Request Checked Items

Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

Search Collections

Fred Fehl:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Theater Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Fehl, Fred, 1906-1995
Title: Fred Fehl Theater Collection
Dates: 1935-1983 (bulk 1940-1970)
Extent: 44 document boxes, 35 oversize boxes (60.14 linear feet)
Abstract: The Fred Fehl Theater Collection consists predominantly of photographs of theater productions and personalities, 1935-1970. Also present are related theater programs, clippings, and scrapbooks, as well as correspondence and manuscripts for On Broadway (1978), a career retrospective co-written by Fehl with University of Texas professor William Stott.
Call Number: Performing Arts Collection PA-00031
Language: English .
Note: This brief collection description is a preliminary inventory. The collection is not fully processed or cataloged; no biographical sketch, descriptions of series, or indexes are available in this inventory.
Access:

Open for research. An advance appointment is required to view photographic negatives in the Reading Room.




Acquisition:

Purchase (R6070, 1973) and subsequent gifts

Processed by:

Sue Gertson and Jennifer Hecker, 2000; Helen Adair and Katie Causier, 2006; Daniela Lozano, 2012

Repository:

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin


Fred Fehl was born in Vienna but fled from the Nazis in 1938 and arrived in New York in 1939. He worked as a children's photographer to support himself while he pursued his love of theater by taking live shots of theater productions. He showed his prints to press agents and soon had a thriving career as a theater, dance, and music photographer.

The Fred Fehl Theater Collection consists predominantly of photographs of theater productions and personalities, 1935-1970. Also present are related theater programs, clippings, and scrapbooks, as well as correspondence and manuscripts for On Broadway (1978), a career retrospective co-written by Fehl with University of Texas professor William Stott. The collection is arranged in series as follows: I. Photographs, 1935-1970, undated, II. Programs, 1940-1971, undated, III. On Broadway, 1975-1983, and IV. Scrapbooks and Clippings, 1940-1976.

Approximately 8,000 photographs document stagings of plays, primarily on Broadway, including about 450 premiere productions, revivals, and stagings of classics. Images of numerous noted actors in performance are present, as well as a small group of "personality" shots. The great majority of the photographs are 5x7" prints, along with some 8x10" and 11x14" prints. The 5x7" prints are located in Containers 1-27, with larger prints located in Containers 28-30. In addition to the prints, there are slides related to four productions. The folder list that follows, however, collocates all prints, regardless of size, into a single alphabetical listing by show title.

The programs, which remain chronologically organized as Fehl kept them, are mainly from the plays that Fehl photographed, with a few other plays and opera performances represented as well. There is a separate title listing of the programs that can be used in conjunction with this finding aid.

The series concerning the creation of the book, On Broadway, consists of correspondence, five versions of the manuscript, a prospectus, and other materials that were used in the production of the book. The correspondence is primarily between Fred Fehl and his collaborator, William Stott, although other correspondents appear as well.

The scrapbooks and clippings represent Fehl's work as published in newspapers and magazines, although a few programs were also placed in the scrapbooks. Some of the pieces are autographed by performers. Generally the items concern theater productions, but clippings about opera and classical music performances are also present, with some clippings of dance productions interspersed in the scrapbooks.

In 2006, new material, previously uncataloged, was added to the original inventory. While these additional materials are physically located in boxes 42-44, the folder descriptions have been integrated into the listing of the earlier materials.

Negatives from the Fred Fehl Theater Collection, previously uncataloged, were added to the original inventory in 2012. The negatives are located in boxes 45-76. The folder descriptions have been integrated into the existing listing. Boxes 45-74 contain rolls of 35mm and 120 negatives while boxes 75-76 contain individual frames or strips of negatives in various formats. An advance appointment is required to view photographic negatives in the Reading Room.

A previous undertaking to catalog the Fehl Theater negatives took place in the 1970s but was not completed. At that time most of the negatives were removed from their original housing. There is a separate inventory that can be used in conjunction with this finding aid which lists the location of the negatives when the 2012 cataloging began, as well as the numbers assigned to the negatives by Fehl, if any. The negatives that were not previously cataloged and are unidentified are labeled with numbers that correspond to their original housing in either Fehl's homemade boxes or in negative files (ex: 1.2.1). The first number refers to the box or file, the second number refers to the compartment or slot within that box or file (numbered from top to bottom), and the last number refers to the negative's order within that compartment.

Original housing materials are located in boxes 77-79, including two of Fehl's homemade boxes kept intact. The long strips of 35mm negatives which were originally in negative files were cut in order to be housed properly. High resolution images of the cabinet drawers where rolls of 35mm negatives were stored are available in the reading room, and provide evidence of the original order of this part of the collection.

The Ransom Center Performing Arts Collection also holds the Fred Fehl Dance Collection, which documents Fehl's photography of ballet and dance performances.