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Vic Dickenson papers

Call Number: JWJ MSS 319

Scope and Contents

The collection contains musical scores, correspondence, photographs, musical instruments, jewelry and accessories, personal and professional papers, printed material, audiotapes, and other papers by or relating to African American jazz trombonist Vic Dickenson and his family.

Musical scores document Dickenson's collaborations with Bobby Hackett and Lucille Hall. Correspondence primarily consists of postcards and greeting cards from entertainers such as Tommy Benford, Doc Cheatham, Bob Crosby, Bob Haggart, Benny Morton, Gerry Mulligan, Red Richards, Clark Terry, Sir Charles Thompson, and Trummy Young, and authors Stanley Dance and Rosetta Reitz. Correspondence with Dickenson's parents and siblings is also present. The collection contains photographs of musicians Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Benny Carter, Buck Clayton, Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Charles Mingus, and Pee Wee Russell. Included are scenes from the "A Great Day in Harlem" shoot for Esquire and rehearsals for "The Sound of Jazz," photographed by bassist Milt Hinton. Musical instruments consist of a Wurlitzer trombone, Vincent Bach Stradivarius trumpet, mutes, and a Hohner melodica. Accessories include tie tacks and cufflinks with a trombone design, pin-back buttons relating to jazz festivals, and several felt hats. Personal and professional papers contain notes, writings, drawings, scrapbooks, financial records, certificates, and Dickenson's 1982 Grammy nomination. Printed material consists of fliers, programs, invitations, and other ephemera for performances by Dickenson, Saints and Sinners, and the World's Greatest Jazz Band, as well as magazines relating to jazz. Audiotapes include live recordings of Dickenson, Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russell, and other musicians.

Dickenson family papers consist of correspondence, photographs, and financial records documenting the lives of Dickenson's great-grandmother Jane Mayo, grandmother Martha Alexander, and mother Lou Ellyn Dickenson. Photographs include cartes-de-visite, cabinet photographs, and photographic prints dating from the 1880s. A photograph album shows several generations of the Dickenson family, students at Wilberforce Univerity, and Black soldiers in uniform from 1919 to 1921.


  • 1870-1992


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Box 15 (sound recordings): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Vic Dickenson Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Langdon Manor Books, LLC on the Edwin J. Beinecke Book Fund, 2018, 2019.


Organized into three series: I. Vic Dickenson Papers, 1910-1992, undated. II. Dickenson Family Papers, 1870-1966. III. Sound Recordings, 1972-1992, undated.


11.97 Linear Feet (24 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection contains musical scores, correspondence, photographs, musical instruments, jewelry and accessories, personal and professional papers, printed material, audiotapes, and other papers by or relating to African American jazz trombonist Vic Dickenson and his family.

Vic Dickenson (1906-1984)

Arthur Victor "Vic" Dickenson was an African American jazz trombonist born in Xenia, Ohio. Dickenson began his career in the early 1920s when he formed a band with his brother Carlos and moved to Columbus, Ohio. Thereafter he traveled frequently and played with different groups. Dickenson joined Blanche Calloway's orchestra in the early 1930s and played with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1940-1941. In 1943, he joined a sextet led by pianist Eddie Heywood. Dickenson subsequently led his own bands from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. In 1953, he recorded The Vic Dickenson Showcase for Vanguard with Ed Hall on clarinet and Ruby Braff on trumpet. Dickenson appeared on the CBS television program "The Sound of Jazz" in 1957 with Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Gerry Mulligan, and Billie Holiday, and in 1958, he was among the 57 jazz musicians photographed by Art Kane for Esquire magazine's "A Great Day in Harlem" shoot. In the 1950s, Dickenson often performed with Bobby Hackett. He also collaborated with Sidney Bechet, Bucky Clayton, and Pee Wee Russell. In the 1960s, Dickenson was a member of the jazz ensemble Saints and Sinners, and he joined the World's Greatest Jazz Band in the 1970s. In 1982, the Vic Dickenson Quintet was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Group.

Dickenson met Otealia Foyer in 1932, and they married four years later. He died in New York in 1984.

Dickenson Family

Jane Mayo was Vic Dickenson's great-grandmother. She lived in Catlettsburg, Kentucky and was married to Anderson Nelson until his death in 1871. She remarried in 1875 to Hampton Mayo. Martha Alexander (1847-1919) was Jane Mayo's daughter; her children included Cora, Joe, and Lou Ellyn (1872-1951), Dickenson's mother. Lou Ellyn married Robert Dickenson from Ceredo, West Virginia and settled in Xenia, Ohio, where they had nine children, including Vic, Arthur, Robert, Carlos, and Mae.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Vic Dickenson Papers
by Brooke McManus
February 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Opening Hours

Access Information

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.