This collection is primarily the work of one individual, Donald Harvey Sultner, known professionally as Donald Sultner-Welles (1914-1981). The collection forms a written and visual record of Sultner's family, life, and career from 1913-1980. Its major strength is Sultner's photographic documentation of the world during his travels, ca. 1950-1980. Work by other photographers and artists, correspondence, greeting cards, and contemporary memorabilia and ephemera are included, along with fewer than fifty examples of earlier materials, ca. 1790-1900, collected by Sultner.
The entire collection reflects Sultner's lifework and interests. Housed in @ boxes (.W cubic feet), the collection is organized into eleven
series: Personal Papers; Professional Papers; Lecture Materials; Biographical Materials; Transparencies; Photoprints; Photonegatives; Prints, Drawings, Mixed Media; Audio Tapes; Miscellaneous; and Restricted Materials. The arrangement within each series is based as closely as possi-ble on Sultner's own organization of the materials. However, in several instances similar materials were found separated and have been placed together. In addition, obvious filing mistakes and spelling errors have been corrected. The spelling of geographic place names is based on Offi-cial Standard Names prepared by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, Of-fice of Geography, U.S. Department of the Interior. Not all names given by Sultner were found in the gazetteers, so there may be errors.
The bulk of the collection consists of 2-1/4-inch by 2-1/4-inch color transparencies (Series 5). However, the manuscript materials (Series 1-4) provide a detailed complement to the transparencies. For example, from the mid-1950s until the late 1970s, Sultner kept a travel diary (Se-ries 1). Written on the backs of postcards, this stream-of-consciousness journal reflects not only his daily trips, but his impressions of the countries and thoughts on his photography. A juxtaposition of cards with images is especially useful in understanding what Sultner photographed as well as why and how he photographed it. Sultner's professional corre-spondence (Series 2) documents the various types of groups before which he performed and equipment manufacturers dealt with for cameras, projectors, and so on. Notes, drafts, and final lectures (Series 3) present the performance side of Sultner. This material, when viewed with tapes of concerts and slides, begins to recreate the photo-concert as Sultner presented it. Scrapbooks (Series 4), kept by Sultner from the 1940s to the 1980s, present Sultner's life and career in chronological fashion.
The transparency portion of the collection (Series 5), containing over 87,000 images, is especially rich because of its documentation of the countries of the world. People are seen at their daily tasks, such as washing clothes, marketing, shopping, and eating. Cities are documented as they changed over the years. Two areas in particular will be of spe-cial interest to European and Asian researchers. The first is Sultner's USIS Asian tour in 1959. He visited Japan, Java, India, Korea, the Phil-ippines, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The serene, prewar cities and coun-tryside of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam evince nothing of the devastation to come in the 1960a and 70s.
The second area of interest is Sultner's passion for documenting archi-tecture. As a guest of the German government in 1954, Sultner documented the devastation of World War II and photographed both the reconstruction of bombed buildings and the construction of buildings reflecting "new" postwar architectural styles. In addition to photographing post-WW II styles, throughout his career Sultner documented Palladian, baroque and Rococo architecture. This interest manifested itself in several of his lectures.
A third subject area of interest to Sultner was gardens. Among his first lectures following his USIS tour was "Gardens of the World." Sultner de-veloped this theme into an ongoing commitment to ecology, culminating in a filmstrip, "The Time is Now" (Series 10), prepared for the Hudson River Conservation Society in the 1960s. Carl Carmer, a noted author, wrote the text for the filmstrip. Sultner's taped interviews, lectures, and program music (Series 9) complement the transparencies. During his USIS-sponsored Asian tour in 1959, Sultner recorded impressions of his trip on tape. Interviews with people living in the countries he visited, radio interviews, and his own personal reflections are included. Of particular interest are his "No Harm Asking" interviews in Manila (tape #2), his interview of two French hotel managers in Saigon discussing post-French control conditions (tape #9), and--perhaps the most unusual--his discussion with Erna Hanfstaengl about her personal relationship with Adolf Hitler (tape #107). Scripts for lectures (Series 3) round out the documentation of Sultner's profes-sional work.
