The earliest known/surviving field recordings are those made of Passamaquoddy indians in Maine by Jesse Walter Fewkes in 1890. He also recorded among the Zuni in the southwest United States.

There were a significant number of field recordists in the United States in 1890 to 1930 period, most of them working with cylinder equipment. They include Robert Winslow Gordon, Frances Densmore, Francis La Flesche, Alice Cunningham Fletcher and John Lomax. Many of these collectors focused on Native Americans. I don't know of any field recordings of former slaves in this period, although Gordon made some important African-American recordings, and he was not the only one. Some of Gordon's recordings can be heard at:

Matthew Barton
The Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20540-4610
email: [log in to unmask]

>>> Don Cox <[log in to unmask]> 4/27/2007 5:22:24 PM >>>
Kodaly and Bartok were making field recordings in Hungary long before
1929. So were collectors in Britain.

Was nobody doing any field recording in the US in the 1900s?

There was certainly an interest in black culture - for instance, Joel
Chandler Harris's records of folk tales and transcriptions of dialects.

Don Cox
[log in to unmask]