Records document Charles Eisler, a Hungarian immigrant who was a skilled mechanic and engineer and his company, Eisler Engineering Company of Newark, New Jersey, which manufactured equipment for producing electric lamps, television and radio tubes, welding equipment and laboratory equipment.
Scope and Contents:
The bulk of the materials date from the 1930s to the 1950s and document Charles Eisler's contributions to the modern lamp making industry. There is considerable personal information documenting Eisler and his family, and his connection to his native Hungary. The collection is divided into 9 series: personal materials; business materials; employee records, operating records; diagrams and drawings; litigation and patent records; photographs; and scrapbooks.
Series 1, Personal Materials, 1944-1970, is divided into six subseries: Passports and Naturalization Certificate, 1910-1970s; Photographs, 1912; Chronological Correspondence, 1944-1970; Alphabetical Correspondence, 1941-1969; Family and Friends Correspondence, 1956-1966; Vacation Information, 1951; Financial Information, 1960-1967; and Medical Bills and Information, 1963-1967.
There are several passports (United States and German) for Eisler and his United States naturalization certificate of 1910. The photographs, 1912, are from Eisler's friend, Ed Korn. The photographs depict an airplane that Eisler created drawings for and two individuals, Bert Berry (parachutist) and Tony Januss, a pilot at Kinloch Field, St. Louis, Missouri.
The chronological correspondence, 1944-1970, is arranged chronologically. It contains letters about Hungarians and Hungarian issues; invitations to social events and speaking engagements; thank you letters; letters of condolence; donations; birthday greetings; and club memberships. Eisler was active in the Newark, New Jersey, Hungarian community. He donated equipment, clothes, and money to a variety of organizations that assisted Hungarians in the United States and in Hungary. Some of the correspondence was written by Mrs. R. Testa, secretary to Charles Eisler.
The alphabetical correspondence, 1941-1969, is arranged alphabetically. It consists of letters documenting such issues as stock in Eisler Engineering Company, personal purchases of Eisler's at the Ivanhoe Lobby Gift Shop by the Sea Hotel, and "Help the Suffering Hungarians" organization (1956-1961). This includes canceled checks from donors, specifically Operation Mercy to assist refugees from Budapest. Additionally, there is correspondence and itemized price lists for food and clothing for Hungarians. Of note is some Raritan Yacht Club (R.Y.C.) of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, materials. There is a R.Y.C. Duffle Bag newsletter, February, 1964. Eisler was a member of R.Y.C.
Family and friends correspondence, 1956-1966, includes letters and postcards from family and friends, mostly in Hungarian. Topics discussed include sending food, clothing, hearing aids, and medicine to Hungarian refugees; Christmas packages; emigration; and U.S. Relief Parcel Service receipts.
Vacation information, 1951, consists of one file folder of documentation of airline tickets, baggage tickets, tour itineraries, receipts from hotels, letterhead from hotels, and itemized lists of purchases for several trips Eisler made. Airlines ephemera represented include Pan American World Airways System; Air France; British Overseas Airways Corp; Trans World Airlines, Inc; and Eastern Airlines.
Financial information, 1960-1967, contains investment securities (certificates) information for Massachusetts Investors Trust; consolidated checking account information; lists of personal donations, personal income, and savings accounts. Eisler's personal donations varied greatly, both in amount and in the type of organization—American Hungarian Studies Foundation at Rutgers, Father Flanagan's Boy's Home; and the Jewish Community Council of Essex County, New Jersey.
Medical Bills and Information, 1963-1967, consists mostly of bills from doctors for services rendered.
Series 2, Business Materials, 1885, 1931-1985, is divided into seven subseries: correspondence, general files, financial information, World War II boards and regulations, real estate holdings and investments, articles, and Kahle Engineering.
Correspondence, 1946-1971, is arranged alphabetically by surname or company name. It contains a variety of issues—real estate, accounting, legal representation, and tenants. Attorneys Kessler and Kessler handled Eisler vs. General Electric Company. There is correspondence about meetings, depositions, and reviewing documents before filing. The tenant information includes assignments and agreements between individual tenants and the landlord, Lesire Corporation, which Eisler owned.
General Files, 1931-1985, contains files arranged alphabetically on a variety of topics.
