The collection contains: twenty-nine silver gelatin photoprints mounted on Fome-Core, Masonite, and cardboard, ranging in size from 5-1/2" x 9-1/4" to 10-11/16" x 13-13/16"; three 5" x 7" unmounted silver gelatin photoprints; a scrapbook which originally contained 56 silver gelatin photoprints, ranging in size from 2" x 3" to 7-1/2" x 9-1/2"; and silver gelatin film negatives (presumably acetate) for the prints. The scrapbook includes a New York Daily News clipping about Rivers: "Builds a Bridge to Students" by Anthony Burton (dated May 12, 1970 by Rivers) with a photograph showing him speaking to a crowd,
Most of the photographs depict the construction of the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings--iron workers on the job and relaxing during breaks, and pictures of the buildings at various stages of completion. Other subjects are: a demonstration to prevent World War II (1935), a color photoprint of the Civil Rights March and Demonstration in Washington, D.C. (1963), and two magazine clippings from a Soviet publication, New Times, in which Rivers's prize-winning "Self Portrait" (1930) was reproduced.
Most of these prints were made by Charles Rivers many years after the creation of the original negatives, probably ca.1970s 1980s. The collection is in generally good condition, except that many of the print surfaces are scratched.
Biographical / Historical:
Charles Rivers created a certain amount of confusion about his origins, whether accidentally or intentionally. Born Constantinos Kapornaros (or Kostandinos Kapernaros) in the small town of Vahos in Mani, an isolated area in the southern Peloponnesian region of Greece, on May 20, 1904, he emigrated to the United States as a child of five or six with his parents. His school record showed that he was enrolled in 1911 at the age of seven. The family lived in Maine or New Hampshire, then Massachusetts, and later other locations in New York state. It is believed that his new name was derived from the Charles River in Boston. The change may have been occasioned by a need to conceal his deep involvement in left-wing political and union activities.
Mr. Rivers settled in New York City in 1950 and resided there until 1993. He sometimes identified his birthplace as Denver, Colorado, but this may have been a fabrication or simplification, based on the fact that Greek church baptismal records were kept in Denver. His sons James and Ronald believe that he never became an official American citizen. Late in life, in order to visit his birthplace, he was issued a passport, based on his school records, which stated that he was born in Denver.
Rivers photographed the construction of the Chrysler Building (1929) and the Empire State Building (1930) in New York City. He was inspired to take up photography by seeing the work of the influential documentary photographer Lewis Hine, whose famous images of working children helped win passage of protective child labor laws. Rivers and Hine both photographed the Empire State Building and the men building it, yet Rivers apparently was unaware until years later that his idol had been present. Employed as an iron worker, Rivers traded his pail of tools for a Zeiss Ikon camera during his lunch hour or when photographic opportunities arose. While the workers depicted in some of the photographs clearly are aware of the photographer's presence, Rivers's project presumably was conducted more or less surreptitiously. It is not known for certain if the paths of Rivers and Hine ever crossed, but his son Ron considers it unlikely: Hine photographed only the Empire State Building in connection with his "Men at Work" project, not the earlier Chrysler Building, and Rivers did not work on the Empire State Building for a very long period. His self-portrait on the Empire State Building, "The Bolter-Up," may have been intended as a memento during one of his last days on that job.
Rivers became unemployed in the Depression and consequently became involved in national efforts to create Social Security, unemployment insurance, and housing programs. These experiences apparently encouraged his active participation in politically leftist activities, as coverage about him in Soviet publications attests. A pacifist, in 1935 he was involved in demonstrations aimed at preventing World War II, and in the 1960s he took part in anti-Vietnam demonstrations and encouraged young people to continue such resistance.
In the 1950s Rivers worked in steel fabrication, in a chemistry lab as a technician, and briefly as a legislative aide for a New York state senator.
In 1986 Rivers submitted his 1930 self-portrait, posed on the Chrysler Building, to the International Year of Peace art contest sponsored by the New Times, published in Moscow: it was awarded a prize and diploma.
Mr. Rivers died in 1993, only two weeks after moving to Arlington, Texas to enter a nursing home near his sons' homes.
1. The page on Rivers in New York University=s Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives web site (http://laborarts.org/collections/item.cfm?itemid=82) --noted 5 June 2002), claims Rivers was born in 1905 and changed his name Ato resemble those of the Mohawk Indians working on the high steel of New York City=s skyscrapers and bridges".
