|| The photographic morgue of the Hearst newspaper the New York Journal-American consists of photographic prints and negatives published between 1895 and 1966. The collection is divided into two series, I. Prints and II. Negatives. Due to the size of the collection (approximately three million items), only the Prints series is cataloged; it is accessible through an online database. The negatives (approximately one million items) are not available for patron use.
Series I. Prints consists of approximately two million original photographic prints
maintained in over 64,000 file folders. The files are arranged into five subseries,
A. Biographical, B. Subject, C. Geographical, D. Geographical—Greater New York,
Jumbo (i.e., oversize), which reflect the original arrangement devised by the
Journal-American photo editors. The bulk of the
photographs are gelatin silver and made to the conventional American standard
dimension of 8 x 10 inches. Although they range in date from throughout the
newspaper's lifetime, the vast majority date from the mid-1930s to the paper's
demise on April 24, 1966. A few hundred gelatin silver prints and a handful of
albumen prints, all of which pre-date the 1930s, are scattered throughout the
collection. It was common practice for newspapers to weed their morgues from time
time to remove images, both photos and negatives, that were judged to have lost
their news value. Much weeding likely occurred during the multiple mergers, between
1937 and 1941, of several Hearst newspapers, which ultimately resulted in the
formation of the Journal-American.
Roughly half of the photographs were taken by New York
Journal-American photographers and nearly all of these were subsequently
reproduced in an issue of the paper. In most instances, the backs of these prints
bear either the stamped date of publication and a pasted-down clipping, or a report
sheet, generally filled out by the photographer himself, which provides valuable
contextual information such as the date, the photographer's name, and any pertinent
information that they supplied about the shoot itself and/or the subject of the
photo. In rare instances, prints of an amateur or freelance photographer were
These were clearly labeled as such and subject to the same thorough contextual
processing as all the other prints. Nearly all the remaining prints came from
services, such as the Associated Press or Hearst's International News, and are
identified with the wire service name and a caption on either the fronts or the
backs. A small number of the prints are publicity photos from such sources as
airlines, night clubs, public relations firms, and movie studios; these usually
a caption and source information on the back. The wire-service and publicity photos
may or may not have appeared in the newspaper. The Ransom Center holds copyright
images taken by Journal-American staff photographers.
The prints in the collection formed the original working files for the editors and
photographers of the Journal-American. They were
subjected to all of the traditional uses of a very active and long-term photo
and subsequently show signs of rough handling, bending, creasing, tearing, marking,
rapid chemical processing, deterioration, and the advanced wear-and-tear of possible
multiple uses. As such, although their historical and cultural worth remains high,
their condition is not comparable to those of most fine art prints. Items in a
file such as this were intended to be used and, despite
standard archival practices of housing and conservation, continue to reflect their
original state. Likewise, many of the prints bear evidence of their use in
publication: some show crop marks, or portions whited out, or outlines reinforced
and features emphasized with pencil or pen. In some instances people were painted
onto prints to recreate crime scenes. These are the traditionally integral and
standard alterations of a working newspaper morgue and have been preserved as
part of the
history of the morgue. In the case of images produced by Journal-American staff photographers, there is the likelihood that an
original untouched negative exists in the Negatives series.
The Biographical subseries consists of both formal portraits and snapshots of people.
Prominent New Yorkers, as well as most historical figures from the worlds of
business, politics, sports, crime, science, literature and art, are represented.
There is extensive coverage of presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy,
and Johnson. In addition to celebrities, thousands of otherwise obscure New Yorkers
are represented in these files as the victims of crimes or accidents, the winners
of sweepstakes, participants in Journal-American-sponsored symposia, combatants returning from war,
immigrants to America, or ordinary citizens involved in daily activities that
the interest of staff photographers. Perhaps the most significant feature of the
Biographical files is its sheer democracy of subject.
The Biographical subseries is arranged alphabetically by subjects' surnames.
Depending on the quantity of images and/or the notoriety of any given subject,
subjects either received their own folder(s), or were placed into broad letter and/or
name folders. For example, images of baseball great Hank Aaron are located in
"Aaron, Hank" folder, whereas images of less
well known Aarons are located in the "Aaron/ Aarons, A –
Z" folder. Regardless, it is still worth looking in the broad letter
and/or name folders for additional photographs of well known subjects as photographs
were sometimes misfiled, and individuals rising in notoriety during the last decade
before the paper folder may not have warranted a folder of their own at the time.
