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Henry Hurford Janes-Josephine Baker collection

Call Number: JWJ MSS 2

Scope and Contents

The Henry Hurford Janes-Josephine Baker Collection contains letters, manuscripts, research notes, clippings, printed works, photographs, and miscellaneous materials gathered by Henry Hurford Janes which document his acquaintance with Josephine Baker between 1943 and 1975. The collection spans the years 1926-86, with the majority of the material falling within the dates 1943-75.

The collection is housed in 8 boxes and consists of two series: Correspondence and Personal Papers. Boxes 7 and 8 contain Oversize material from both series.

Series I, Correspondence , spans the years 1938-86. The largest range of letters are those to and from Josephine Baker. They begin in 1943, when Janes met Baker in Algiers. These early letters principally concern Janes's growing friendship with Baker and his efforts to arrange for her to give a concert in London. After the concert was successfully completed in May, 1945, Janes and Baker continued a more casual correspondence. Janes became an unofficial agent for Miss Baker in Great Britain and even planned to write a stage vehicle for her.

The correspondence decreased in the 1950s and early 1960s, as Baker performed more infrequently and was occupied with her growing family. She resumed writing to Henry Janes in 1967 because of her 12 children. On June 19, 1967, Josephine wrote that she wanted her older children to improve their English by writing to him. In the summer of 1970, Akio, Jean-Claude, Luis, and Mara Bouillon spent a month at the Janes's home in Kent, as documented by the letters of August 1970 and a manuscript in Series II (Box 4, folder 175).

In letters of 1971, Harry Janes plays a more businesslike role, acting as liaison for Josephine Baker in matters such as her involvement in a documentary about Noel Coward and the possibility of her appearing in England under the representation of Janes's friend, the agent Adza Vincent. A September 28, 1971 letter from Baker begins by discussing business affairs, but evolves into a matter of more personal importance. Here, Miss Baker reveals to Harry Janes many of the more agonizing details of her eviction from Les Milandes, the estate she lost to creditors in 1967. She writes that, while living in the kitchen of her house during the dispute over ownership of the property, several thugs, hired by the "new comers in the castle," treated her roughly and she was "thrown in the nude on the ground, under the pouring down rain . . . unable to move."

Beginning in November 1972, Janes and Baker began to correspond about the possibility of her purchasing a bed from the estate of Harry's mother-in-law that was to be sold at auction. Baker was intrigued because the bed had been authenticated as having once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. In a telegram dated November 30, 1972, Miss Baker expresses that she would like the bed so that she could say "I sleep with Napoleon." She eventually purchased the bed, but did not take delivery on the item for two years.

Letters from the first months of 1972 involve arrangements for the Janeses to host Baker's daughters Marianne and Stellina and Josephine's niece Rama Wallace for the summer. This visit in July and August of that year was disastrous. Marianne proved to be, in Harry Janes's words from his letter of July 26, 1973, "beyond your control, our control and control of herself."

The following year, the Janeses agreed to host Stellina during the following school year. Arrangements were made for her to attend St. Mary's Convent School in Folkestone. Letters from this period until Josephine Baker's death in April 1975 involve personal matters, principally those surrounding Stellina's schooling.

A number of letters from Margarette Wallace, Josephine's sister who lived with her in France, are included in the collection. Janes wrote to her after Josephine's death and secured her agreement to collaborate on a biography of her late sister. Margarette's letters, which reflect her sadness at losing her sister, are often signed "Your Black Sister."

Other family members are also represented in this series. Correspondence with Jo Bouillon deals almost exclusively with the brief legal discussion over the custody of Stellina following Josephine's death. Stellina, as well as Akio, Jari, Luis, and Marianne Bouillon and Rama Wallace also wrote to Harry Janes.

Much of Harry Janes's professional correspondence concerning Josephine Baker has been preserved in the collection. Theatrical agents Adza Vincent and Peter Lundin are represented, as are many of the publishing contacts with whom Harry Janes discussed the possibility of his writing a biography of Josephine Baker. These include Jeffrey Simmons, Yvette Morgan-Griffiths, and Michael Horniman.

Correspondence concerning Janes's work with ENSA during World War II can be found in the files of Basil Dean, Sidney du Moulin, Edward Stirling, Constance Sykes, and Virginia Vernon. Letters related to his research on Josephine Baker are found in the files of Kaori O'Connor and Lars Sorenson. Also present are letters from friends of Harry Janes who lived on the southern coast of France near Josephine Baker. These include Helen Leyson-Cooney and Mabel Collingwood-Whittick. Several letters dated May 1945 are fan letters to Josephine Baker handled by Harry Janes.

Series II, Personal Papers is divided in four subseries. The first subseries, Biographical Materials, is further divided into four sections. The first section, Manuscripts, consists of articles written by Harry Janes and others about Josephine Baker. Included here are "Dress Rehearsal Sporting Club (Summer Casino) Monte Carlo" (Box 4, folder 149) about Josephine preparing for a show, and "Josephine- and Mr. Bull" from 1946-47. Among the Writings by Others are Josephine Baker's "Declaration for the World Press" (Box 4, folder 158) and Margarette Wallace's handwritten "The True Life of Josephine" (Box 4, folder 170). Included in the Research Notes section are Janes's various accounts of visits with Josephine and her children. The Newspaper Clippings principally concern Josephine's stage appearances and her death.

Found among the Printed Material are posters, flyers, and various memorabilia of the ENSA concert arranged by Harry Janes in May 1945; programs from various stage performances by Josephine Baker, and complete copies of magazines which profiled Josephine Baker following her death. Photographs include portraits of Josephine Baker from the 1940s, photographs of her entertaining troops in Cairo, and a set of photographic cards of her in her most famous outfits from the 1920s. The final subseries, Related Papers, contains material from persons other than Josephine Baker. The Stellina Bouillon file contains a report card and several drawings by her. The Reginald McEnery file (Harry Janes's father-in-law) contains his burial certificate.

