.

Allen (August 16, 1926 – March 6, 2009) was a pioneering collector and researcher of early popular recordings artists. He started collecting and researching in an era when you could still write a letter to many pioneer recordings artists and get first-hand information on the early days of recording. He started writing about recording artists with Jim Walsh in Hobbies Magazine in the 1950s and continued his research and writing through the 2000s, most recently penning liner notes for Archeophone Records. He also co-authored the Complete Entertainment Discography with Brian Rust.

He was also a renowned professor of the history of science at the University of Chicago, and he commanded equal respect in both his fields of scholarly pursuit.

His collection was generously donated to the UC Santa Barbara Library in 2015 and is currently being processed and cataloged. Cylinder recordings are being cataloged and digitized through the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive and 78rpm discs are being cataloged and added to UC Library Search. Digital copies can be requested through a Special Collections Research Account.

For a description of the collection, consult the finding guide in the Online Archive of California (OAC).

For more information on the collection or assistance in using the materials, please contact Special Collections staff at