This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Mel Casas papers, 1963-1998. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
The processing and digitization of this collection received Federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center. Additional funding for the digitization of the papers was provided by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Home movies documenting various events in a small, close-knit, South Bronx, New York community of Puerto Ricans who came to the mainland U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. The films depict birthdays, weddings and Christmas celebrations.
Scope and Contents:
These films, created by Manuel Quiles, document a small community of Puerto Rican immigrants who arrived in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. These Puerto Rican families were located mostly in the South Bronx, New York. The films contain footage of family gatherings and holiday celebrations, as well as family trips to the Bronx Zoo, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, and Mexico.
The collection is organized into one series that contains all films and videos. The original order of each reel of film was retained. The reels are organized chronologically.
Biographical / Historical:
Manuel Ismael Quiles (June 17, 1908 - October 1989) grew up in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and moved with his family to the U.S. in the 1920s. Throughout his life, Quiles worked in a number of professions that allowed him to use his artistic talents. During the Depression he traveled to Chicago and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, which sent him to Wyoming to work as a photographer for a newspaper. Later he returned to New York City and studied tool and die, machine, and patent model making at Gompers High School. After World War II, Quiles continued to pursue his artistic interests by working as a silk screen artist for a sign and showcase company. Later, he designed Spanish greeting cards and created labels for products sold in religious and botanical stores. Throughout his lifetime Quiles worked as a photographer, camera maker, silk screen artist, sculptor, locksmith, and wood carver.
Eventually Manuel Quiles gained recognition as an artist through his relationship with Jay Johnson, the owner of America's Folk Heritage Gallery. Quiles began to sell and exhibit his work at Johnson's New York gallery. When working on his sculptures, Quiles relied on woodworking skills he learned as a child from his cousin, a cabinet maker in Puerto Rico. References to his art work can be found in both Jay Johnson's American Folk Art of the Twentieth Century and Carolyn Morrow Long's Spiritual Merchants: Religion, Magic, and Commerce.
Donated by Mario Quilles and Priscilla Q. Wood in 2001.
Collection is open for research and access on site by appointment. Unprotected films must be handled with gloves.
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.