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About the Site

Broadway photographs supplies the only authoritative overview of the the creators of the photographic record of the American stage in print or on the web.  It pursues higher education's mission to supply the fruits of research to the public. The contents of Broadway Photographs were composed by Dr. David S. Shields, McClintock Professor at the University of South Carolina. Entries were edited by Dr. Abigail L. Smith. Textual material is copyrighted in the name of David S. Shields. Because the site was designed for educational purposes, permission to make use of the information contained herein will be granted gratis provided (1) that its source will be properly credited to Dr. David S. Shields, (2) that the information not be sold to profit a private citizen, corporation, or public institution, and (3) that its findings will not be misrepresented. Any credit information found in connection with photographs appearing here should appear in any reproduction as well.

Broadway Photographs is a work in progress, gathering biographical information and offering critical assessment of the significant camera artists treating the American stage from 1870 to 1940. Because of the scarcity of comment and print record for certain of these figures, corrections, supplementations, or emendations for the profiles and attributions supplied here are welcome. Given the propensity of publicity offices of theaters to fictionalize biography, misrepresent what is going on in a performance, and to ballyhoo matters in their messages afixed to the back of photographs; and given the frequent ignorance of reporters, editors, provincial theater managers who added their inscriptions to the images, the likelihood of error iplagues anyone who would credit what appears on the original prints. So I appeal for you critical aid in sorting out fact from fiction, correcint misidentifications, and supplying elaborating circumstance for what appears here.  One benefit of a website over a book is the speed with which errors can be corrected. Please contact Dr. Shields at dshields@mailbox.sc.edu. Please include your e-mail address in your message.

The site was built in two installments. When launched in 2006, it covered the period from 1900 to 1930.  Its initial construction was supported by a grant from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Carolina. It contained 64 photographer profiles, 50 performer profiles, and three illustrated feature essays. David Shields, aided by web builder Cube Whidden, attempted to provide an easy to use web resource for students of early 20th century performing arts visual culture. The research for the profiles was undertaken at the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress and through access to the Culver Service photo morgue supplied by Ralph DeLucca and Jay Parrino.

Almost immediately the site began receiving requests from theatrical historians, memorabilia dealers, and museum curators to expand the coverage back to the Civil War and forward to the end of the 20th century. In autumn 2011, while David Shields was co-teaching a seminar at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., he spent every Friday morning for twelve weeks working in the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division exploring the theatrical portrait and stage picture in the last half of the 19th century. Barbara Natanson assisted his explorations there. He also benefited greatly from conversations with Ann Shumard, curator of photographs of the U.S. National Portrait Gallery, and an expert in the photography of Jose Maria Mora.

A William Dearborn Fellowship at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, in 2012 enabled Shields to research the history of the development of theatrical imagery and reconstruct the careers of the foremost practitioners of the art. The expansion of the scope of Broadway Photographs found in this 2013 renovation of the site was due to the kind support of Houghton Library, and the aid of its able librarians Dale Stinchcomb, Micah Hoggatt, and to the Houghton Library's director, William Stoneman. The new edition appears in fulfillment of the charge of the Dearborn Fellowship to reconstruct the visual culture of the American performing arts in the 19th century.  

In 2014 Shields plans to expand the coverage of Broadway Photographs to include (1) photographs from the little theater movement in the first half of the 20th century, and (2) theatrical photography and dance photography of the second half of the 20th century.

David Shields is not an appraiser of vintage photographic prints. He does not volunteer estimates of the probable worth of a print you own on the memorabilia or art photography markets. He recommends that you consult a professional appraiser of vintage photography or theatrical memorabilia. Dr. Shields does respond to requests for information about photographic archives, copyright issues, and information about the estates of photographers. He welcomes communications from other appreciators of vintage performing arts photography. 

Broadway Photographs is hosted by the College of Arts & Sciences through the Dean's Office as a public service in pursuance of the College's mission to make available original research enriching the lives and culture of the citizens of South Carolina and the United States. The servers and facilities supporting the site are maintained by Computing and Information Technology Center of College.

The majority of images presented here derive from the David S. Shields photography collection a study collection maintained at the University of South Carolina. I have derived a substantial number of images from Jay Parrino's The Mint, holder of the Culver Service Archive. Other images derive from the Library of Congress Biographical Files maintained in the Prints and Photographs Division, The Billy Rose Collection, New York Public Library Performing Arts Library, The Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Harvard Theatre Collection at Houghton Library. Provenance Information is supplied for all photographs not deriving from the Shields Collection.

All images appearing herein are either in the public domain (that is, they predate 1923), or were issued by theatrical agents or performers as publicity with a tacit copyright waiver. The intention in distributing these images was to get them printed in as many venues as possible. Only images created for exclusive publication in a single periodical (either as 'exclusive' images or under work-for-hire conditions) or images bearing a copyright symbol or stamp claimed copyright protection during the 1910s and 1920s. No such images post-dating 1923 are employed as illustrations here. All images derive from vintage prints distributed as part of publicity campaigns. That is, no images here were recently printed from photographer negatives whose imagery has never been heretofore published.

Neither David S. Shields nor the University of South Carolina is engaged in the licensing or sale of the images found herein. The images appear to elucidate the visual culture of American performing arts and to illustrate the work of the most significant photographers recording the American stage.