In 1973, the nature of television programming changed with the broadcast of the 12-episode PBS series, An American Family. Detailing the daily life of the Loud Family of Santa Barbara, California, the program was a new type of documentary aimed at examining the contemporary family. The response from viewers, millions tuned in to watch each episode, proved that it was much more than that. It became a sensation that paved the way for today’s “reality TV”.
The Louds – Bill, Patricia (Pat), and their children, Lance, Kevin, Grant, Delilah, and Michele – have lived private as well as public lives in the 40-plus years following the program’s original broadcast. Pat Loud wrote a memoir, A Woman’s Story, while Lance Loud, the eldest child and highest-profile member of the family, went on to a career in music and journalism. The program was revisited and rebroadcast over the years and a fiction film based on the series was made by HBO in 2011.
The family kept key documents about their lives and their experience as the subjects of a landmark television program. Lance, who passed away in 2001, kept the most complete archive, focusing on his career.
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired the Lance Loud and Loud Family Papers in 2014 and has recently finished cataloging them. Housed in 30 boxes, the papers include clippings files, fan letters, press kits and related documentation of the reception of the show by critics and viewers, as well as family photo albums. Lance Loud’s papers include drafts of his articles and interviews, promotional material for his band, the Mumps, and memorabilia included in the recent book Lance Out Loud, edited by Pat Loud.