Archives: The future arrives courtesy of Elvin Montgomery
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Highlights of archives available from Elvin Montgomery
Elvin Montgomery has been both an educator, dealer and appraiser for more than three decades and he increasingly has adjusted his focus as Black Americana, his category, has emerged from the shadows to become a major collecting subject. And to this he has further added his insight on what he sees emerging, the sale and collection of archives and his logic is clear. “It’s increasingly possible to buy sets of baseball cards rather than acquire them one by one.” With history, subjects and events, it’s also possible, and while it’s always been possible to develop intense collections, today they increasingly trade as single, complete purchases. Well, welcome to the future: zero to 60 in a single transaction.
So, it’s a new world and the emergence of archives simply the latest outcome of what has become the steady outflow of millions of documents, photos, and objects that slowly become collections and archives. Mr. Montgomery is simply introducing us to what such collecting is becoming and he illustrates his thinking with eight compelling collections. They will find homes.
Here Mr. Montgomery has eight archives and each is, in effect, a collection by themselves. Here is what they are:
EARLY NEW YORK JETS ARCHIVE, 1960s.
A fascinating, detailed, in-period archive of various papers and files pertaining to the early days of football’s New York Jets from the period when they were located in Long Island and were called the “Long Island Jets”. Contains original, primary source material such as:
Signed player applications
Photographs of officials and players (not press photos)
Team related files and correspondence
Records of scores and events
Dozens of pieces of paper. Excellent documentation for research and team history. Inside team history, not available in the open market. Probably unique. $15,000
THE ASHTON SPRINGER BLACK THEATER MEMORABILIA ARCHIVE:
The Ashton Springer Archive is a large, diverse collection of materials that document the life and work of Ashton Springer – an important African American theater producer who was active and influential in the New York City and the national theater scene in the 1970s and 80s. The archive consists of hundreds of items that comprise a number of categories embodying Springer’s life, work and output (mostly in the 1970s, 80s and 90s). Considered the first black producer to “wield real power” on Broadway, Springer – born in Manhattan to West Indian parents - died at the age of 82 in July 2013.
“He is credited not only with helping to bring theater by and about African-Americans to wider public consciousness, but also with helping to bring late-20th-century African-American audiences to Broadway.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/theater/ashton-springer-broadway-producer-dies-at-82.html?_r=0)
Unfortunately very little primary source material is available on Springer and his activities, particularly in his most active and influential period (the 70s through the 90s), which is what this archive covers. Researchers, biographers, historians and filmmakers are going to be hard put to find unpublished, detailed Springer information, especially that which shows the inside view of his life, struggles and work. Fortunately, the materials present in this archive is a mother load of Springer information that cannot be found elsewhere. For various reasons, little else on Springer is likely to come to market or become available. Notably, not only does this archive reveal much about Springer’s life and work, but it also tells much about African American theater in general in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Springer was a pioneer since - despite the fact that black actors, performers, musicians, dancers, playwrights and even directors are not rare on Broadway - black producers are extremely scarce and Springer was one of the earliest to achieve prominence. Among the many productions that Springer was responsible for or heavily involved with were:
NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY
BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR
ATHOL FUGARD’S “A LESSON FROM ALOES,”
AN ALL-BLACK REVIVAL OF “GUYS AND DOLLS”
ROLLIN’ ON THE T.O.B.A.
The Springer archive contains various types of objects, including
FILES AND CORRESPONDENCE
SCRIPTS, PLAYS, ETC.
AWARDS & PLAQUES
PLAYBILLS & OTHER THEATER PUBLICITY MEMORABILIA
BUSINESS, LEGAL AND FINANCIAL RECORDS
Springer – prominent in cultural and performing arts circles, especially in New York - won several awards, some of which are represented in the archive. $15,000
THE DR. OLIVER WILSON WINTERS ARCHIVE
Dr. Oliver Wilson Winters, born about 1890 in Talbot Co., Maryland (often termed Dr. O. Wilson Winters) was a major civic, professional and organizational leader the mid-20th century Philadelphia area and nationally. Dr. Winters was by profession a dentist but his influence and activities reached far beyond dentistry since he was quite a leader as well as a dentist. He was an ardent advocate of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Pyramid Club and other groups that represented organized African American leadership in the mid-20th century. He knew, interacted with many leading lights of the African American community of the time (e.g. W.E.B. DuBois). His life showed what leadership and organizationally-oriented African Americans were doing in the era before integration and before the civil rights movement became organized. He founded, promoted or joined organizations, advocated for educational causes and exemplified leadership in Philadelphia and other places as well. He was a graduate of Howard and Temple Dental Schools. Scholarships and awards are named after him. This small archive of more than 150 separate pieces is composed of paper objects illustrating Dr. Winters’ life and activities, including correspondence, photographs, souvenir and event memorabilia, programs and personal mementoes such as a wedding book with articles and details of his marriage. Being primary source material it is naturally rare and mostly unpublished. This is a major research resource pertaining to pre-integration black leadership, black organizations and black Philadelphia that is not to be found elsewhere. Most items VG. Items comprising the collection include (but are not limited to):
Various pieces of Alpha Phi Alpha Material
Pyramid Club material (a handwritten 1940s Pyramid Club Activity Plan, constitution, correspondence, etc.)