For example, there are a number of photographs of Raquel Welch filed in the "Welch, J – Z" folder. Images of subjects with less
common surnames are located in letter-range folders; for example, images for the
surname Abelson are located in the "ABC – ABEQ"
The Subject subseries consists of files arranged by topic as assigned by Journal-American editors. In all likelihood, these
folder headings were created along general topical news or feature dimensions
then evolved further through the growth of the file itself. Throughout the series
are large groups of photographs arranged in various subjective categories including
railroads, housing projects, paintings, sculpture, opera, plays, plane crashes,
ships, World Wars I and II, theatrical teams, maps, basketball, baseball, boxing,
football, dogs, horses, strikes, fires, floods, explosions, hurricanes, buildings,
bridges, hospitals, and corporations, to name but a very few. Hundreds of other
subjects are represented by smaller groups of images.
The Geographical subseries consists of images from around the world, with the
exception of the greater New York City area. These files are arranged
alphabetically, first by state name (if in the United States) or country name
then, when applicable, by city name and/or topic, such as "Oklahoma--Enid--Army Flying School and Ethiopia--Newspaper men at."
Topics for the regions represented in this subseries are diverse and include events,
man-made features, people, and military themes. Events include wars, raids, openings
of bridges or roads, strikes, riots, demonstrations, and natural disasters. Man-made
features or landmarks include structures such as businesses, plants, observatories,
museums, hotels, hospitals, railroads, dams, schools, streets, churches, and
miscellaneous buildings. Natural features include rivers, mountains, and lakes.
While the U.S. Military section is included within the Subject subseries, military
forts, ships, and other military subjects for foreign countries are arranged within
this subseries. Much like the Biographical subseries, subjects in the
Geographical subseries range from obscure, local people, landmarks, and events,
such as the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Totowa, New Jersey, to more widely known
locales and events, such as Arlington Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
The Geographical: Greater New York subseries is largely devoted to images of the
streets, neighborhoods, landmarks, and buildings of the greater New York City
area, including Long Island. This subseries includes similar coverage of landmarks
events as the Geographical subseries, but it is arranged alphabetically by a larger
topic or category and then by the more specific subject. Some of the larger
categories include churches, museums, parks, banks, fire departments, the Health
Department, the Police Department, schools, streets, and theatres. In addition
these categories, some images are further arranged alphabetically according to
neighborhood, such as Brooklyn, Bronx, and Long Island/Queens. The borough of
Island is also included as a topic, but has a much smaller selection of photographs
than the other major boroughs of New York City. Manhattan is not represented as
category within the subseries. In addition to these major subjects covered within
the subseries, the 1939-1940 World's Fair is also included. The 1964-1965 World's
Fair, on the other hand, is included in the Jumbo subseries. The New York Journal-American is also a major topic within
the subseries, with photographs pertaining to contests held by the paper;
editorials, features, and other stories included in the paper; as well as more
operational topics such as photographs of the building, employees, offices and
departments, and visitors to the building.
The Jumbo subseries consists of files created by Journal-American staff to accommodate prints too large to fit in
standard 11 ¾ x 9 inch file folders. The folders in this subseries are arranged
titled to reflect the other four subseries titles: Biographical, Subject,
Geographical, and Geographical: Greater New York. Prominent in this subseries
sports photos and documentation of the 1964 New York World's Fair.
In processing this collection, the Journal-American's
original folder titles were maintained whenever possible. However, due to
inconsistencies in abbreviations, punctuation, and word choice, some reformatting
and standardization was undertaken for better clarity and to facilitate indexing
sorting capabilities in the collection database. Examples are:
File titles containing abbreviations for states (e.g., Conn.) were
expanded to include the full state name.
Colons, parenthesis, commas, and other forms of division between subtopics
were replaced with double dashes to offset subtopics, for example Acheson, Dean: Heads & fulls was changed
to Acheson, Dean--Heads & fulls.
Spaces in between initials were removed, and periods were inserted in
between initials previously unseparated.
LI, L.I., and
L. I. were standardized as Long Island.
LIRR and L. I. R.
R. were standardized as L.I.R.R.
US, USA, U. S., U. S. A., and
U.S.A. were standardized as U.S.
Folder titles in the Geographical subseries that began with nationalities
were changed to begin with the names of nations. For example German Army Troops Parachute Army was changed to
As a subtopic, the abbreviations Bldg. and
Bldgs. were standardized as Buildings.
Where appropriate, Co was changed to County.
Various spellings of countries were standardized. For example Porto Rico was changed to Puerto Rico, and Jugo Slavia, Jugoslavia, Jugo-slavia, and Jugo were standardized as
Due to the age of the collection, and the years of handling and the acidic nature
the original file folders, a number of file tabs bearing folder titles were lost
or simply disintegrated. In these instances, the cataloger devised a title based
the contents of the folder. Because many of the backs of photographs contain
clippings or captions with one word or phrase circled, a folder title was easily
A number of loose images were found outside of the file folders. When possible, they
were integrated into existing folders, but on occasion new folders were created