Boxes 7 and 8 contain Oversize material from both series, arranged in series order.


  • 1926-1986


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Henry Hurford Janes-Josephine Baker Collection 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

The papers were purchased at auction in 1987 for the James Weldon Johnson Collection with monies from the James Weldon Johnson Fund.


6 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Henry Hurford Janes-Josephine Baker Collection consists of letters, biographical materials, clippings, and photographs collected by Mr. Janes documenting Josephine Baker's life, principally after 1943.


Henry Hurford Janes (known as Harry) was born in 1909 in Chelsea, England. Initially trained to be a private secretary, his penchant for writing was encouraged by the publication of his first article at the age of 20 which launched his career as a writer. In 1939, Janes joined the British Expeditionary Force as a private and was eventually promoted to be the personal assistant to the director of National Service Entertainment, Basil Dean. ENSA, the Entertainments National Service Association, which provided entertainment for British troops, similar to the American USO, took Janes to a number of battlefield locations.

He met Josephine Baker in 1943 in Algiers where, despite rumors about her demise, she was performing for Allied soldiers in Northern Africa. Janes began a long-lasting acquaintance with Miss Baker and began to negotiate for her to come to England for a performance for British troops. After two years of planning, the Gala Variety Concert featuring Baker and Noel Coward took place May 14, 1945 at the Cambridge Theatre in London.

After World War II, Janes took a position as secretary to a Member of Parliament, but soon left to pursue a full-time career as a freelance writer. He produced articles (for such publications as the Evening News) and short stories as well as plays. His Lady Must Sell debuted in 1948, followed by Under the Skin in 1953 and various scripts for BBC and ITV. He married his wife, Peggy, in 1954.

During the following decades, he specialized in commissioned industrial biographies and booklets on historical events. His friendship with Josephine Baker resumed during the late 1960s when Miss Baker began to tour again after a period of semi-retirement. Baker christened Janes and his wife the English "godparents" of her 12 adopted children. The Janeses quickly began to fulfill these roles by hosting many of Baker's children during summer vacations in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The youngest child, Stellina, was in the care of Harry and Peggy Janes, attending a convent school, when Baker died in April, 1975. Harry Janes initially questioned who should have custody over the young girl he and his wife had grown fond of, but soon deferred to Stellina's adoptive father, Jo Bouillon.

In the early 1970s, Harry Janes had started to gather notes about Joephine Baker's life and his interactions with her in preparation for a biography. He wrote several short biographical sketches, but a complete book was never published.


Josephine Baker was born on June 6, 1906 in East St. Louis, Missouri. Around the age of 13, she began dancing as a chorus girl in an all-black revue that toured the United States. At 16, she landed a prominent role in Shuffle Along, the first black musical to play on Broadway. Her cross-eyed, comic performances along with her naturally graceful dancing caught the eye of a scout who was organizing a black revue to open in Paris.

Even before La Revue Nègre opened at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Parisians were entranced by the image of Josephine Baker on posters that advertised the show. Her "Dance of the Savages," a feral duet she performed wearing only a handful of pink feathers, caused an uproar that signaled the ascension of a new cabaret star in Paris. Baker was swept up in the adoration of the Lost Generation that inhabited the city. She posed for Picasso, was photographed by Man Ray, and was sculpted by Alexander Calder. She soon established residence in Paris and in 1926 starred in the Folies-Bergère, performing her famous banana dance. As her fame grew, Baker branched out into a wider realm of performance. She learned to sing and made the film La Sirène des Tropiques in 1927. More successful films, Zou-Zou and Princess Tam-Tam, followed in the 1930s.

The accounts of Baker's marriages before she achieved stardom are sketchy, at best. Her liaisons in Paris are more accurately chronicled. She was engaged to Pepito Abitano during the late 1920s and early 1930s when she toured Europe and eventually the United States. She was performing in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 when Abitano died. After her return to Paris, she married sugar broker Jean Lion. The marriage soon ended in divorce and Baker began to devote her energies to the war effort. In the 1940s, besides entertaining French troops, Baker did secret intelligence work for France, earning the rank of lieutenant in the Women's Auxiliary of the Free French Air Force.

Baker returned to the stage at the end of the war, touring with orchestra leader Jo Bouillon, who would become her husband in 1947. During this period of her life, Baker's stage career would become subordinate to her most intimate of projects, her family. Unable to bear children, she adopted a total of 12 children over a period of 12 years. This "Rainbow Tribe," as she called them, came from 9 different countries, most from impoverished backgrounds. The family lived at "Les Milandes," a country estate in the Dordogne in southern France that Josephine transformed into a center for tourism, complete with a cabaret and "Le Jorama," a museum of Josephine Baker memorabilia.

After her separation from Jo Bouillon in 1960, Baker's dream of a tranquil retirement began to fall apart. She grew increasingly in debt, eventually losing her beloved Milandes estate to creditors in 1967. She was rescued by her friend Princess Grace of Monaco, who offered a government property in nearby Roquebrune-Cap-Martin for Baker to raise her children. However, Baker needed to satisfy other debts, which led her back to the stage. The early 1970s saw a renewed interest in her performance and a personal revitalization for Baker. Her last great triumph was in early April 1975 when she appeared at the Bobino Theater in a 50-year retrospective of her career. It was here, in Paris, that she died on April 12, 1975, having suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after falling asleep in her bedroom, newspapers praising her comeback scattered around her.

Guide to the Henry Hurford Janes-Josephine Baker Collection
Under Revision
by Timothy G. Young
July 1992
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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