Financial Information, 1931-1945, is mainly comprised of Treasury Department and Internal Revenue correspondence, and income tax documentation
World War II Boards and Regulations, 1942-1946, contain information about manpower, labor, and production during World War II for the manufacturing industry. The National War Labor Board contains wage rates and audit information for Eisler Engineering. The Manpower Commission established the total manpower allowance for Eisler Engineering and other companies. It set specific quotas for the number of male employees permitted. The War Production Board material includes a plant report of operations. It describes the product being made and categorizes the percentage of "war" versus "civilian" work. The War Department Plant Protection Division contains notes and recommendations for Eilser Engineering Company to implement.
Real Estate Holdings and Investments, 1932-1980, consists mainly of tax and stock returns and income information and cancelled notes for collateral with the Lesire Corporation. The record of real estate, 1952-1974, contains ledger sheets for seven separate properties with the name of the property, improvements if any, and address: Farm Flagtowne, Neshanic, New Jersey; 733 S. 12th Street, Newark, New Jersey; 735-737 S. 12th Street, Newark, New Jersey; 738-758 S. 13th Street, Newark, New Jersey; 16 N. Salem Street, Dover, New Jersey; 269 E. Blackwell Street, Dover, New Jersey; and Lad Construction. The ledger sheets also include a loan record with rents and mortgage receivable information. The Avenue L files document a factory building owned by Eisler in Newark, New Jersey. The files contain correspondence, receipts, and bills for work done on the building in preparation for sale.
Articles, 1885-1962 (not inclusive) includes four articles relating to the topic of electricity.
Kahle Engineering, 1960-1982, contains Dun and Bradstreet analytical reports from 1960 to 1964 and interoffice correspondence with Steven Logothetis, an employee of Kahle Engineering, interoffice memos, credit profiles, notes, mortgage papers, and information sheets for specific properties for purchase at public auction for the period 1979-1982.
Series 3, Employee/Personnel Records, 1940-1988, is divided into ten subseries: personnel files; accident reports; lists of employee names; service years and anniversaries; union (IUE AFL-CIO) agreements; benefits (health and pension); deceased employees; payroll information; electrical license course; Department of Labor; and miscellaneous.
The bulk of this series consists primarily of employee personnel files from the 1940s to 1960s. Arranged alphabetically by surname, the files contain employee record cards, employee applications, in some instances photographs (head shots), tax withholding exemption certificates, medical forms, union dues information, union steward reports detailing grievances and appeals, correspondence, recommendations, unemployment benefit payments, workers compensation, paychecks, and applications for United States citizenship and visa requests. The employee record cards capture the employee name; address; social security number; department; occupation; title; clock number; phone number; race; marital status; date of birth; number of children; stating rate; increases; vacation taken; country of birth; entry into the United States; naturalized and, if so, when and where; former employees and any union grievances. It provides a comprehensive view of the employee composition of the company.
The accident reports, 1958-1988, are arranged chronologically by year and then further arranged alphabetically by employee surname. These accident claim forms used by Eisler Engineering Company are for the New Jersey Manufacturers Casualty Insurance Company of Trenton, New Jersey. Additionally, there are blank State of New Jersey accident forms. There is some correspondence about specific claims and employees. There is one file folder documenting injuries and illness, 1971-1978. It consists of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) forms completed by Eisler Engineering. They provide a summary of the types of injuries and illnesses, number of lost work days, number of cases and a supplementary record of occupational injuries.
Lists of employee names, 1957-1977, provides information on employees who left employment, were laid off, owed union dues; years of service to the company, birthdays, addresses, and job descriptions.
Service years and anniversaries, 1955-1970, provides the employee name, when employment began, years of service and if a service pin was awarded.
Union (IUE AFL-CIO) agreements, 1942-1957 contain union contracts and agreements between Eisler Engineering Mutual Employees Association, Inc., and the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE-AFL-CIO).
Benefits (health and pension), 1957-1967, contains information on dental benefits, hospital service plans, Group Health Insurance (GHI) Inc., claim forms for medical care insurance, and the annual report of District 4 IUE, AFL-CIO Welfare Plan for 1957.
Deceased employees, 1946-1951, consists of form letters with the employees name, address, next of kin, date of death, and the amount of unpaid salary due.
Payroll Information, 1940-1973, includes deduction of wages or salary forms for union dues, plans for enrolling in the U.S. Savings Bond program, canceled payroll checks, forms for requesting vacation, and bonus and merit increases for employees.
