Series VI: Photographs, circa 1845-1967 (bulk 1932-1964)
Scope and Contents
Van Vechten presented his photographs across a range of print sizes usually with a "portrait" orientation. These prints range in measurements from approximately 10 inches by 8 inches (25.4 centimeters by 20.32 centimeters) to oversize prints between 10 inches by 8 inches (25.4 centimeters by 20.32 centimeters) and 14 inches by 11 inches (35.56 centimeters by 27.94 centimeters) as well as photographic postcards 5.5 inches by 3.5 inches (13.97 centimeters by 8.89 centimeters). He also created 35-millimeter color slides in cardboard mounts that measure 2 inches by 2 inches (5.08 centimeters by 5.08 centimeters).
Portraits document Van Vechten's friendships and acquaintances with writers, artists, musicians, singers, actors, social activists and others in New York City as well as throughout the United States and abroad. Especially well represented in his photography are members of the African-American community, although many of the prints of these images form part of the Carl Van Vechten Papers Relating to African American Arts and Letters (JWJ MSS 1050) at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
A group of images documents the Stage Door Canteen (American Theatre Wing) during World War II in the basement of the 44th Street Theatre at 216 West 44th Street in New York City. The canteen offered servicemen nights of free dancing, entertainment, food, and nonalcoholic drinks as well as opportunities to rub shoulders with celebrities who volunteered at it. Van Vechten also created tableaus of the Canteen and its activities in his apartment at 101 Central Park West that included servicemen and public figures.
Events documented related to the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at the Yale University Library include the opening of the collection on January 7, 1950, and a party hosted by Nora Douglas Holt for singers on September 9, 1959, as well as an exhibition, Carl Van Vechten: His Gifts to Yale, an Exhibition in Honor of his Seventy-fifth Birthday, held at the Library on June 22, 1955. Events in New York City include Josephine Baker Day in Harlem on May 20, 1951, and discrete parades related to the Peace Mission Movement and Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, 1935-1939. Photographs record the wedding of Carmen De Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder and ensuing reception in Westport, Connecticut, on June 26, 1955. There are also groups of photographs that document attendees at birthday parties for Lawrence Langner at Langner Lane Farm, Weston, Connecticut, in late May 1937, 1939, and 1949. There are also a few informal views made by Van Vechten of theatrical and vocal performances from his seat in audiences.
Views of places include sites in New York City, especially in and around the borough of Manhattan and the Harlem neighborhood. Other sites well documented include trips by Carl Van Vechten throughout North America with Mark Lutz and others. These trips include visits to Quebec in August 1932; California, Arizona, and the New Southwest in July 1933; New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut in July-August 1936; Massachusetts in July 1938; New Mexico in August 1950. There are also views from trips abroad by Carl Van Vechten with Mark Lutz, Fania Marinoff, John Breon, and others. These trips include tours of England, German, Italy, and France in May-June 1934; Morocco, Spain, and Italy in May-June 1935; Italy and France in September-October 1949; Caribbean islands, Cuba, and Panama in February-March 1951.
Color slides in the collection consist of three discrete groups of images that document musicians, theatrical productions related to the work of Gertrude Stein, and still lifes of hats owned by Fania Marinoff.
The series includes the source 35-millimeter film negatives for the images. The film negative roll numbers are referenced in this guide and often appear on the versos of photographic prints. In cases where Van Vechten captured a subject across multiple rolls of film, the resultant prints are housed in discrete folders for each roll. Folder-level notes identify the roll numbers for the film.
- circa 1845-1967 (bulk 1932-1964)
- Majority of material found within Bulk, 1932–1964
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Box 176 is for research use only, and may not be duplicated.
Boxes 206-209, 213-217, 223: Restricted fragile material. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Boxes 313-324: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files with the exception of clippings relating to World War I and Edgar Saltus which were too fragile to be duplicated. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Box 325: Restricted until 2035. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Boxes 566-573: Restricted fragile material and not available for research. Duplicate copies of these negatives are available in the subseries "Copy Negatives on 35-millimeter Film," boxes 610-625. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Conditions Governing Use
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.