Correspondence To and from Civic Leaders
Material On Cheyney State College
Material on the John Brown Memorial Association (which Winters co-founded), Lake Placid New York (where John Brown was buried) with photos depicting an event there, a 1955 Journal with Winters’ handwritten margin notes, group pilgrimage Itineraries, letters to persuade and thank people who attend the pilgrimage and a testimonial banquet program of the John Brown Association honoring Winters with his bio Included)
Ephemera such as greeting cards, sheet music and postcards to Winters from family and friends
A Marriage Book with Clippings and associated ephemera
This archive is a substantial and rare primary source of information that is worthy of being the basis for a dissertation, book or a film. Though material on Winters exists elsewhere, this archive is the crucial missing piece of personal and organizational history needed to reconstitute a comprehensive, accurate story of Winters and his life and times. This type of material is unique, wide ranging, not to be found again and belongs in the hands of serious researchers.
THE EULACE PEACOCK PAPERS AND MEMORABILIA The Eulace Peacock collection is an extraordinary accumulation of personal and athletic items (mostly paper) that chronicle the life of a major amateur athlete of the 1930's and the social life of Black collegians of the time. Peacock was a celebrated track and field star from Vauxhall, New Jersey who attended Temple University and excelled as a man of speed. He was one of the few men ever to beat Jessie Owens and was well known both nationally and internationally in track and field circles. He clearly was of Olympic quality though unfortunately a last minute injury prevented his expected participation in this arena. Peacock was a friend of many Black athletes of the time and his papers contain their correspondence with him. As might be suspected, admiring young women were also well represented among those who wrote to him. The letters he received do not always deal with the more pleasant side of athletics since they reveal the tremendous pressure he was under to win and maintain and exceed the level of performance he was at times capable of. The collection includes:
Letters from other Black athletes, some of whom were Olympic or national champions (e.g. Ralph Metcalfe, Cornelius Johnson and Ben Johnson of Columbia)
Letters from Athletic organizations about athletic events
Memorabilia of his days and athletic activities at Temple
Family letters to and from Peacock's brothers and others
Several dozen letters from a Miss Nettie Washington of Tuskeegee in Alabama who was one of Peacock’s girlfriends and was a granddaughter of Booker T. Washington
Letters to and from Miss Washington's friends and family
Letters from Peacock to Miss Washington
Many letters from several other girlfriends (often chiding him for not caring or writing back)
Photos of Peacock and others in his life
Mementoes of athletic events such as silver-plated trays, etc.
Newspaper clippings of his many athletic exploits
Letters and invitations concerning 1930's Black social events in New York, New Jersey, etc.
FOR THE COLLECTION: $7,000
CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT SCRAPBOOK WITH M.L.K. PHOTOS AND OTHER KEY MATERIAL, 1960's. A remarkable and unusual in-period scrapbook of black and white photos, pamphlets and flyers of Martin Luther King and various other key civil rights movement personages and themes. There are 32 photos of varying sizes (many 8" x 10", some 7" x 4 3/4", a few 4" x 5"). Subject matter includes MLK and Coretta Scott King cutting a cake to celebrate an event (perhaps an anniversary or a birthday) and civil rights scenes such as marches, speeches and movement people (e.g. a very young Jessie Jackson, Andrew Young, Abernathy and even show people such as a young Lou Rawls). There are also flyers, pamphlets and a report on "The State Of The Movement" (a presentation by King to the SCLC Staff Retreat, Penn Center, Frogmore, S.C., November 28. 1967). Other documents include a keynote address by Sidney Poitier to the SCLC 10th Anniversary Convention Banquet (August 14, 1967 in Atlanta) and a six page typewritten copy of a "Letter To My Dearest Friend, Martin Luther King Jr." delivered by Ralph Abernathy, April, 7, 1968. Remarkable and important historical material that will not be found elsewhere. Just looking through the material was a transporting experience. Obviously, this item belongs in a museum or historical library special collection. VG (Many photos are loose. The papers tend to be stapled or pasted in). $7,000
THE SPHINX, MAY 1947 - ALPHA PHI ALPHA DIRECTORY. Softcover. 78pp. Official organ and membership directory of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Contains many photos and much information: e.g. chapter photos, a 38 page complete list of members at the time (with their cities and chapters), national organizational activities and goals, officers at the national and local levels, local chapter activities, social events (including local sweethearts), etc., etc. Of particular interest is the articles and photos of two key celebrities: Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois. Very scarce on the open market, hard to find and a prime research resource on immediate post-war African American college and professional life. VG- (front cover missing and back page torn at the lower left corner. However, so hard to find, so well-illustrated and so useful information-wise that it well worth acquiring). One cannot ask for a more useful, detailed item than this in regard to researching the state of professional Black America at this critical pre-civil rights era. $500
COOKING WITH THE FIRST EPISCOPAL DISTRICT, A.M.E. CHURCH (Philadelphia). 1991. 3-ring binder with dozens of recipes, many from members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Has an index of recipes, nutritional advice, 488pp. of recipes + 90 pages of end matter (index, ads, section tabs, etc. An excellent survey of southern and urban home cooking. One of the nicest and most encyclopedic, comprehensive African American cookbooks ever seen. Very good condition. $700
DRESSMAKERS INTERNATIONAL BALL, 1935. Souvenir Program of the Harlem Section of the ILGWU (AFL, Local 22). Saturday, June 19, 1935. A relatively lavish souvenir book with rich historical and visual content: photos, articles, illustrations of the local’s progress, etc. Many ads, articles and photos. An excellent portrayal of Harlem garment industry’s past. Who (in modern times) knew of the extensive and proud activities of garment workers in this Harlem Renaissance-era during the depression. Hard to find (only one has been seen so far) and well worth having. VG+ (occasional pencil markings next to a few ads and photos). $600
Reach Mr. Montgomery by phone or email:
His website: www.elvmont.com