Because of the arrangement of the transparencies, it is necessary to check several areas for the same subject. For example, Vietnam images are in the "World" section alphabetically under Vietnam (box 81). Sult-ner also lectured on Vietnam, so there are Vietnamese images in the "framed subjects" (Boxes 137-138). Another example, perhaps more compli-cated, but more common to Sultner, was his distinguishing between images of unidentified "People" and identified "Portraits." Transparency stud ies of human beings will be found under the subseries "People." "Subjects --Portraits," various countries in the subseries "World," and "Lectures." There are also individuals in the black-and-white photoprints (Series 6), and photonegatives (Series 8). The painter and print-maker Charles Shee-ler appears in a number of locations, as does tenor Roland Hayes. Another area of complexity with regard to people concerns the transparencies and negatives. Sultner interfiled his transparencies and negatives of iden-tified individuals. For appropriate storage, these two different formats have been arranged in separate series. Therefore, instead of container lists for the two series, there is a combined alphabetical index to both (pp. 166-206).
Of tangential interest are the photoprints (Series 6), etchings, wood-cuts, and other prints (Series 8) collected by Sultner. One particular subseries of interest contains photographs presented to Sultner by Asian photographers during his 1959 tour. Over 45 images were given to Sultner and represent the standards of camera-club photography in the 1950s. Thesecond subseries consists of over 25 prints by the Italian-American art-ist Luigi Lucioni (1900- ). For further information on this artist,see The Etchings of Luigi Lucioni, -A Catalogue Raisonne', by Stuart P.Embury (Washington, 1984). Lucioni also painted Sultner's portrait in1952 and the "People" section of the transparencies contains a number of images of Lucioni at work. Another significant category is the Japanese prints, including two by a major nineteenth-century artist, Ando Hiro-shige (1797-1858).
Series 11 contains restricted letters to Sultner from friends. These materials will become available to the public in the year 2031.
Twenty-three document boxes of clippings and magazine articles found in standard magazines and newspapers (e.g., Time, Life, Look, Modern Ma-turity, etc.) were destroyed. These materials represented general arti--cles being published on a number of topics during Sultner's lifetime. A list of subject file headings Sultner used is with the manuscript mate-rials.
A second grouping of materials destroyed were nine filing cabinet drawers of travel material--maps, guide books, and other tourist pamphlets used by Sultner on his travels. This material, as with the first group of ma-terial, was of the common variety easily found. Any books or pamphlets found with the clippings were sorted out and sent to Smithsonian Institu-tion Libraries. Other library material that came in with the estate was sent immediately to the library and disposed of through their channels. Any office equipment, such as filing cabinets and supplies, etc., has been put to use in the National Museum of American History.
Series 1: Personal Papers, 1923-1981
Series 2: Professional Papers, 1954-1980
Series 3: Lecture Materials, 1952-1980
Series 4: Biographical Materials, 1954-1980
Series 5: Transparencies, 1947-1980
Series 6: Photoprints, 1913-ca. 1980
Series 7: Photonegatives, 1929-1981
Series 8: Prints, Drawings, Mixed Media, ca. 1790-1979
Series 9: Audio Tapes, 1947-1980
Series 10: Miscellaneous, 1947-1980
Biographical / Historical:
Donald Harvey Sultner was bom in York, Pennsylvania, on April 13, 1914, the son of Lillian May Arnold Sultner and Harvey A. Sultner. In 1923 Sultner attended the Lewis Institute in Detroit, Michigan, to overcome a speech impediment. He entered the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1932 and graduated in 1936. Sultner studied merchandising and sang in the glee club, then under the direction of composer Harl MacDonald. Sultner, a baritone, continued his interest in music and studied voice with Reinald Werrenrath and with Florence Benedict and Bruce Benjamin in New York City. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he appeared in concert with accompanists at schools, clubs, and resort hotels along the East Coast.
It appears that photography was always an important part of Sultner's life. Using a small format (120) camera, he recorded his vacation travels around the United States and Canada, parties, and his family. While living in New York, Sultner continued photographing friends and family and began photographing the famous people he encountered on his concert tours. In the early 1950s he began taking 2-1/4-inch by 2-1/4-inch color transparencies (slides) of landscapes and architecture as he traveled giving concerts.
