PAPERS OF CARL VAN VECHTEN
Dates: [1939 -- 1960]
1 linear ft.
document describes a collection of materials held by the
Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
Carl van Vechten holding a lion cub.
Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research. Bru ce Kellner administers copyright
to the photographs.
ce Kellner administers copyright to the photographs.
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Carl Van Vechten was born on June 17, 1880, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. At an early age, he developed an interest in music and theatre that he found hard to satisfy in his hometown. He left Iowa in 1899 to attend the University of Chicago. In Chicago he was able to explore art, music, and opera. He became interested in writing and contributed to the University of Chicago Weekly.
After college, Van Vechten's first job was with the Chicago American. In addition to covering a broad range of topics, he was occasionally asked to provide photographs to go along with his copy.
In 1906, when Van Vechten moved to New York City, he was hired as the assistant music critic at the New York Times. His interest in opera prompted him to take a leave of absence from the Times in 1907, to examine this art form in Europe. While in England he married his long-time friend from Cedar Rapids, Ann Snyder. The marriage would end in divorce in 1912.
Van Vechten returned to his job at the New York Times in 1909 and soon became the first American critic of modern dance. At that time, Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, and Loie Fuller were performing in New York.
In 1914, Van Vechten married actress Fania Marinoff. He left his full time newspaper job in the spring, but he continued to write, and published several collections of his essays relating to music, ballet, and cats. Peter Whiffle: His Life and Works, Van Vechten's first novel, was published in 1922.
Van Vechten became very interested in promoting black artists and writers. He was an avid collector of ephemera and books pertaining to black arts and letters, and was a frequent visitor to Harlem. These experiences provided the inspiration for his controversial novel, Nigger Heaven, which was published in 1926. In the future, he would photograph many of the creative people he met in Harlem.
In the early 1930s Miguel Covarrubias introduced Van Vechten to the 35 mm Leica camera. He began photographing his large circle of friends and acquaintances. His earlier career as a writer and his wife's experience as an actress provided him with access to both fledgling artists and established cultural figures of the time. Some of his subjects from this period include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Alfred A. Knopf, Bessie Smith, and Gertrude Stein.
Van Vechten's portraits are frequently busts or half-length poses in front of bold backdrops. Dancers were usually photographed on stage. Van Vechten did his own darkroom work, but frequently used an assistant to help set up lights for portrait sittings.
During World War II Van Vechten volunteered at the Stage Door Canteen. Top-notch entertainers frequently performed there for servicemen.
Van Vechten's photographs have been widely exhibited and frequently used as illustrations in books and magazines. He felt very strongly that his collections of manuscripts, letters, clippings, programs, and photographs, many pertaining to creative blacks, should be available for scholarly research. With this in mind, he presented various parts of his collections to several university libraries during his lifetime. Van Vechten remained active, writing and photographing up until his death in 1961.
(This biography was copied from the Library of Congress web site on Van Vechten. For the URL, see below.)
Scope and Contents
This collection is comprised mainly of 8 x 10 photographs. There are drafts for one essay on Gertrude Stein. some photocopied correspondence, pamphlet material about Van Vechten and the typescript of a stage adaptation of "The Tattooed Countess."
Andrews, Clarence. "Iowa Literary History 1971 -- 1991." Books at Iowa, April 1992.
Carney, Thomas L. and Joyce Crawford. "The Torch Press: A Preliminary History." Books at Iowa, November, 1974.
Kellner, Bruce. "Baby Woojums in Iowa." Books at Iowa, April, 1977.
Kuhl, Nancy. Extravagant Crowd : Carl Van Vechten's Portraits of Women. New Haven, Conn. : Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 2003. Online exhibit available at http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/cvvpw/
Library of Congress, American Memory Project. Creative Americans: Portraits by Carl Van Vechten.
Sigmund, Jay. Manuscript Collection, The University of Iowa Libraries. Papers of Jay Sigmund: MsC697
Biographical and bibliographic information
"An Evening with George Gershwin." With the Cedar Rapids Symphony conducted by Richard Williams. "An event of Carl Van Vechten -- Cultural Contributions on a Century 1880 --1980." Concert Program
"Gertrude Stein: An Epilogue"
Correspondence, 1939 -- 1960
Typescript, with revisions. Autographed. 1946
"Memorial to Miss Gertrude Stein." New York Post, December 9, 1946
Miscellan eous. Contains notes, bookplates, book jackets, programs, postcards and other miscellaneous materials
eous. Contains notes, bookplates, book jackets, programs, postcards and other miscellaneous materials
Index to the photographs
Blixen, Karen (Isak Dinesen)
Calder, Alexander (1 smaller photograph)
Graham, Martha and Bertram Ross
Jones, James Earl
Julian, Doris (5 folders)
Julian, Doris and her son Stephen Van Ophuigsen (6 folders)
King, Alexander and Margie
Quintero, Jose (2 folders)
Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan
17 Belley Grande Rue (Post card)
Stage Door Canteen
Stein, Gertrude (five smaller photographs)
Studio at 27 Rue de Fleurus
Toklas, Alice B.
Toklas, Alice B. (3 smaller photographs)
Van Dyke, Henry
Van Ophuigsen, Stephen (6 folders)
Van Vechten, Carl (3 folders)
Van Vechten, Carl (photograph of bust)
Van Vechten and Coleman Dowell
Van Vechten, Carl and Ethel Waters
Albee, Edward (2 folders)
Graham, Martha and Bertram
Kellner, Bruce and Carl Van Vechten
Petry, Ann L.
Schuyler, Phillippa Duke
Still, William Grant
Williams, John A.
McFee, William. Book review of Parties, by Carl Van Vechten (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1930)
Kellner, Bruce to Maude Jahncke, 1986. Incorporates Van Vechten letter to Ada Amanda Fitch Van Vechten, Grand Rapids, MI, 1892. In memory of Van Vechten's 106th birthday.
Van Vechten, Carl, to George Dutton. 1962, 13 August. To arrange a meeting.
"80 Writers Whose Books and Letters Have Been Given Over the Past 20 Years to the Yale University Library" by Carl Van Vechten. New Haven: Yale University Library, 1960.
"CVV 101" (observing the 101st birthday anniversary of Carl Van Vechten, c. 1981)
"Memoirs" by Fania Marinoff. Lancaster, PA: Bruce Kellner, 1987.
"My Favorite Authors." Bruce Kellner, 1985.
Schuyler, George S. "The Van Vechten Revolution". Reprint, Phylon, the Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture, 1950.
Seery, M. Jean. "Carl Van Vechten's Role in the Negro Renaissance." 1982
"The Tattooed Countess." A stage reading from the novel by Carl Van Vechten. Adapted by James V. Hatch.