Electrical License Course, undated, includes homework assignments, tests, and answers to questions, in lessons/courses on: compound generators, DC (direct current) self-excited generators, power, combination circuits, parallel circuits, split phase/resistance-start induction run motors, electricity, and compound motors.
Department of Labor, 1944-1956, contains employment reports and public contracts and minimum wage determinations. There is statistical information on the type of employee (male, female, non-white, and part-time) and a report of current and anticipated employment.
Miscellaneous contains one file folder with an undated Department of Labor and Industry letter about a highly desirable labor pool of technical, skilled, and semi-skilled workers becoming available.
Series 4, Operational Records, 1934-1977, is divided into two subseries: Equipment Quotes, 1960-1977, were prepared by Eisler for clients/companies in the United States and in foreign countries. The quotes include details about the machine requested and its price.
Operating Instructions and Parts Lists, 1934-1940s, are arranged predominately by machine number, but there are some exceptions. The files include drawings and sketches, operating instructions on assembling and disassembling, black and white photographs, charts, and product literature. There are some documents that were not created by the Eisler Engineering Company. These documents include operating instructions and drawings from other companies that Eisler had a working relationship with. The instructions, [1934-1945?], arranged alpha-numerically, are operating instructions for machines manufactured by the Eisler Engineering Company. The instructions are labeled D-1 to D-800. These instructions should be used in conjunction with the other operating instructions for specific machines. For example, instructions D-1 are for Eisler machine No. 00, a coil winding machine
Series 5, Diagrams and Drawings, 1924-1960, is divided into two subseries, wiring diagrams and drawings. The wiring diagrams 1934-1956, are arranged by type and provide instructions and diagrams on how to connect wires for Eisler machines. The drawings, 1924-1960, include blueprints, tracings, sketches and in some instances, specifications for specific machines. The name and number of the machine are listed. Also, the drawings contain factory layouts for companies in the United States and in Leningrad, Russia.
Series 6, Sales Records, 1924-1984, is divided into three subseries: customer sales lists, lamp machinery sales records, and catalogs. The Customer Sales Lists, 1951-1958, and the Lamp Machinery Sales Records, 1929-1958, include detailed information for each machine built and shipped to a client: shop number, job number, type of machine, machine number, customer name, customer order number, Eisler order number and date shipped, and a serial number if applicable. There are some lists for customer requested machines such as exhaust machines, stem machines, and base filling machines.
The catalogs, 1924-1979, are arranged into two sub-subseries, Eisler catalogs and other companies' catalogs. The catalogs are further arranged chronologically and are bound or consist of loose pages and individual bulletins. They provide information on incandescent lamps, power transmission tubes; neon tube signs; tungsten equipment and wire; burners, torches, fires, gas and air mixers; metal sprayers; bases; furnaces; vacuum flasks; ampules and vials; vacuum pumps; and electric welders.
Index cards for Eisler Engineering Anniversary Catalog 1945, are arranged by machine number and contain the machine name with a description, pricing information, and in some instances a date and annotations. Each card has a page number that correlates to the Anniversary Catalog No. 45-CE, 1945.
Series 7, Litigation and Patent Records, 1897-1953 (bulk 1926-1929), 1949, 1953, consist of briefs (for the defendant, Eisler, and plaintiff, General Electric) and the transcript of record in the case General Electric vs. Charles Eisler and Eisler Engineering Company, 1926-1929. The litigation was heard in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New Jersey and U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Third District. GE brought suit against Eisler for infringement of two U.S. patents, #1,128,120 for manufacturing glass rods and forming spiders, and # 1,220,836 for a filament support wire inserting machine. Eisler allegedly infringed by manufacturing and selling a hook inserting machine.
There is one file folder of newspaper clippings about anti-trust in lamp manufacturing and specifically conclusions to the Opinion for the case United States of America vs. General Electric Company, 1953. GE, Corning Glass Works, N.V. Philips Gloeilampenfabriken, Consolidated Electric Lamp Company, Hygrade Sylvania Corporation, Chicago Miniature Lamp Works, and Tung-Sol Lamp Works, Inc., were found guilty and in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. GE, in particular, negotiated agreements through its wholly-owned subsidiary, International General Electric that divided the world lamp markets. This division permitted GE to have the U.S. market exclusively and bar foreign lamp manufacturers. The domestic licensees' growth was limited by GE to a fixed percentage of its own production and expansion so that over the years a licensee's share of the business was diminished. This restrained trade, and competition by GE unlawfully monopolized the incandescent electric lamp business.