Sultner, who had taken the stage name of "Sultner-Welles," began what was to be his lifework as a professional "photo-lecturer" in 1952. He illustrated his talks on nature, art, architecture, and the environment with his color slides. In 1954 Sultner toured West Germany as a guest of the Bonn government, and in 1959 he lectured in Asia under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. He was dubbed the "camera ambassador." Constantly adding new material to his collection of slides, Sultner traveled extensively throughout the United States, speaking before garden clubs, cultural organi-zations, and schools. He also appeared aboard various ships of the Holland-America line during a number of cruises abroad.
Sultner had established his performance style by the early 1960s. He expanded his lectures to include a combination of art, words, and music. The expanded presentation resulted in the "photo-concert," a unique synthesis of light and sound that Sultner frequently per-formed with a symphony orchestra. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra commissioned "Concertino for Camera and Orchestra" by Eric Knight with Sultner in mind. The world premiere was in Baltimore in March 1979. While he spoke on many art, garden, and architectural topics, Sultner specialized in subjects relating to the baroque and rococo periods and Palladian architecture.
Sultner died of cancer in York, Pennsylvania, on March 25, 1981, at the age of 67.
1914 -- April 13, born York, Pennsylvania.
1929 -- In Detroit at Lewis Institute to overcome a speech impediment.
1932 -- To University of Pennsylvania.
1935 -- Summer trip to Roanoke (VA), Picketts, Hershey (PA); fall trip to New England for fraternity (AXP) convention.
1936 -- Spring glee club trip; graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; summer trips to Newport News (VA), northern trip to Canada, Picketts (PA).
1937 -- Fall trip to Williamsburg (VA), Duke University (NC); Sultner family begins building "Glen Hill" (Dover, PA).
1938 -- Summer at home, and Picketts (PA), Camp Pratt.
1939 -- Spring trip to Washington, D.C.; September trip to The Homestead (WV), Hot Springs (WV), Virginia; Lake Mohonk (NY).
1940 -- Summer trip to New Orleans, Blowing Rock (NC); winter trip to Skytop Club (NY); fall trip to Atlantic City (NJ), Philadelphia (PA), Annapolis (MD).
1941 -- Winter 1941-42 appearance in "Hit the Deck." Lake Mohonk (NY) with Ted Walstrum (Sept. 22-23); Skytop Club (NY) (February); summer trip to Canada, Lake Chazy (NY) (Aug. 17-23).
1942 -- Spring in Atlantic City (NJ); summer to Buck Hill Falls, Lakes Chazy and Mohonk.
1943 -- Summer trip to Mohonk (NY).
1944 -- Summer: To Toronto (Ontario), Muskoka Lake, Bigwin Island, Montreal (Quebec), Mohonk (NY).
1946 -- To Mohonk (NY), Ogunquit (ME), Old Saybrook (CT), Nantucket (RI).
1947 -- Singing tour of Canada and New England; winter-spring tour to Georgia and Florida.
1948 -- To Florida and Nassau, Feb.-Mar., Vermont, July-Aug.; Nassau-Havana-Miami-Bermuda, October.
1949 -- Singing tour of North and South Carolina.
1950 -- Summer trip to South.
1951 -- To District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, [New Jersey?], New York, Vermont.
1952 -- January 9: first public photo-concert, Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, Philadelphia; trips to Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont.
1953 -- To Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont.
1954 -- Guest of German government for a study tour in the fall. To District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia.
1955 -- To Holland; Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia.
1956 -- To California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia.
1957 -- Holland-America Cruise to Germany, Austria, Italy. To Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia.
1958 -- Holland-America Cruises to Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland. To Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota., Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin.
1959 -- United States Information Service (USIS)-sponsored tour of Asia: Burma, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaya, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam. Also visited Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, Iran, Italy, Spain; Alaska, California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania.
1960 -- Holland-America Cruise to Austria, Belgium, Caribbean, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Morocco. To Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.
1961 -- To Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland; Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode.Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin.
1962 -- Portfolio, "Autumn in Vermont," with introduction by Carl Carmer, published in Autumn issue of Vermont Life. Holland-America Cruise to Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Sweden. To Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia.
1963 -- Holland-America Cruise to Caribbean, Canada, Sweden, Thailand. To Alabama, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, N;w York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.
1964 -- Holland-America Cruise to Germany, Canada, England, Holland, Wales. To Delaware, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia.
1965 -- Holland-America Cruise to Austria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Wales. To Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia.
1966 -- Holland-America Cruise to Caribbean, Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland. To New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia.
1967 -- Holland-America Cruise to Caribbean, Austria, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Wales. To Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia.
1968 -- To Germany; Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia.
1969 -- To England, France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland; Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia.
1970 -- Holland-America Cruise to Caribbean, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden. To Alabama, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia.
1971 -- Holland-America Cruise to Caribbean, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Sweden. To Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania.
1972 -- Holland-America Cruise to Asia, Pacific, Caribbean, Africa, Austria, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Turkey. To California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia.
1973 -- Holland-America Cruise to Austria, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Sweden. To California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont.
1974 -- To Germany, Switzerland; California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia.
1975 -- To Austria; California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia.
1976 -- To Canada; Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah.
1977 -- To Canada, Germany; New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia.
1978 -- To Scotland; Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina.
1979 -- To England; Florida.
1980 -- To Florida.
1981 -- March 25: Sultner dies of cancer, York, Pennsylania.
The Donald H. Sultner-Welles Collection, ca. 1790-1981, came to the National Museum of American History in 1982 from the estate of Mr. Sultner. The collection was created by Sultner over his adult life and represents one of the most extensive collections of color transparencies created by one individual and held in a public repository. Sultner's emphasis was on world culture. He took the majority of his photographs in the eastern United States, western Europe, and Asia. Gardens, architecture, and people are the three major subject areas represented in the collection. Of additional interest are Sultner's taped impressions of his 1959 United States Information Service (USIS)-sponsored Asian tour. The collection occupies 309 boxes and covers more than 83 cubic feet.
The Donald H. Sultner-Welles Collection is open to researchers in the Archives Center, third floor east, of the National Museum of American History, between 12th and 14th Streets, on Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20560. The Archives Center is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Written and telephone (202/357-3270) inquiries are welcome and researchers are encouraged to contact the Archives Center before their arrival. The FAX number is 202/786-2453.
This is the eleventh in a series of occasional guides to collections in the Archives Center. Finding aids to other collections are available. The Guide to Manuscript Collections in the National Museum of History and Technology (1978) and an updated compilation contain brief descriptions of all archival holdings in the Museum. All current Archives Center holdings are available for search on the Smithsonian Institution Bibliographic Information System (SIBIS), an online database.
References in notebook to tapes not located:
5/1960 Laddsl--Pasadena, CA (Thornton Ladd, Helen Peabody, me, Mrs. Ladd
Frontispiece: Portrait of Donald Harvey Sultner-Welles by Ludwig Harren, Nuremberg, Germany, May, 1957. Series 6: Photo¬prints, box 6; Series 7: Photonegatives, 700.1.
vii Donald Sultner-Welles inspecting slides at his 2101 E. Market Street apartment. Photograph by Gretchen H. Goughnour, York, Pennsylvania, December 1958. Series 6: Photoprints, box 6, folder 5; Series 7: Photonegatives, Box 11, 696.1.
Sultner-Welles with Rollei, Kobe, Japan, April 1959. Press photograph, photographer unknown. Series 7: Photonegatives, 687.1.
10 Americana by the Roadside" (boy with soda, Beech Creek, North Carolina). Series 5, Subseries 5: Subjects, Box 102: 6.3.
20 "Americana in Europe" (sign: "To the Elephant Kraal," South Africa). Series 5, Subseries 5: Subjects, Box 102: 6.33.
39 North Miami Beach Motel, Florida, February 1960. Series 5, Subseries 1: United States, Box 8: 9.11. SI Neg. 87-326, Videodisc Frame 2942.
40 Beech Creek, North Carolina (portrait of elderly woman), June 1956. Series 5, Subseries 1: United States, Box 28: 12.10. SI Neg. 87-327, Videodisc Frame 10156.
97 Brookgreen Sculpture Garden, South Carolina, ca. 1963. Series 5, Subseries 1: United States, Box 35.35.11. SI Neg. 87-328; Videodisc Frame 12747.
98 "Six Irrigation Paddlers Outside Hue," South Vietnam, 1959. Series 5, Subseries 2: World, Box 81: 35.11; also Series 7: Photonegatives, 658.1 (copy neg.). Videodisc Frame 27960.
151 Alkmaar Cheese Market, The Netherlands, September 1969. Series 5, Subseries 2: World, Box 70: 17.9. SI Neg. 87-329; not shown on videodisc.
152 African Cruise: Victoria Falls, Rhodesia, February 1972. Series 5, Subseries 3: Cruises, Box 83: 9.12. SI Neg. 87-330, Videodisc Frame 28344.
166 Il Galero, Italy, July 1966. Series 5, Subseries 4: European Architectural Styles, Box 99: 48.4. SI neg. 87-331.
179 "Baroque--Germany: Alterding," July 1965. Series 5, Subseries 4: European Architectural Styles, Box 94: 1.8. SI Neg. 87-332, Videodisc Frame 31310.
180 Design Elements, Hotel Fontainebleau, New Orleans,, Louisiana, April, 1961. Series 5, Subseries 5: Subjects, Box 106: 23.2. SI Neg. 87-333, Videodisc Frame 34912.
192 Charles Sheeler, ca. 1957-1965. Series 5, Subseries 9: Lectures, Box 169: 49.2. SI Neg. 87-334. Videodisc Frame 52713.
276 Villa Barbaro, Maser, Treviso, Italy. Series 7. Photonegatives, 715.1. SI Neg. 87-335.
281 "Water--Economics," Storm-Damaged Beach House. Series 5, Subseries 8: Notecard Transparencies, Box 155: 22.12. SI Neg. 87-336.
282 Market in Madeira. Series 5, Subseries 9: Lectures, Box 161: 48.12. SI Neg. 87-337, Videodisc Frame 48435.
298 Children (South Carolina?). Series 5, Subseries 9: Lectures, Box 104: 17.2. SI Neg. 87-338.
311 Goethe Statue, Chicago, Illinois. Series 7: Photonegatives, 678.1.
316 Feeding Gulls, Florida. Series 7. Photonegatives, 684.1.
331 Montage for Sultner's concerts. Series 8: Prints, Drawings, Mixed Media, filing case. Series 7: Photonegatives, 740.1.
332 Sultner Showing Slides to Garden Club, Caterpillar Tractor Co. Auditorium, Dec. 1958. Photograph by Gretchen H. Goughnour, York, Penn. Series 7: Photonegatives, 690.1.
340 Montage for Sultner's concerts. Series 8: Prints, Drawings, Mixed Media, filing case. Series 7: Photonegatives, 742.1.
341 Children, Ohio (boy in box in wagon) Series 5, Subseries 9: Lectures, Box 165: 13.2; Series 7: Photonegatives, 667.4 (copy neg.)
352 Publicity/brochure photograph. Drinking cup and water, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania. Series 7: Photonegatives, 651.1.
353 Publicity/brochure photograph, Milles Gardens, Stockholm, Sweden. Series 7: Photonegatives, 659.1.
Collection is open for research.
A small number of letters and photographs are restricted until the year 2031. Identification list in box.
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.
The collection documents, through printed materials, photographs, audio and moving image, Don Herbert's career as a science educator under the persona of "Mr. Wizard" from 1951 until the 1990s.
Scope and Contents:
The collection documents the career of science educator Don Herbert, who created and hosted child-oriented television programs on science subjects in which he assumed the persona of Mr. Wizard. In addition to a documentation about his early personal life, the collection also documents his Watch Mr. Wizard television show as well as his other television, radio, and educational activities.
The collection includes correspondence, contracts, writings, publications, newspaper clippings, speeches; awards, photographs; episode files relating to Watch Mr. Wizard and other educational programming, moving image, and audio recordings.
