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Carl Van Vechten memorial collection of arts and letters

Identifier: MS-91

Scope and Contents

Photographs, sheet music, playbills, prints, publications, sound recordings, programs, souvenir books, correspondence, drawings, broadsides, articles, ephemera, manuscripts, and journal issues relating to the theater, music, dance, and literature.  Although not limited to materials related to African American artists and their works, the collection includes a large number of materials documenting African American artistic endeavors during the early and mid-twentieth century. The collection was assembled by Bruce Kellner and donated to Ganser Library in honor of Carl Van Vechten. The photographic portion of the collection consists primarily of Carl Van Vechten's portraits of influential actors, writers, and artists of the New York stage. Amongst the photographic prints are rare portraits of notable African American authors, entertainers, and a few athletes. The collection also includes drawings, prints, and published works illustrated by Miguel Covarrubias. The sheet music series includes music for patriotic songs, ballads, musical selections from popular theater and film productions, and works composed or popularized by well-known artists including Irving Berlin, Stephen C. Foster, Duke Ellington and Bob Russell, and George and Ira Gershwin.  The bulk of this portion of the collection dates from the World War I era through the World War II era.  Amongst the notable items in the collection related to African Americans and their place in American society and culture are correspondence and legal documents dealing with to the purchase of slaves (1823-1828), broadsides depicting African Americans, published works, correspondence and typescripts by Langston Hughes, and issues of periodicals published by members of the African American community.  Sound recordings of jazz performances by such notables as Fats Waller, Ethel Waters, and Bessie Smith are also included in the collection.


  • Other: Majority of material found in 1880-
  • Other: Date acquired: 04/09/1986


Conditions Governing Access

Archives and Special Collections of Ganser Library will reproduce Special Collections material to the extent that physical condition and copyright or other legal restrictions permit. Reproduction is available in the form of photocopies and digital images. All reproduction requests must be approved by a member of the professional staff. Decisions will take into account the type and condition of the binding, the brittleness of the paper, the size and the general size and fragility of the item.

Conditions Governing Use

Archives and Special Collections adheres to the provisions of the 1976 Copyright Act and amendments, and follows the minimum standards of educational fair use established under Section 107. In applying these standards, Archives and Special Collections will copy up to 10% of a copyrighted work if the copy is to be used for the purpose of private study, scholarship or research. The department will not copy for the purpose of public performance. Physical condition permitting, the department will copy more than 10% of a copyrighted work only with the written permission of the copyright holder. Multiple copies are not permitted under fair use. For authored works created since 1978, copyright lasts from the creation of the work until 70 years after the author's death. The expiration term for corporate, anonymous, or pseudonymous works is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever occurs first. For works published before 1978, with a copyright notice, the maximum duration of copyright protection is 75 years. Works published before 1978 without a copyright notice are assumed to be in the public domain. Since March 1, 1989, a copyright notice is no longer necessary. Archives and Special Collections reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.


21.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

Series 1. Carl Van Vechten Collection of African-American Arts & Letters Series 2. Carl Van Vechten Photograph Collection Series 3. Bruce Kellner Dance & Theatre Collection Series 4. Bruce Kellner Sheet Music Collection

Physical Access Requirements

Carl Van Vechten's photographs may not be reproduced without permission from his estate.  Contact:

Technical Access Requirements

The processing fee for photocopying or scanning requests is $10.00/request. There is no charge for Millersville University students, faculty, or staff.

Custodial History

Belonged to Carl Van Vechten or Bruce Kellner

Source of Acquisition

Bruce Kellner

Method of Acquisition


Accruals and Additions

July 1986: Correspondence, Theater Programs, Sheet music, Ephemera, Phonograph records January 10, 1990: Sheet music December 11, 1991" Dance and Theatre Collection June 22, 1991: Photograph collection (52) October 23, 1991: Dance programs and portfolios, photographs (275 individual items) June 27, 1992: Photograph collection (100) December 12, 1992: Photograph collection (123) July 25, 2016: 2 linear ft. of materials: photographs, typescripts, programs.

Existence and Location of Originals

Yale University is the principal holder of The Carl Van Vechten Papers.

Related Materials

For complete inventory of this collection, please see the separate entries for each series.

Other Descriptive Information

Carl Van Vechten was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1880. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1903. Three years later he moved to New York City and began working for the New York Times, writing articles on the city's music scene. His experience in the arts led to the publication of several novels between 1922 and 1930. From 1930 to 1932, Van Vechten wrote and published his memoirs. After 1932, Van Vechten expanded his favorite hobby of photography into a career. His connections to New York's artistic elite led to the photographic portraitures of prominent actors, writers, and others in the theatrical arts. Van Vechten also photographed numerous notable and influential African Americans, particularly those considered part of the Harlem Renaissance. Van Vechten died in 1964.

Processing Information

Originally cataloged as MG5, MG 18 and MG19


Carl Van Vechten Memorial Collection
Under Revision
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Millersville University Special Collections Repository

9 North George Street
McNairy Library, PO Box 1002
Millersville University
Millersville 17551-302 US