A separate case involving Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. vs. Beacon Lamp Co., Leopold Rossbach, C. L. Shoninger, A.H. Moses, L.E. Whicher and J.T. Hambay from 1896 to 1898 is also documented through the brief for the complainant and a record of the case.
Patents, 1913-1931, are further divided into tube patents, 1924-1931 and tube patents assigned to Raytheon Company, 1913-1929. The patents were assembled by Eisler for reference.
Series 8, Photographs, 1944-1967, is further divided into six subseries: machines by number, CAMS; timers; jigs; transformers and electrodes; welders; welders, tips, jigs and fixtures; and miscellaneous. The series contains 8" x 10" black and white prints. Originally organized in three- ring binders, the photographs are arranged by machine number with further numerical identifiers. For example, Machine No. 103 is a glass lathe machine and No. 103-XL is a vertical glass lathe machine.
CAMS are curved wheels mounted on a rotating shaft and used to produce variable or reciprocating motion in another engaged or contacted part. They are used to produce or machine something. Tips refer to the remnant of the glass tubing through which the lamp was exhausted of its air (as well as filled with inert gases after the invention of the gas-filled lamp in 1912) and jigs are devices for guiding a tool or for holding machine work in place.
The majority of photographs document machinery; few employees are featured.
Photographs for Machine No. 170, can working equipment at vacuum products, features African American workers circa the 1950s and Machine No. 160, an automatic tub bottoming machine features a female employee. Some of the miscellaneous photographs contain prints of equipment, parts and employees working in the factory.
Series 9, Scrapbooks, 1916-1959, includes three scrapbooks. Many of the articles are in Hungarian or Spanish.
Scrapbook, 1943 (bulk 1945-1955), 1959, contains newspaper articles about Charles Eisler and Eisler Engineering Company. Many articles and advertisements focus on specific machines Eisler manufactured. Articles about Charles Eisler contain information about the associations he belonged to, litigation, awards received, Lesire Corporation, his tenant company; and the appointment of Charles Eisler, Jr., as President of Eisler Engineering Company. Other items include company Christmas cards.
Scrapbook, 1916-1944, 1948, 1957, contains newspaper clippings and catalog pages on machines manufactured by Eisler; personal information about Charles Eisler's trip to Europe; a fire at his summer home; and Christmas decorations. There is documentation on Eisler Engineering Company employees, World War II contributions and production, and photographs of Charles Eisler presenting a donation to the Newark Hungarians and the U.S. Army Ambulance Branch.
Scrapbook, 1924-1959, contains convention programs, Family Circle information, documentation on various social events Eisler attended and machine advertisements.
Collection organized into nine series.
Series 1, Personal Materials, 1910s-1970s
Subseries 1, Passports and Naturalization Certificate, 1910-1970s
Subseries 3, Timers, Jigs, Transformers, and Electrodes, 1952-1960
Subseries 4, Welders, 1944-1952
Subseries 5, Welders, Tips, and Jigs and Fixtures, 1944-1952
Subseries 6, Miscellaneous, 1944-1957
Series 9, Scrapbooks, 1916-1959
Biographical / Historical:
Charles Eisler (1884-1973) was born in Hungary to Adolph and Helen Eisler. Charles was the second child of nine: George, Emil, Michael, Leopold, Rudi, Franz, Emma and Lajos. Eisler completed his engineering and mechanical studies by the age of 17 and began an apprenticeship with a local factory. He became a licensed steam engineer and fireman of high pressure boilers. In 1902, he left Hungary for Berlin, Germany, with the goal to immigrate to the United States. In Germany, Eisler worked in a factory in Eberswalde, north of Berlin. The factory manufactured cast-iron pipe and machinery, and Eisler operated a crane loading barges near the factory. Eisler left Eberswalde and returned to Berlin to work as a toolmaker at Allgemeine Electricitäts Gesellschaft' (AEG). He arrived in New York City on the SS Potsdam/Stockholm (I) in November 1904. Because Europeans dominated the field of skilled mechanics and tradesmen in the United States, Eisler easily found employment in East Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh Westinghouse. In 1907, Eisler worked for Studebaker Metzger Motor Company as a tool-designer and tool room foreman.
