Polka and Vitak-Elsnic Collections

About the Collections

The archival polka collections contain thousands of music scores and recordings of polkas, schottisches, fox trots, waltzes and marches. The collections are in three parts: music scores, containing two copies of all Vitak-Elsnic Company music score publications; the Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records, containing all surviving documents from the Company’s long history; and sound recordings, containing polka recordings of various musicians and styles from historic to new.

Vitak-Elsnic Collection of Music Scores

Co-founded by Czech immigrants and former Ohioans Louis Vitak and Otto Georgi (and later Joseph Elsnic, Vitak’s nephew), the Vitak-Elsnic Company was one of the nation’s most important publishers of music scores for polka and related styles. The collection contains music scores published by the Vitak-Elsnic Company from their founding in 1912 to when they were purchased by Brown Distributing Company in 1986. The scores include polka arrangements for various instruments and ensembles, such as accordion (solo and ensemble), concertina, piano, band and orchestra. Polka is part of America’s varied musical and cultural heritage, and nearly all of the music in the Vitak-Elsnic Collection was composed or arranged by Americans, many of whom were of central European descent.

A 2015 gift of the Music Publishers of America (MPA), BGSU’s Vitak-Elsnic Collection of Music Scores is for research and preservation only. To order scores and parts for personal use, consult the Vitak-Elsnic site for purchase of materials as instant downloads. To request performance rights, review the company’s licensing page.

Read more about the collection and the gift to BGSU in the press release that accompanied the receipt of the gift.

Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records

The Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records is a collection of seventy-three archival boxes that contain materials related to both the operation of the publishing company and the American polka music scene itself. Dating back to the early 1900s, the collection contains all surviving original documentation of correspondence between publishers and performers, inventory cards, arrangement agreements, copyright claims, catalog lists, manuscripts, realia and handwritten drafts of original tunes.

Polka Recordings

Patrons can browse and listen to thousands of historic and contemporary polka recordings. The vast collection of vinyl records highlights both regional groups and the most famous, nationally recognized polka musicians of the mid-twentieth century. CDs in the collection show how polka has changed in more recent decades. Visitors can listen to these recordings in the Music Library and Bill Schurk Sound Archives.

Accessing the Collections

There are three resources to help patrons find materials related to polka and the Vitak-Elsnic Company. All music scores published by Vitak-Elsnic (more than 3,000) can be found by perusing “Vitak-Elsnic Collection” as a title in the Library Catalog. Information about the Vitak-Elsnic Company Business Records (MUSIC 007) can be found in the collection’s finding aid. To find polka recordings, search the catalog for “polkas” as a genre and limit the material type to sound recording.

All are welcome to visit the Jerome Library and use the polka collections. Please contact us with further questions.

Support the Collections

For information about supporting the collections, please see the MLBSSA donating page or consider a monetary donation to the Vitak-Elsnic Polka Preservation Fund.

Updated: 06/07/2024 09:50AM