Archival Research Collections at the University of Oklahoma

Gould, Betty Papers Edit




  • circa 1910-1985 (Creation)


  • 1.00 cubic feet (Whole)



  • Physical Description

    1 Box, mostly photographs; 1 Oversize Folder, photographs; 1 piece of ephemera

  • Language of Materials


  • Administrative History:

    Betty Gould, was born Sente Lisbette Rohde in Michigan in 1896. Her parents, August and Anna Rohde were German immigrants, and Betty did not learn to speak English until around the age of five. By age eleven, Betty was playing piano accompaniments to Vaudeville acts in Michigan and by age fifteen, she was living in Detroit with her sister and playing the piano for silent films. Betty got her first theatre organ job in Minneapolis-St. Paul where she met Dan Barton who helped her to master theatre organ technique. During her twenties she moved from Minnesota, to Detroit, to Chicago, and finally to New York with her husband David Gould, and twin daughters Betty and Margaret. During this time she was designated "All Chicago Organist" at the International Jazz Congress, and played on organs all over Chicago.

    At age 34, she began playing on the Stapleton Paramount twin-console organ (3/3/19 Wurlitzer) in Staten Island with Priscilla "Jean" Holbrook. Later work included opening the RKO Roxy Theatre (Center Theatre) in the Rockefeller Radio City Complex where she played on the RKO Roxy (4/34 Wurlitzer), doing radio broadcasts for NBC and WMCA (New York's first independent station) where she had her own show "Sing Something Simple," and came to be known as "Radio's Princess of the Console."

    In 1942, Betty moved to Connecticut to play hotel jobs until 1947 when she returned to New York. She played in hotels until 1949 when, at age 53, she became ill and decided to move west. She played in Tucson and Albuquerque, New Mexico where she met Bill Brown. She also played in California before settling in Arizona. She was an active member of the Phoenix Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS), and was admitted to the ATOS Hall of Fame in 1975. She played regularly on the Organ Stop Pizza (4/28 Wurlitzer) in Phoenix, Arizona during the seventies. She was preceded in death by her daughter Margaret in 1984.

    There is an article within the collection by Ron Rhode and Karl Warner which chronicles every instrument Betty was employed to play.

  • Acquisition Information:


  • Conditions Governing Use:

    Any use of archival materials outside of the scope of education and/or research must be approved by the AOIAL staff and may be subject to copyright law.

  • Conditions Governing Access:

    The collection is open for research use.

  • Preferred Citation:

    Betty Gould Papers. American Theatre Organ Collections at the American Organ Institute Archives and Library, University of Oklahoma.

  • Arrangement of Materials:

    The collection is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically by folder title, with exceptions made for materials that require separate housing (oversized, ephemera, etc.).

  • Scope and Contents

    The collection consists of the papers of Betty Gould from approximately 1910-1985. The collection documents Betty's career as a theatre organist across the country, from her earliest headshots, to her time working with Priscilla "Jean" Holbrook on the twin-console Wurlitzer on Staten Island as "Betty and Jean," to her radio career, and her many concerts at Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, Arizona. The papers include photographs, printed material, correspondence, and ephemera. The bulk of the collection is photographs made as headshots or publicity stills, but there are also performance programs, articles about Betty, newspaper scrapbook pages, private letters and photocopied family photographs, and a handmade nameplate for a desk bearing Betty's name. The collection does not include a lot of private information but is a good representation of Betty Gould's life and works as a theatre organist in the United States.

  • Processing Information

    In October 2017, Assistant Archivist Brynn Simons reprocessed the Betty Gould Papers. This reprocessing included adding unique item identifiers, renaming folders, and making series-level distinctions. This reprocessing demonstrates the American Organ Institute Archives and Library's desire to follow current archival standards.