Manuscript Group 310 2017-10-25T11:48:16-04:00

Manuscript Group 310 – John Duss Papers; 1882 – 1951, 11 cu. ft.

John Samuel Duss (b.1860 – d.1951) was one of the last trustees of the Harmony Society, serving in that position from 1892-1903. The Harmonists were a religious communal society founded by Johann Georg Rapp in 1805 that exerted a major influence on the economic development of Western Pennsylvania. Duss was born in Cincinnati, and after his father was conscripted into the Confederate Army, Duss’s Mother Caroline took two year old son John to Economy, Pennsylvania to join the Harmony Society. Duss lived with the Harmonists on and off throughout his life.Duss was a musician, composer and band leader who conducted the Economy Band from 1883. This band merged with the Great Western Band of Pittsburgh in 1900 to form the Duss Concert Band and Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra. Duss also wrote The Harmonists: A Personal History (Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Book Service, 1943).

Up until Duss’s death in 1951, the John Duss Papers were known variously as the Harmony Society Archives and the Duss Memorial Exhibit. They are divided into five major categories as follows:

  • Correspondence File, 1905-1950. The bulk of the correspondence pertains to the restoration of Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Pa., the preservation of the Harmony Society records, and the publication of John Duss’s manuscript “The Harmonists: A Personal History.” Among the letters are those of Lester K. Ade, Karl J. Arndt, Mrs. Frederick G. Balz, Mrs. Frank B. Black, Donald A. Cadzow, Mary Emily Fauntleroy, Harry V. Flowers, Joseph F. Guffey, Max Henrici, Franklin F. Holbrook, Vera Duss Houston, Karl M. Knapp, Ross F. Lockeridge, Wayne A. McKenney, Frank W. Melvin, Wilbur G. Miller, Gregg L. Neel, McLeond M. Pearce, Claude Pepper, H. Ralph Sauers, Ray W. Sherman, William C. Sproul, Sylvester K. Stevens, and T.W. Templeton.
  • General File, 1883-1950. The file contains accounts of Charles A. Dickson and William J. Werner, 1905-1938; book inscriptions, 1943-1949; reviews of Duss’s book, 1943; materials relating to the Economy Centennial celebration, 1924, 1939, The Economy Old Timers, 1935-1949, and the Harmony Society Historical Society, 1917-1930; a layout of the gardens and grounds of Old Economy village, undated; legal records, 1893-1948; scrapbooks, 1882-1949; musical programs, 1893-1950; mailing lists for sheet music sales, 1895; a register of visitors to the great house, 1928-1932; Duss’s diary, 1892; and his speeches, 1915-1945.
  • Research Materials, [ca. 1940]. Among the research materials are a biographical sketch of John S. Duss; indices to materials in the Harmony Society Records (MG-185); a list of female members of the Society; a list of members who filed a declaration of intention, 1810; a list of seceders of Count De Leon, 1832; published histories; and miscellaneous items.
  • Manuscript File, [ca. 1940]. This file consists of handwritten and typed drafts of Duss’s book, “The Harmonists: A Personal History”.
  • Photographs, undated. There are approximately 100 photoprints, mostly of John S. Duss as a bandleader, including one collage of Duss and the members of his band.

For the most part, the John S. Duss materials for the period of his trusteeship of the Harmony Society, 1892-1903, are contained in the Harmony Society Papers (Manuscript Group 185). Duss’s musical compositions and library have long been housed at the PHMC’s Old Economy Village Historical Site in Ambridge. The John Duss Papers have also now been transferred to Old Economy Village.

For related records see the John S. Duss Papers. (Manuscript Group 310)Old Economy Village Collection. (Manuscript Group 354)Karl Arndt Collection of Harmony Society Materials. (Manuscript Group 437)Knoedler Family Collection. (Manuscript Group 330), and Henry Mohn Family Collection. (Manuscript Group 332), which have also been transferred to Old Economy Village.

The container listings for this Manuscript Group are available for viewing and word-searching in PDF format: