Percival Bryan Collection consists of five objects owned by Percival Bryan – a chauffeur, cab drive, and butler – during the 20th century. The collection contains two awards which were presented to Bryan for his service. One was from the Caribbean American Intercultural Organization (CAIO) dated August 26, 1978, and the other was from the D.C. Taxicab Commission and D.C. Committee to Promote Washington in 1990. A portrait of Bryan by X. McCann, a bust (sculpture) of Bryan, and a collage with Bryan’s photograph surrounded by seating arrangement cards for ambassadors of African countries are also a part of the collection.
A related archival collection – Percival Bryan collection – which dates from 1932 to 1993 and measures 5.94 linear feet, is available in the Archives at the Anacostia Community Museum. The archival collection documents the career and personal life of Percival Bryan; and consists of an autobiography, autograph albums, citations, correspondence, memorabilia, photographs, and printed materials. Contact the Archivist for more information.
Percival Bryan was born in Jamaica on January 25, 1906. At the age of eighteen, Bryan left Jamaica, arriving in New York City as a stowaway on a banana boat in August of 1924. Upon his arrival in the United States, he took a job as a fruit wagon vendor.
In 1929, Bryan left New York for Washington, D.C. where he settled in the southeast section of the city, east of the Anacostia River. While living in Anacostia, he became involved in various social and civic organizations, including the Caribbean American Intercultural Organization (CAIO). In 1941, Bryan became a United States citizen, and he started his career as a driver. Initially, he was a chauffeur for the Office of Emergency Management. Later he served as chauffer for Attorney General Homer S. Cummings, at which time he started his first autograph book. He encouraged all of his passengers to sign the books. By the end of his career as a taxicab driver, Bryan had collected over 160,000 signatures.
In addition to his job as a driver, Bryan worked as a White House butler during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also worked for twenty-three years as a steam engineer for D.C. Public Schools. Percival Bryan retired on March 15, 1995, and he died on January 27, 1996.
Rose M. Dyke is the daughter of Percival Bryan. She donated the Percival Bryan archival and object collections to the Anacostia Community Museum.
Percival Bryan collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Rose Dyke.
Autographs--Collectors and collecting
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum