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Little Brown Jug Oral History Project

From summer 2018 through spring 2020, the Center for Folklore Studies (CFS) collaborated with the Delaware County Historical Society (DCHS), specifically Richard Leavy (volunteer at DCHS and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Ohio Wesleyan University) and Karen Cowan (longtime volunteer at DCHS), to assist with an oral history project about the annual Little Brown Jug (LBJ) harness race that take place in Delaware County, Ohio, in late September.

The LBJ is the jewel in the Triple Crown of harness racing for pacers that draws over 50,000 attendees and participants from across the United States, Canada, and Australia. While it is clear that attendees are passionate about “Jug Week,” and people were eager to share their personal memories surrounding the LBJ, a multi-perspective oral history that explored the cultural and economic impact of the event had yet to be conducted. The LBJ Oral History Project (LBJOHP) was especially important as the event approached it’s 75th anniversary in 2020.

In autumn 2018, the DCHS was awarded a Cultural Heritage Tourism Planning Grant from Ohio Humanities to conduct preliminary conversations and fieldwork in order to develop the oral history project. The planning committee sought to collect, interpret, and disseminate stories about the LBJ that reflected attitudes related to larger changes occurring within harness racing as well as Delaware County. Locally, Delaware County’s population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2017, reflecting the expansion of Columbus’ commuter population that seeks suburban life within a 30-minute drive of the city. LBJOHP organizers sought to bridge the gap between longtime and recently-arrived residents of the county by focusing on the LBJ as a shared cultural event tied to the history of the area.

In autumn 2018, four folklorists—Jess Reese Lamar Holler, Mariah E. Marsden, Laura Pearce, and Sydney Varajon—were recruited from CFS’s graduate student and alumni cohorts to serve as fieldworkers for the project, using their ethnographic skills to simultaneously experience and document Jug Week. They participated in preliminary fieldwork and project planning meetings, prepared fieldnotes, assembled the initial archive of contemporary experiences of the Jug, and generated a list of recommended interviewees and project outcomes. In autumn 2019, Anthony Maggio (via an Archival Internship at the Folklore Archives) and Mariah Marsden (via her Graduate Administrative Assistantship at the Folklore Archives) built on previous work by attending and documenting Jug Week, adding photographs and interviews to the collection, and assisting in the preparation of this digital gallery.

The Little Brown Jug Oral History Project (LBJOHP) includes:

1 finding aid (which details the images and photographs collected by OSU collaborators)
1,020 digital photographs
28 interviews (some short interviews conducted during Jug Week and several others are longer, arranged, sit-down interviews; some interviews are held exclusively at DCHS)
21 video files (short clips of racing activity)
11 audio files (short clips of racing activity)
Administrative documents related to the collaboration

While the Folklore Archives retain and preserve a copy of the LBJOHP Collection, we encourage individuals interested in accessing the collection to submit requests to the Delaware County Historical Society in order to receive the most detailed information about the collection, its contents, and the local history and significance of the LBJ. Visit the Delaware County Historical Society or email info@delawareohiohistory.org to access the LBJOHP Collection.

Collaborators (2018-2020)

Karen Cowan, Volunteer, Delaware County Historical Society
Jess Lamar Reece Holler, Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University
Dan Leary, United States Trotters Association
Dr. Richard Leavy, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Ohio Wesleyan University
Anthony Maggio, Undergraduate Archival Intern, Center for Folklore Studies, Ohio State University
Mariah E. Marsden, PhD Student, Department of English and Graduate Administrative Assistant, Center for Folklore Studies, Ohio State University
Ohio Humanities
Dr. Cassie Rosita Patterson, Assistant Director, Center for Folklore Studies, Ohio State University
Laura Pearce, Aluma, East Asian Studies, and Administrative Associate to the Dean for Academic Affairs in the Graduate School, Ohio State University
Dr. Howard Sacks, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Kenyon College
Sydney Varajon, PhD Candidate, Department of English, Ohio State University
Jay Wolf, Little Brown Jug Society

Funding for the planning phase of this project was generously provided by Ohio Humanities.