Eisler returned to Hungary in the spring of 1912 where he took a job as a tool designing engineer with an American owned electrical firm, Standard Electric Company, in Újpest. He married Frieda Schwartz Eisler (d.1962) on December 24, 1912, in Budapest. They had four children: Charles Eisler, Jr., Martha (Eisler) Leff; Ruth (Eisler) Forest; and Constance (Eisler) Smith. In 1914, Eisler, his wife Frieda, and their newborn son Charles, Jr., returned to the United States. Eisler worked at the Westinghouse Lamp Company in Bloomfield, New Jersey, designing machines for building incandescent lamps with tungsten wire. At Westinghouse, Eisler held the position of chief engineer of the equipment division, and he completed the International Correspondence Schools course in mechanical engineering (1918). Eisler left Westinghouse in 1919 to work for Save Electric Corporation of Brooklyn, New York (an independent lamp manufacture), formed by Max Ettiger. At Save Electric, Eisler was equipment engineer superintendent and responsible for designing machines for the production of incandescent lamps.
General Electric (GE), Westinghouse, and RCA had a monopoly on modern incandescent lamp making machinery. The manufacture of lamps and tubes had moved from a low-rate, highly skilled craft work of Edison's Menlo Park to a high-rate, semi-skilled process dominated by GE and others. It was difficult for independent lamp manufacturers, such as Save Electric, to compete. The control and licensing of machinery patents was one method GE used to maintain a virtual monopoly on lamp manufacture throughout the first half of the 20th century. GE purchased Save Electric in 1920 to remove it from the incandescent lamp market. That same year, Eisler lost his job and started his own company, Eisler Engineering Company, to consult and manufacture equipment for producing electric lamps, television tubes, radio tubes, glass products, neon tubes, welding equipment and laboratory equipment. He established a machine shop at 15 Kirk Alley, Newark, New Jersey, where he redesigned many of his machines and drawings and started patenting. By 1924, Eisler's plant doubled in physical size and labor supply, with the radio tube industry peaking in 1929.1 However, the stock market crash of 1929-1930 severely impacted production, and Eisler never again saw the same growth. In 1929, Eisler sold a 49% interest in the company to Frank Bonner.
In June 1933, Eisler and others organized a group of independent manufacturers into the Incandescent Lamp Manufacturer's Association (ILMA). In response to the pressuring tactics of GE, Westinghouse and RCA, the group also documented every lamp maker who went out of business or that was bought by a monopoly member. The ILMA allowed members to pool their resources for patent litigation. "Eisler was the third leading outside supplier of lamp making machinery. It was not licensed by General Electric, and the unlicensed lamp manufacturers obtained most of their lamp making equipment from it. The Eisler equipment was less automatic and of considerably less speed than the machinery used by the General Electric group. However, it was considerably lower in price."2
Eisler Engineering Company was sued at least four times by GE between 1923 and 1928 for alleged patent infringement but won each case. The cases involved four United States patents owned by GE: Van Keuren #1,326,121; Mitchell and White #1,453,594; Mitchell and White #1,453,595; and Marshall #1,475,192. The last three patents address a process used in the manufacture of electric lamps known as "sealing in" of tip-less lamps. The plaintiff, GE, complained that Eisler, the defendant, was infringing. Several GE patents were declared invalid during the proceedings or were withdrawn, and Eisler's U.S. Patent #1,637,989 for tip-less lamps was upheld. See General Electric Company vs. Eisler Engineering Company, 20 F (2d.) 33 (C.C.A., 1927), 26 F (2d.) 12 (C.C.A., 1928), and 43 F (2d.) 319 (C.C.A., 1930). One of Eisler's strongest defenses was a 1916 article he published in Machinery on Tungsten Lamp Manufacture. Eisler defended his case not only for the interest of his own company but also for those who utilized his products as well as those who manufactured under a licensing agreement with Eisler Engineering Company.
In 1954, Charles Eisler, Jr., formerly vice president became president of Eisler Engineering Company, Inc., and Charles Eisler, Sr., became chairman of the board. In 1958, Eisler Senior officially stepped down. In the late 1970s, Eisler, Jr., sold the company to Kahle Engineering Company. Kahle, established in 1920 with its roots in the glass machinery business, provided equipment for the medical device, pharmaceutical, electrical and automotive industries. Today, Kahle focuses solely on the manufacture of assembly machines for medical devices.