The collection is arranged into eight series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1906-2007
Series 2: Awards, 1948-2000
Series 3: Speeches, 1966-1994
Series 4: Publications/Writings, 1966-2004
Series 5: Newspaper Articles, 1944-2007
Series 6: Educational Programs/Projects, 1951-2008
Subseries 6.1: It's a Curious Thing, 1951, 1954
Subseries 6.2: Watch Mr. Wizard, 1954-1989
Subseries 6.3: General Electric Theater, 1956-1958
Subseries 6.4: Instructor Magazine, 1964-1965
Subseries 6.5: Experiment, 1963-2003
Subseries 6.6: Silence of Science, 1966
Subseries 6.7: CBS National Science Test, 1967
Subseries 6.8: General Electric, 1974-1976
Subseries 6.9: Mr. Wizard Collection...Fun Things, circa 1975
Subseries 6.10: Mr. Wizard Close-up, 1968, 1975
Subseries 6.11: Challenge with Mr. Wizard, 1976
Subseries 6.12: Science Twenty with Mr. Wizard, 1969-1974
Subseries 6.13: How About..., 1977-1989
Subseries 6.14: Mr. Wizard's Whadda Ya Know Show, circa 1981
Subseries 6.15: Correspondent Science News, circa 1987
Donald Herbert Kemske (1917-2007) was the creator and host of Watch Mr. Wizard (1951–1965), Mr. Wizard (1971–1972), Mr. Wizard's World (1983–1990), and other educational television programs for children devoted to science and technology. He also produced many short video programs about science and authored several popular books about science for children. So important was Mr. Wizard to scientific education on television that author Marcel LaFollette featured his photo on the cover of her book, Science on American Television: A History, University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Don Herbert was born Donald Herbert Kemske in Waconia, Minnesota on July 10, 1917. He was one of three children (sisters Betty and Dorothy) born to Herbert Kemske and Lydia Kemske (nee Poeppel). He officially changed his name in 1940 to Donald Jeffry Herbert. Herbert graduated from LaCrosse State Normal College in 1940 with a Bachelor of Science degree. In 1942, Herbert volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps and in 1943 began training as an aviation cadet and then pilot. During World War II, Herbert served in the 461 Bomb Group and 767 Bomb Squadron in Europe. He was discharged from the military service on July 29, 1945 as a captain and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. After the war, Herbert worked at a radio station in Chicago and acted in children's programs, including It's Your Life (1949). During this time Herbert developed the idea of Mr. Wizard. In 1939, Herbert married Maraleita Dutton (1923-1995) and the couple adopted three children: Jeffrey (1954); Jay (1955); and Jill (1960). He later divorced Maraleita Dutton and married Norma Nix Kasell (1918-2010) in 1972.
Premiering on March 3, 1951 on WNBQ, a 14-station network in Chicago, Herbert's Watch Mr. Wizard differed considerably from earlier attempts at scientific education on television. Those shows were either very technical, like the Johns Hopkins Science Review, or used magic tricks and comedy to hold viewers' attention, like ABC's Science Circus and CBS' Mr. I. Magination. From the beginning, Herbert planned a serious, informative show for children, rather than their parents. Even though he had only minimal scientific training in college—he had been an English major at La Crosse State Normal College in Wisconsin—in his persona as Mr. Wizard, Herbert conveyed a sense of authority and expertise.
The show, broadcast live, was carefully scripted, meticulously researched, and smooth-flowing. Each week, Mr. Wizard—described by LaFollette as a "nonthreatening, easygoing, intelligent man with a smiling face" in shirtsleeves and tie (and the occasional lab coat)—carefully guided his youthful assistants through simple experiments. Using ordinary household items such as eggs, balloons, milk bottles, coffee cans, and knitting needles, Herbert explained larger scientific principles like gravity, magnetism, and oxidation. Although seemingly complex, the experiments actually were simple enough to be re-created by his young viewers in the classroom or at home.
Herbert's winning combination of personality, grasp of science, and use of ordinary objects made Mr. Wizard a hit with viewers and made a lasting impression on science education in America. As LaFollette writes, the program "enjoyed consistent praise, awards, and high ratings throughout its history. At its peak, Watch Mr. Wizard drew audiences in the millions, but its impact was far wider. By 1956, it had prompted the establishment of more than five thousand Mr. Wizard science clubs, with an estimated membership greater than one hundred thousand." After over 500 shows over fourteen and a half years, NBC abruptly canceled Watch Mr. Wizard in 1965. The last program under contract with NBC aired on June 27, 1965.
From 1954 to 1962, Herbert, appearing as Mr. Wizard, delivered "Progress Reports" during commercial breaks of the General Electric Theater. As with most commercially-sponsored shows, the progress being reported on was almost exclusively made by General Electric. Following the cancellation of Watch Mr. Wizard, he continued to use his Mr. Wizard persona in science education. In 1965-1966, he produced an eight-film-series, Experiment: The Story of a Scientific Search, which was broadcast on public television, and a series of twenty-minute films, Science Twenty, designed to complement the current science curriculum in the classroom (circa 1970).