2. This spelling is given in an e-mail from James Rivers to Helen Plummer, Aug. 19, 2002.
4. Telephone conversation between Ron Rivers and the author, 6 June 2002. Additional information was provided by Ron Rivers in electronic mail messages, 5 June and 12 June 2002.
5. James Rivers, op. cit.
6. Telephone conversation with Ron Rivers, 6 June 2002.
7. In a biographical statement for the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art (copy supplied by Helen Plummer), Charles Rivers called Denver his birthplace. The George Eastman House photographer database also included this apparently erroneous information, probably derived from the Amon Carter statement (telephone conversation with Helen Plummer, 3 June 2002).
8. Ron Rivers, telephone conversation, 6 June 2002.
9. Identified by Charles Rivers as the camera used in the skyscraper photographs: interview by Carol Sewell, "Photographer looked at U.S. from high view," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dec. 27, 1986. Rivers also used a Rolleiflex, according to Ron Rivers (see note above), but the folding Zeiss Ikon camera would have been a more convenient addition to a lunchbox than the bulkier Rolleiflex. The collection negatives are not in the Rolleiflex square format, moreover.
10. See Judith Mara Gutman, Lewis W. Hine and the American social conscience. New York: Walker, 1967.
11. Ron Rivers, telephone conversation, 6 June 2002.
Materials at the Smithsonian Institution
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Included Rivers's self-portrait, "The Bolter Up," in its summer 2002 exhibition, "Metropolis in the Machine Age," in the form of a new print made from a digital copy of the Archives Center's original negative. The author discussed the new print from the Rivers negative and other photographs in this exhibition in an invited gallery lecture, "The Skyscraper Photographs of Lewis Hine and Charles Rivers," Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, June 6, 2002.
Materials at Other Organizations
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
See Barbara McCandless and John Rohrbach, Singular moments: photographs from the Amon Carter Museum, with select entries by Helen Plummer. Reproduction of a Rivers photograph, with description and analysis, p. 30. Additional information has been generously supplied by Ms. Plummer, curatorial associate, and Barbara McCandless, curator of photography, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth Texas.
Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University
Museum of the City of New York
Some of his photographs were included in the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art exhibition, "Looking at America: Documentary Photographs of the 1930s and 1940s," December 1986.
The collection is a gift from Mr. Charles Rivers, 1989.
Collection is open for research.
Archives Center claims copyright. Rights were conveyed to the Archives Center through a Deed of Gift signed by the donor.
Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization Search this
New York World's Fair (1939-1940 : New York, N.Y.) Search this
130 Cubic feet (417 boxes, 25 map-folders)
Motion picture film
Flushing Meadows Park (New York, N.Y.)
New York (N.Y.)
Collection documents the 1939 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Also includes material relating to other fairs, the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO), New York City tourism and The Walt Disney Company.
Scope and Contents:
Collection primarily documents the conception, planning, construction, management, and operations of the 1939 New York World's Fair located in Flushing Meadows, New York. Materials provide historical context and cultural significance as recorded in publications, artwork, photographs, ephemera, postcards, maps, plans, exhibitor's literature, souvenirs, and motion picture film. Most of the materials were primarily created for people who attended the fair. Some of the materials include scrapbooks created by fair visitors to document their experiences. There is a significant amount of material relating to other fairs, New York tourism, the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO) and the World's Fair Collector's Society. Other forms of entertainment such as festivals, the Olympic games, and Disney World are also found among these materials. There is little information relating to Edward Orth's personal and professional life as a city planner. The collection is arranged into eleven series.
The collection is arranged into eleven series.
Series 1, Edward J. Orth Personal Papers, 1915-1989, undated
Subseries 1.1, Correspondence, 1939-1989
Subseries 1.2, Other Materials, 1915-1989, undated
Series 2, Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO) and World's Fair Collector's Society, Incorporated Records, 1942-1990, undated
Subseries 2.1, General Information, 1960-1988, undated
Subseries 2.2, Correspondence, 1942-1990, undated
Subseries 2.3, Classified and Wanted Advertisements, 1956-1988, undated
Edward Joseph Orth grew up with a strong interest in history, particularly the history of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Orth's visit to the fair as a twelve-year-old boy led to a life-long passion of collecting. At the time of his death, he had amassed enough materials to fill two homes in California. Orth also collected materials from several other fairs. In addition, he saved some of the records of the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO) and the World's Fair Collector's Society.