Eisler was issued fifty-seven United States patents relating to the mass production of glass articles. His first patent was issued in 1916 (U.S. Patent # 1,209,650) for a turret attachment and his last was issued in 1958 (U.S. Design Patent # DES 182,796) for a spot welder/press type. Eisler received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, New Jersey (1951) and was elected to life membership in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (1952). He died on October 8, 1973 at the age of 89 in East Orange, New Jersey.
1 Eisler, Charles. The Million-Dollar Bend (New York: William-Frederick Press, 1960).
2 Bright, Arthur. The Electric Lamp Industry (New York: Macmillan Co., 1949).
Materials in the Archives Center
Kahle Engineering Company Records, 1930-1980 (AC0735), the successor company to Eisler Engineering
Materials in Other Organizations
Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives have some Eisler Engineering Company trade literature in the Sinclair New Jersey Collection: New Jersey Trade Literature and Manufacturers' Catalogs at http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/libs/scua/sinclair/sinclair_main.shtml.
The collection was donated by E.N. Logothetis of Kahle Engineering on June 15, 2000.
The collection is open for research use. Series 3, Employee Records, personnel files are restricted; see repository for details.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Publicity photographs of musicians and entertainers, mostly jazz musicians, such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, but including many rock and even a few classical performers. The collection also contains tape recorded radio interviews conducted between 1970 and 2003. In addition there are posters relating to musical performances.
Scope and Contents:
This collection was formed by W. Royal Stokes in the course of his professional work as a music and arts critic. It is composed primarily of publicity portraits of musical performers, both single acts and groups. The emphasis is on jazz musicians and singers, although many rock stars and groups, and other popular musical performers are included. Even a few classical musicians are represented. The pictures are primarily mass-produced black and white publicity photographs distributed to newspapers, writers, etc., by agents for entertainment personalities. Some prints were made from the original negatives, while others clearly were made from copy negatives after typography was stripped together with a print and re-photographed. However, there are some rarer original photographs included in the collection, such as personal color snapshots, higher quality prints by art photographers, etc. Nearly all the prints are unmounted, and are 8 x 10 inches or smaller in size. The bulk of the photographs date from circa 1970 to 2000, however, a number of the earlier photographs are included as well as slightly later examples.
The collection is divided into nine series.
Series 1, Photographs of Musicians and Ensembles, circa 1970-2000; undated
Subseries 1.1, Musicians and Ensembles
Subseries 1.2, Recording Company Photographs
Subseries 1.3, Unidentified Musicians
Series 2, Photographs of Performances, 1987-2002; undated
Subseries 2.1, Music Festivals, 1987-2002; undated
Subseries 2.2, Concerts, Music Clubs and Other Venues, 1920s-1940s and circa 1980s-1990s; undated
Series 3, Formal and Informal Groups, circa 1980s-2000; undated
Series 4, Photographs of Musicians in Films, Radio, Television and Theater, 1940s-2000; undated
Series 5, Photographs of Subjects and Products related to Musicians and Music, 1970-2000; undated
Series 6, Photographs of Non-Musicians, circa 1980s-2000; undated
Series 7, Interviews with Musicians, 1970-2003
Series 8, Audiovisual Materials, 1970-2003
Subseries 8.1, Audio Recordings - Audiocassettes
Subseries 8.2, Audio Recordings-Audiotapes
Series 9, Posters, 1976-1990; undated
Biographical / Historical:
Born in Washington, D.C., W. Royal Stokes served in the Army and then embarked on an academic career, teaching at the University of Pittsburgh, Tufts University, Brock University and the University of Colorado. He left the academic profession in 1969 and become a writer, broadcaster and lecturer, journalist, and critic and authority on jazz music. A follower of jazz since his teens in the 1940s, Stokes has written about music for such publications as Down Beat, Jazz Times, and the Washington Post, and hosted the public radio shows "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say . . ." and "Since Minton's". Today he is the editor of the quarterly Jazz Notes, and is the author of The Jazz Scene: An Informal History From New Orleans to 1990 and Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson.. He is also the author of Living the Jazz Life: Conversations with Forty Musicians about Their Careers in Jazz (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). Dr. Stokes lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Materials in the Archives Center, National Museum of Ameican History:
Duke Ellington Collection, 1928-1988 (AC0301)
Herman Leonard Photoprints, 1948-1993
Frank Driggs Collection of Duke Ellington Photographic Reference Prints [copyprints], 1923-1972
Jazz Oral History Collection, 1988-1990
Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection, 1910s-1970s (mostly 1930s-1960s)
Jeffrey Kliman Photographs
Stephanie Myers Jazz Photographs, 1984-1987, 2005
Chico O'Farrill Papers
Paquito D'Rivera Papers, 1989-2000.