Herbert's television show was briefly revived in 1971-1972 as Mr. Wizard, in response to protests over the cartoons and commercials that flooded children's Saturday morning prime viewing time, but it did not receive enough network support. Herbert appeared in commercials for several companies during the 1970s and briefly lobbied Congress on behalf of General Electric in 1975. In the early 1970s, Herbert also produced Mr. Wizard Close-Ups, thirty second spots that aired on NBC in the Saturday morning slot. In the late 1970s, he began collaborating with the National Science Foundation to create a series of short news briefs for television called How About…How About was an adult-oriented series of 80-second reports highlighting advances in science and technology. The reports were designed for insertion into existing commercial television programs.
In the early 1980s, Herbert returned to television in Mr. Wizard's World, a faster-paced version of the original show that ran on the Nickelodeon network from 1983-1990. After its cancellation, reruns ran until at least 2000. During this time Herbert made numerous appearances on television news and talk shows, particularly the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, where he was a popular guest. In the 1990s, Herbert produced Teacher to Teacher with Mr. Wizard, a video series that debuted on September 27, 1994 on the Nickelodeon cable channel. The innovative educational series provided a candid, close-up and in-depth visit to classrooms of outstanding teachers using hands-on, inquiry-based techniques.
Herbert also published several books, including Mr. Wizard's Science Secrets (1952); Mr. Wizard's Experiments for Young Scientists (1959); Mr. Wizard's 400 Experiments in Science (1968); and Mr. Wizard's Supermarket Science (1980). Additionally, he designed science kits involving chemistry, crystal growing, ecology, and electronics, which were marketed by Owens-Illinois in the 1960s.
Herbert's hands-on techniques in demonstrating scientific concepts to children were the inspiration for numerous educators who followed his lead. As popular TV science educator Bill Nye wrote in a special to the Los Angeles Times, his "techniques and performances helped create the United States' first generation of homegrown rocket scientists just in time to respond to Sputnik. He sent us to the moon. He changed the world."
Don Herbert died in 2007, shortly before his 90th birthday. Soon after, the U.S. House of Representatives marked his passing: "Resolved, that the House of Representatives (1) expresses its appreciation for the profound public service and educational contributions of Don Jeffry Herbert, (2) recognizes the profound public impact of higher educational institutions that train teachers, (3) encourages students to honor the heritage of Don Herbert by exploring our world through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields; and, (4) extends its condolences to the family of Don Herbert and thanks them for their strong familial support of him."
LaFollette, Marcel. Science on American Television: A History, University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Nye, Bill. "Teaching Science with a Big `Poof!' Los Angeles Times, June 15, 2007.
Materials at Other Organizations
UCLA Film and Television Archives
The collection consists of 770 moving image items in several formats: 16mm kinescopes; 1" videotapes; 2" videotapes; ¾" videotapes; and DVDs. The collection documents Don Herbert's career as Mr. Wizard, from the early 1950's to the mid 1990's and includes such programs as Watch Mr. Wizard, Mr. Wizard's World, and How About...
Materials at the National Museum of American History
Related materials were donated to the Division of Medicine and Science. See accession 2014.0141.
2014.0141.01, Mr. Wizard's Experiments in Ecology, Series One: Microbes (science kit)
2014.0141.02, Mr. Wizard's Experiments in Crystal Growing (science kit)
2014.0141.03, Mr. Wizard's Experiments in Chemistry (science kit)
2014.0141.04, Fun with the Mr. Wizard Science Set (science kit)
2014.0141.05, Mr. Wizard's Science Secrets (science kit)
2014.0141.06, Mr. Wizard's Experiments for Young Scientists (book)
2014.0141.07, Mr. Wizard's Supermarket Science (book)
The collection was donated by Mr. Wizard Studios, through Thomas E. Nikosey, President, and Kristen K. Nikosey, Vice President, in 2014.
Collection is open for research. Reference copies for audio and moving images materials do not exist. Use of these materials requires special arrangement. Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives.
Social Security numbers are present and have been rendered unreadable and redacted. Researchers may use the photocopies in the collection. The remainder of the collection has no restrictions.
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.