Orth was born April 19, 1927, to Andrew Joseph Orth and Florence Minnie Gordon Orth in Glendale, New York. In the 1930s, the Orth family lived in several locations in New York including Ridgewood, Brooklyn, Glendale, and Queens. The home that made the most impact in young Orth's life came in 1935 when the family moved to St. Albans, Queens seven miles from Flushing Meadow Park, the future site of the 1939 fair. Sadly in 1939 there were several deaths in the family including three grandparents. The severe loss of life limited family social activities but a drive by the future site of the fair provided Orth a glimpse of the Trylon and Perisphere. He would later remark that the sight appeared to be magic. In the summer of 1939, he went to the fair with his classmates from Public School 136. The next summer Orth and his father purchased a 10-admission ticket from an elementary school in Hollis, Queens, New York. He saved every souvenir and any information he could find about the fair. He filled scrapbooks with images from newspapers and postcards from the Curt Teich and Manhattan Postcard companies. When his family moved from an apartment to a house, he acquired a fair bench which was kept in the backyard.
In 1941, Orth attended Newton High School in Elmhurst, and Queens, New York. The high school offered a college preparatory program with heavy emphasis on mathematics, science, mechanical drawing, and workshop courses. Orth's education and training combined with the knowledge he gained from motion picture films viewed at the fair, including Thomas Edison's "The City of Light," Ford Motor Company's "Road of Tomorrow," "Democracy," and General Motors' "Futurama" provided the foundation and inspiration for a career in architecture and landscaping. He ultimately became a city planner for the state of California. By 1943, Orth was exploring used magazine and bookstores in New York City to acquire more fair materials before enlisting in the United States Army in 1945. Upon his discharge he resumed buying and trading fair postcards. From 1948-1953, Orth attended the University of California and the University of Connecticut where he studied architecture and landscape design. During these years he posted advertisements in various publications in his continued pursue for fair materials.
In March 1953, Mr. Orth moved to Los Angeles, California. There he formed lasting friendships with other collectors. By 1967, Orth and several of his closest friends including Peter Warner, Oscar Hengstler, David Oats, Larry Zim, and Ernest Weidhaas conceived the idea of a fair collector's organization. By the summer of 1968, the group had formally created the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO).
As time passed Orth became increasing concerned about the welfare of his collection. He wanted it to go to a museum rather than be sold in parts. In his will he stipulated that the collection would be given to the Smithsonian Institution upon his death. Jon Zackman, former Smithsonian employee, interviewed Orth's brother George and fair collector Peter Warner. Orth and Warner corresponded and traded objects over many years. Mr. Orth primarily covered the west coast area while Peter Warner was his east coast counterpart. Edward Orth died on September 6,1989 in Los Angeles, California at the age of sixty-two.
Materials in the Archives Center
New York World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.0134
Landor Design Collection, NMAH.AC.0500
Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Subject Category, World Expos, NMAH.AC.0060
Larry Zim World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.0519
Alice R. Hillis World's Fair Film, NMAH.AC.0531
Borden Company 1939 New York World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.1063
Memories of the New York World's Fair, NMAH.AC.0592
Archives Center World Expositions Collection, NMAH.AC.0825
Daniel H. Meyerson World's Fair Collection, NMAH.AC.0745
Division of Community Life World's Fairs Collection, NMAH.AC.1132
Princeton University Posters Collection, NMAH.AC.0433
Smithsonian Speech Synthesis History Project, NMAH.AC.0417
Messmore and Damon Company Records, NMAH.AC.0846
Thomas Norrell Railroad Collection, NMAH.AC.1174
William L. Bird Holidays on Display Collection, NMAH.AC.1288
Wurlitzer Company Records, NMAH.AC.0469
Victor A. Blenkle Postcard Collection, NMAH.AC.0200
Materials at Other Organizations
New York Public Library The New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated Records, 1935-1945, MssCol 2233.
New York City 1939 World's Fair architectural drawings, circa 1935. Museum of the City of New York. Museum of the City of New York.