Louis Armstrong Music Manuscripts, undated
Tito Puente Papers, 1962-1965.
Audrey Wells "Women in Jazz Radio Series, 1981-1982
Mongo Santamaria Papers, 1965-2001
Ramsey Lewis Collection, 1950-2007
Earl Newman Collection of Monterey Jazz Festival Posters, 1963-2009
James Arkatov Collection of Jazz Photographs, 1995-2003
Francis Wolff Jazz Photoprints, 1953-1966
Floyd Levin Jazz Reference Collection, circa 1920s-2006
Jazz Oral History Program Collection, 1992-2009
Leslie Schinella Collection of Gene Krupa Materials
Donated by W. Royal Stokes to the Archives Center in 2001.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Jazz musicians -- 1950-2000 -- United States Search this
Kenneth Sparnon, entertainer, musician and arranger was also an orchestra leader and musical director of radio station WSYR in Syracuse and WHEC in Rochester, New York.
This collection includes scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, photographs of himself and other performers, advertising, programs, some correspondence, and broadcast transcriptions (acetate).
Scope and Contents:
The Sparnon collection consists of four scrapbooks, some loose news clippings, a music cue sheet for a movie, a script for the orchestra to follow in a "strike" comedy routine used in September 1931, a folder of programs for events at which Sparnon played, and articles written by Sparnon concerning his work.
The scrapbooks contain advertisements of movies at which Sparnon played, radio schedules and announcements, and newspaper write-ups of Sparnon. The movie and play reviews, while he was in both Dover, N.J. and in Syracuse, cover both silent films and the early talkies. The vaudeville announcements include personalities such as Kate Smith, Burns and Allen, and Edgar Bergen and his friend, Charlie.
The four scrapbooks within themselves are not in chronological order. However the first one, 1912-1930 is arranged in four sections: news clippings, announcements, school recitals and programs, and letters of reference and appreciation.
The Sparnon Collection is of value to those interested in: the early film years, the synchronization of music with film, musical programs on radio, and the biography of Kenneth H. Sparnon.
Biographical / Historical:
Kenneth H. Sparnon was born December 8, 1895 in Chatham, New Jersey. He was the son of the Reverend Robert 0. Sparnon, pastor of the West Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Rochester, New York from 1913 to 1916.
Sparnon grew up in Rochester. He studied harmony and theory at the New York Conservatory of Music and he studied piano and organ under James W. Bleecker, founder of the New York Settlement School of Music.
At the age of 14 Sparnon gave a piano recital in Carnegie Hall. In 1912 he was a piano instructor in Bayonne, New Jersey and continued to teach piano when he worked in Dover, New Jersey. He also was the organist at the Rochester Emanuel Church in this year. His first professional engagement was as church organist in Orange, N.J. About 1913-1914, he directed the West High School Orchestra in Rochester and was leader of the boy's glee club.
At seventeen, Sparnon was the youngest orchestra leader on the Loew's vaudeville circuit, conducting the pit band in Loew's Palace in Brooklyn. In 1918 he started work at the Baker Theater in Dover, N.J. and remained in Dover until late in 1929. The Baker Theater showed movies, vaudeville, and legitimate stage plays. After December 1924 Sparnon conducted the New Baker Theater Orchestra. Sparnon played at all performances of vaudeville and movies calling his performances "Picture Play Concerts" or "Orchestral Photo Play Concerts." He played between the acts when legitimate plays were performed.
Before the "talkies" Sparnon specialized in synchronizing music to the silent pictures, newsreels, novelties, and features. Sparnon played overtures when talking pictures appeared in 1928.
During the summer of 1924 Sparnon was pianist on the Keith vaudeville circuit. He also directed the Metropolitan Concert Trio at the Estonia-Minot House, a resort hotel in Asbury Park where he played programs in the mornings for the guests.
