Born in Galena, St. Mary's Parish, Jamaica, Percival Bryan (1906-1996) came to the United States in 1924 as a stowaway in search of adventure and opportunity. He settled in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., involved himself with various social and civic organizations, and was instrumental in forming the Caribbean American Inter-cultural Organization. He worked as a White House butler under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969). Bryan also served as a chauffer for Attorney General Homer S. Cummings (1870-1956) before becoming a cab driver. An autograph collector, Mr. Bryan collected over 100,000 signatures of notable individuals.
The collection, which dates from 1932 to 1993 and measures 5.94 linear feet, documents the career and personal life of Percival Bryan. Mr. Bryan, a Jamaican American, collected over 100,000 autographs while driving a cab in Washington, DC. The collection is comprised of a typescript of Mr. Bryan's autobiography, personal correspondence, documents and autograph books from his cab driving career, personal photographs and publicity photographs of African-Americans, and 1940s presidential inauguration memorabilia. Of particular interest is his collection of photographs, which includes publicity photos - some autographed - from African American entertainers, including Lena Horne, Marian Anderson, and Ella Fitzgerald, to name a few.
Percival Bryan collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Rose Dyke
African American musicians
African American neighborhoods
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment: ACMarchives@si.edu