New York City 1939 World's Fair Collection, 1939-1940. Museum of the City of New York. New York World's Fair 1939/40 Collection. Queens Museum.
1939 New York World's Fair Postcards, Identifier: 1972-320, Audiovisual Collections Repository, Hagley Museum & Library
Materials at the National Museum of American History
Artifacts from the collection include several thousand souvenirs and examples of memorabilia commemorating the fair to include buttons and badges, ceramics, glassware, clothing, costume jewelry, coins and medals, commemorative spoons and flatware, toys and games, and philatelic material which are all part of the Division of Home and Community Life's holdings (now Division of Cultural and Community Life).
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Viewing film portion of collection requires special appointment, please inquire. Do not use when original materials are available on reference video or audio tapes.
Contact the Archives Center for information at email@example.com or 202-633-3270.
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.
Exhibitions -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) Search this
0.6 Linear feet
Bryson Burroughs photographs of artwork measure 0.6 linear feet and date from circa 1935 and circa 1983. The collection consists of glass plate negatives and copy prints of artwork, primarily paintings, by Burroughs.
Scope and Contents:
Bryson Burroughs photographs of artwork measure 0.6 linear feet and date from circa 1935 and circa 1983. The collection consists of glass plate negatives and copy prints of artwork, primarily paintings, by Burroughs. The glass plates were possibly made for the memorial exhibition for Burroughs held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1935.
The collection is arranged as one series.
Series 1: Bryson Burroughs Photographs, circa 1935, circa 1983 (0.43 linear feet; Box 1, MMs)
Biographical / Historical:
New York painter and museum curator Bryson Burroughs (1869-1934), studied at the Art Students League in New York and at the Académie Julian in Paris. Later, he became an associate, then a full member, of the National Academy of Design in New York. From 1909 to 1934 he was the Curator of Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A memorial exhibition for Burroughs was held at the museum in 1935.
The collection was donated to the Archives of America Art in 1983 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art via John K. Howat.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
Kaslov, Steve, ca. 1888-1949 (King of the Red Bandanna Romany Gypsies ) Search this
0.25 Cubic feet (4 boxes)
Virgin Islands -- 1930-1940
New York (N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
Bowery (New York, N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
Chinatown (New York, N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) -- 1930-1940
1985 - 1986
1930 - 1943
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains 273 silver gelatin photoprints (Series 1), most of which apparently were made during the 1930s and early 1940s, contemporaneously with the original negatives. All are 8" x 10" or slightly smaller, unmounted except for flush mounted linen on the backs of some prints. The photographs were made primarily in two locations, New York City and the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands pictures were made as part of a special documentary project in 1939, as described above, whereas the New York photographs stem from Mr. Alland's largely self assigned documentation of various ethnic and religious groups in New York from approximately 1932 to 1943. The projects include photographs of the "Red Bandanna" Romany Gypsy group in the Bowery, a black Jewish congregation, Mohawk Indians in Brooklyn, and other groups, which required extensive exploration, research, and photographing over periods of many days or weeks. A variety of miscellaneous ethnic and religious groups are covered in the general "Other Religions" and "Nationalities" folders. The contents of the "Judaism" folder include primarily New York sites and people, but there are also additional views of a synagogue from the Virgin Islands project.
Series 2 of the collection contains four cassette tape recordings of two interviews with Mr. Alland, three made by Richard Ahlborn (with Eugene Ostroff and Matt Salo) in 1985, and one by David Haberstich and Richard Ahlborn, June 2-3, 1986 (at which time the photographs were donated). The tapes include readings from his autobiography, personal reminiscences on his experiences as an immigrant and a photographer, and commentary on the photographs.
The collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1: Photoprints, 1930-1943
Series 2: Audiotape Cassettes, 1985-1986
The photographs are arranged topically and by nationality.
Biographical / Historical:
Alexander Alland, Sr., was born in Sevastopol, Crimea (formerly in the Soviet Union) on 6 August 1902. His last name originally was Landschaft, but he legally changed it to Alland following the birth of his son. Alland's interest in photography began at the age of twelve, when he helped a local photographer with darkroom work. He constructed his own camera from cardboard with a simple meniscus lens and exposed glass plate negatives with the device.