In 1924 Sparnon helped to form and was director of a 45 piece band in Dover, New Jersey. The band played at charity concerts, parades and other occasions. It played on Sunday afternoons in the park, at Memorial Day parades, New Year's Eve, and for the hospital fund-raising. It played as Sparnon's Concert Band into 1929. While in Dover, Sparnon also directed music for the Elks' Memorial Services for several years and played for other events including the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, and at the 1929 local rally celebrating a Republican victory. In 1929, Sparnon played at the Saturday night dances held in the Bergen Building.
In 1926, Sparnon joined Radio Station WJZ in New York where he conducted the "Master Musician's Hour" for several years.
In 1930, Sparnon went to RKO Keith's in Syracuse where he led a group of 12 men for three years. They were known as "Ken Sparnon and his merry gang of RKOlians". As of that year, he had a library of 5,000 pieces of music which he had gathered because of his synchronization of motion pictures. Also, as of May 11,1930, Sparnon was an associate member of the National Academy of Music.
In Syracuse, Sparnon had a reputation for playing overtures with humor and novelty which were appropriate to the movie or the season. He did the unusual and the unexpected. One article described Sparnon's work as follows:
When Griffith made "Birth of a Nation", more than a tinkly, second-rate piano was needed to accompany it. So the theater orchestra was started. After that time, musical backgrounds (cueing) became essential for each film. Then came talkies which doomed the lavish orchestras. Some of the musicians went to work at the studios. Sparnon changed and when he went to Syracuse he gave the public what was almost an extra vaudeville act. His experience in synchronization was valuable for the vaudeville acts. His music also helped in the transition to the movie setting pace and mood.
In Syracuse, Sparnon played on Radio Station WSYR with the RKOlians from Keith's. On May 25, 1930, he also became Master of Ceremonies on Monday nights and Wednesday nights for the "Little Theater of the Air". Sparnon continued in radio for many years. When he started he went on radio to get wider exposure so that the people would then come to see him in person. Perhaps because of his experience with the movies, he was famous for timing out every show in the plotted period.
In Sept. 20, 1931, Sparnon said that "...there will always be music in the theater... the public will always want to see artists in the flesh." This remark alluded to movie theaters with vaudeville shows.
Sparnon married his harpist, Arabella Simiele, in July 1935. He was one of the first radio orchestra directors to feature the harp with all types of music from classical to jazz.
In September 1932 Sparnon became director of the RKO Palace Theater Orchestra in Rochester. In June 1933, he accompanied Arthur Tracy, "the Street Singer," on tour. On June 8, 1933 Sparnon was made musical director of Radio Station WSYR in Syracuse.
He also conducted the "Ken Sparnon String Orchestra" which was carried on the NBC Blue Network coast-to-coast. He had the string ensemble in Syracuse from 1934-1937. He also played dinner music from Schraff's Restaurant in Syracuse three times a week which was carried over the NBC network.
Sparnon became program director of Rochester Radio Station, WSAY in 1937. Sparnon was made the musical director of Radio Station WHEC in Rochester on February 23. Between 1937 and 1941 Sparnon played the "Twin Keyboards" with Matt Pierce over WHEC. Between 1937 and at least 1944 Ken Sparnon and his string orchestra played over WHEC. From 1938 to Oct. 3, 1946 Sparnon was with Radio Station WHEC. Among his programs, he conducted the Gold and Silver Orchestra on Sunday nights at 6:45 p.m. for people celebrating their anniversary. On July 7, 1939, while he was still at WHEC (which was a CBS affiliate), Sparnon opened at the Hotel Seneca Grill in Rochester. In August 1940, Sparnon directed and produced "This is My Land", a new series from Rochester on CBS. During World War II, Sparnon produced shows for service personnel.
While he was in Rochester, Sparnon was a member and on the board of directors of the Rochester Musician's Association, Local 66, American Federation of Musicians.
On October 3, 1946 Sparnon joined the station relations staff of Broadcast Music, Inc. to provide special service to musical directors and managers of BMI-licensed stations. BMI set up a model radio station library. Sparnon was placed in charge of the course on the organization and maintenance of such libraries at the participants' radio stations.
In 1959, Mr. and Mrs. Sparnon moved to Roanoke, Virginia where he was Eastern Regional Director of Station Relations for BMI.
In May 1965 Sparnon retired from BMI and he and his wife moved to Sarasota, Florida. He died on June 16, 1972 after a 10 month illness.
Collection donated by Arabella S. Sparnon, 1981, Febuary 18.
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