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David Hursh, head music librarian at Joyner Library, talks about his book, “Good Medicine and Good Music: A Biography of Mrs. Joe Person” at the library. In the audience were descendants of Person. (Photos by Jeannine Manning Hutson)

Donation Culminates in Award-winning Faculty Publication

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

In 2000, Harry Stubbs IV of Arlington, Va., an East Carolina University alumnus, donated sheet music published by his great-great grandmother, folk musician and patent medicine entrepreneur, Alice Morgan Person, to the Joyner Library.

That donation became the basis of a prize-winning audio digital exhibit created by Joyner Library faculty member and Head Music Librarian David Hursh.

Hursh’s curiosity about Person (1840-1913), her life and work led to his research and publication with co-author and ethnomusicologist Dr. Chris Goertzen of the University of Mississippi in Hattiesburg of “Good Medicine and Good Music: A Biography of Mrs. Joe Person.” (McFarland & Company, 2009). 

In October, the North Carolina Society of Historians awarded the biography its Willie Parker Peace History Book Award.

An unopened bottle of Alice Morgan Person's famed "remedy" was on display at the presentation.

On Nov. 6, Joyner Library marked the book’s publication with a presentation by Hursh and a book signing. The book’s publication fulfilled the aspirations and early work by Alice Person and her great-granddaughter Louise Scott Stephenson of Raleigh (1921-2002). Both women had hoped to publish the autobiography that Alice Person completed in 1903, but neither lived to see the book in print. Hursh became involved in the book project after meeting Stephenson in 2000; he finished her project, and the book is dedicated to her. 

“Good Medicine and Good Music” not only includes Person’s biography, it also contains research that fills gaps left by Person and discusses her contributions to the history of American folk music and patent medicine. 
  A number of her descendants were present for the book signing, Alice Person memorabilia was displayed, including an unopened bottle of her famed “remedy,” and her folk tune arrangements were played.


“Good Medicine and Good Music: A Biography of Mrs. Joe Person” is available for purchase at the publisher’s Web site, .

This story appeared originally in the Nov. 24, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at