Toward the end of the Civil War in Russia in 1920, Alland relocated in Constantinople, Turkey, where he was hired as an apprentice by a graduate of the Vienna Academy of Photography. When the Union Nationale des Combatants Francais went on a pilgrimage to Gallipoli, a former battle zone on the Dardanelles, he was asked to accompany them in order to document events. After having his request for a pay increase refused, he left his employer two years later and opened his own portrait studio, "Photo d'Art Russe." When civil unrest threatened Constantinople in 1923, he decided to emigrate to the United States.
During his first years in the United States he worked in photo finishing businesses while engaged in home portraiture independently. He married in 1929 and a son, Alexander, Jr., was born. In the 1930s he became one of the best known photographers portraying the life of immigrants and various ethnic groups in New York. (1) In 1936 he was appointed supervisor of the Photo Mural section of the W.P.A. Federal Art Project, and worked as a free lance photographer for magazines and periodicals featuring the activities of various ethnic groups living in New York City. He specialized in making photomurals with montage techniques. (2)
In 1937 Alland became photography instructor at the American Artists' School and joined the American Artists Congress. In 1939, his first book, Portrait of New York, was published and he became president of the "Exploration Photo Syndicate" and went to the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a project to produce a pictorial record of the West Indian Islands. His photographs appeared in publications and were exhibited at the New School for Social Research and at the Schomberg Collection. In 1942 he joined the staff of Common Ground magazine as photography editor and was appointed by the National Youth Administration to supervise their photography workshop. His book American Counterpoint appeared in 1943 and was selected as "One of the Fifty Best Books of the Year." The original prints from that book were exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York, which also exhibited a portfolio of his work on American Gypsies. In 1944 he became director of an agency, "Pictures for Democracy," and in 1945 his book The Springfield Plan was proclaimed another "One of the Fifty Best Books of the Year."
During World War II Alland did technical photography for the War Department, receiving a commendation for this work. After another book My Dog Rinty was published, he left New York City to establish a school of photography, combined with a school of dance directed by his wife, Alexandra, a professional dancer and choreographer. (3) He then began to exhibit his own photographs and to collect glass plate negatives and vintage prints by significant photographers. He is perhaps best known for locating a collection of Jacob Riis negatives and making them available. In 1974 Aperture published his biography, Jacob A. Riis: Photographer and Citizen4. Because of his efforts in providing the Riis negatives to the Museum of the City of New York, that institution awarded a special commemorative medal to him in 1973. The Riis book was followed by two more studies of photographers, Jessie Tarbox Beals, First Woman News Photographer (5) and Heinrich Tonnies, Cartes de Visite Photographer Extraordinaire. (6)
Retrospective exhibitions of Alland's work were held in two major Danish museums in summer 1979 and he was honored for contributions to the cultural history of Denmark. In 1991 studies for his photomural work were included in an historical survey exhibition of American photomontage at the University of Maryland at College Park. (7).
1. My text is based upon the biographical information recorded on my taped interviews with Mr. Alland in this collection, but see also Bonnie Yochelson, The Committed Eye: Alexander Alland's Photography. New York: The Museum of the City of New York, Inc., 1991.
2. Merry A. Foresta, "Art and Document: Photography of the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project," in Official Images: New Deal Photography (essays by Foresta, Pete Daniel, Maren Stange, and Sally Stein), Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987, p. 153, based on an interview with Alland, January 1987.
3. Photographic historian Anne Peterson, contractor for three Archives Center photographic collection projects between 1986 and 1982, reports that she studied ballet as a child with Mrs. Alland.
7. See catalog by Cynthia Wayne, Dreams, Lies, and Exaggeration: Photomontage in America. The Art Gallery, University of Maryland at College Park, 1991 (exhibition at the gallery Oct. 21 Dec. 20, 1991).
Materials in the Archives Center
Carlos de Wendler Funaro Gypsy Research Collection (AC0161)
Contains additional Alland photographs. De Wendler Funaro also photographed Steve Kaslov, his family, and his Bowery coppersmith workshop.
Collection donated by Alexander Alland, June 3, 1986.
Collection is open for research.
Copyrighted material: photographs may not be reproduced without written permission from the Estate of Alexander Alland, Sr.
Synagogues -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York, N.Y. Search this
Newspapers -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y. Search this
Muslims -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y. Search this
Minorities -- Housing -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Minorities -- Housing -- 1930-1940 -- Virgin Islands Search this