At the Library of Congress

Washington D.C.

I was in Washington DC for the first time ever in late May 1999, a combination of business and pleasure. My wife was invited to the American Psychiatric Association's annual convention, and I went along for part of the ride (as well as to attend several Alzheimer's symposia on a Guest Membership, since I have my interest in Geriatric Medicine). My wife was pretty busy much of the time, and although we did a bit of touring of the monuments and sites together, I found myself left to my own devices much of the time.

On Saturday, I headed over in the late afternoon to the Library of Congress. With my love of books and all, it was a natural destination. There was a very interesting public display of important American History relics that I strolled through. There was a display case that had the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets the day he was assassinated, there were ancient Edison recording cylinders and early Edison movies, there were antique versions of the scores for "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Take Me Out the Ball Game", vintage Tarzan pulp magazine appearances, and more.

One display case particularly intrigued me (see image above). There was a big old-fashioned radio microphone, with an NBC script book open next to it. On the printed page was the transcript of the announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, with particular passages underlined in thick black ink for emphasis...there was also a small placard stating that NBC had donated microfilm scripts to the Library of Congress in 1992, from all their broadcasts from the 1930s and the 1950s. My eyes fixed on those words, and I wondered to myself; I knew the Library of Congress had a handful of "I Love A Mystery" recordings; might they have some ILAM scripts, too?

Early Monday morning, I headed over the Jefferson Building, and got a Reader's Card, a free photo-id card that allowed me to conduct research in the collective libraries of the Library of Congress. I next headed over to the Madison Building directly south. After some hassle getting past the metal detectors, I managed to find my way through some very bare and non-descript corridors to the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (room LM 115). The folks at the information desk referred me to the Recorded Sound information desk, and I headed to that end of the hall, to a smaller room filled with filing cabinets, several desks with computers, old-fashioned card catalogues, and the walls covered with bookshelves and framed prints about the broadcast and recording industry.

When asked, the librarian I spoke to instantly knew what I was talking about, when I said I wanted to see what "I Love A Mystery" and Carlton E. Morse materials they had in their archives. He provided me a great deal of help as he gave me a tour of the facilities they had at the Recorded Sound Reference desk. And there indeed was quite a bit of ILAM materials!

The Library of Congress's "Carlton E. Morse" Holdings

The Library of Congress had the following ILAM and Morse materials available for reference:

1) Scripts

A list of these, along with the date on the very first script episode of each includes:

From NBC Mystery Serial:

"City of the Dead" September 26th, 1930.
"Dead Men Prowl" Wednesday October 28th, 1931.

From NBC run of ILAM:

"The Snake With the Diamond Eyes" June 13th, 1940
"The Twenty Traitors of Timbuktu" December 27th, 1943
"You Can't Pin a Murder on Nevada" Monday May 15th, 1944

From ABC run of "I Love Adventure":

*All* thirteen 1/2 scripts.

From "Adventures By Morse":

"You'll Be Dead In A Week"

From MBS run of ILAM:

"The Battle of the Century" January 30th, 1950
"The Tropics Don't Call It Murder" February 23rd, 1950
"Murder Hollywood Style" August 9th, 1951
"The Girl in the Gilded Cage" August 30th, 1951
"Murder is the Word For It" December 17th, 1951
"The Graves of Whamperjaw, Texas" February 18th, 1952
"The Cobra King Strikes Back". September 1, 1952
"The Bride of the Werewolf" November 20th, 1952
"Find Elsa Holberg, Dead Or Alive" December 11th, 1952.

2) Recordings

Available are such ILAM fragments as episode 3 of "THE CASE OF THE ROXY MOB," as well as all the recent "Ed Carr" fragments (e.g.. from SECRET PASSAGE TO DEATH, TROPICS DON'T CALL IT MURDER, MONSTER IN THE MANSION, etc.). Alas, nothing new to me, but still interesting to see what they have (*Note that there are some intriguing and cryptically labeled materials that have since surfaced and are are listed on their on-line catalogue; I leave their identification for others for the time being!).

There are many other Morse related recordings, some from ONE MAN'S FAMILY, others from such shows as "I AM AN AMERICAN" and "HIS HONOR, THE BARBER." There was even a 10 minute recording of Morse, taken in 1937, where he speaks about his experience of being the first paid customer on the Pacific China Clipper, flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong!

3) Subject files

A number of files were on hand devoted to both Carlton E. Morse and "I Love A Mystery."

With pleasure, I noted Jay Hickerson's log, a complete run of the ILAM fanzine, "The A-1 Gazette", along with correspondences with other ILAM scholars from the early 1980s to the 1990s. There was also in this file a print out from the Library of Congress's COHM computer system, listing all the ILAM scripts of Mr. Morse's that his lawyer--a Mr. Richard A. Ferguson--that have been registered with the US Copyright office in 1986 and 1992 (including many not present in paper copy in the archives of the Sound and Recording Department). Lacking time, I actually did not visit the US Copyright Office on the 4th floor of the Madison building, but I was assured by the Sound and Recording Librarian that one could access the registry via the WWW/Internet to see what scripts they had registered and archived at the Library of Congress.

4) Microfilm

In NBC donated 16 mm microfilm copies of their Blue, Red and World network scripts from the period ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s. The microfilm itself is yellowed, brittle and tends to break, and takes a great deal of time to read through, since you need an exact date and time to search for individual shows. The microfiche catalogue is also a bit of a dog's breakfast, too. I actually didn't have time to use this resource, but I'd be curious to see if some of the non Pacific Coast NBC ILAM scripts would be included in this historical archive.

Notes On Reviewing their Carlton E. Morse and ILAM Collection

With my limited time, and the impossibility of making photocopy reproductions of any of the materials at the Library of Congress (there's a contractual restriction that forbids the LOC from making copies unless permission is granted, in this case, by the trustee of the Morse Family Trust, Mr. Richard A. Ferguson), I had to plan my time carefully. I decided not to listen to ILAM recordings I already had (I could have arranged to make cassette recordings for $75 US/hour, but decided to save my money). Instead, I decided to read the scripts they already had in paper form, and to take a few scribbled notes.

I chose the scripts I read at the Library of Congress's Sound and Recording Division based on both my own interest (i.e.. how a partial story turned out), as well as to read stories considered "lost" by other Morse script archives. In the end, I managed to read all of the following ILAM scripts:

"The Graves of Whamperjaw, Texas" February 18th, 1952
"Find Elsa Holberg, Dead Or Alive" December 11th, 1952
"You Can't Pin a Murder on Nevada" Monday May 15th, 1944
"Murder Hollywood Style" August 9th, 1951
"The Twenty Traitors of Timbuktu" December 27th, 1943
(alas, only the first 110 of 525 pages, since the library closed on me at this point--arghh!--but I *was* able to capture the gist and essence of the story).

I was also able to confirm dates on a few ILAM recording and script fragments in my possession, too, those for GIRL IN THE GILDED CAGE and THE SNAKE WITH THE DIAMOND EYES. THE COBRA KING STRIKES BACK is an obvious rewrite of the MBS story of the same name.

I've already finished the synopses for "The Graves of Whamperjaw, Texas", "You Can't Pin a Murder on Nevada", "Find Elsa Holberg, Dead or Alive", and "Murder Hollywood Style" in HTML form, and you can read these by accessing the "Synopses of Lost ILAM" page, via the link below!

I hope you'll enjoy reading them!



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