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Charles Suddarth Kelly photographic collection on the history of Washington, D.C.

 Collection
Identifier: MS2015

Collection Scope and Content

This collection includes photographs and negatives, slides, postcards, stereoscopes, and some manuscript material and ranges in date from 1856-1983. The bulk of the material ranges from 1890-1920 (which consists mainly of copy prints of photographs). The images in the collection cover primarily the northwest section of Washington, D.C. including many buildings and street scenes.

The manuscript materials series contains many of Mr. Kelly's research notes for Washington, D.C. Then and Now. The photographic prints series contains more than 1,300 prints and copy prints of Washington D.C. subjects. Included in this are a number of images that appeared in The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.) as illustrations to J. Harry Shannon's Rambler columns from 1912-1927, as well as original photographs taken by Mr. Kelly. The contact prints series brings together images Mr. Kelly photographed, many which are generally not found in the photographic prints series.

The postcards series contains almost 500 images from the early part of the century, including many buildings no longer extant. The stereoscopic card series contains twenty-four stereoscope cards of Washington buildings and street scenes. The Kodachrome transparencies (slides) series contains over 4,300 slides, many of which reproduce prints or postcards in the collection. The negatives series contains 8X10, 4X4, 35 mm, and glass plate negatives of many of the prints found in the collection. The exhibition facsimile series contains materials reproduced for use in exhibits, including mounted photographs and laser prints of photos and postcards. The oversized materials series contains large photographs and exhibition facsimiles that cannot be housed with the other material.

Dates

  • 1856-1983

Creator

Restrictions on Access

Some records may be restricted.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

This collection was assembled by Charles Suddarth Kelly (1920-2008). A long time resident of Washington, D.C., he produced and directed pioneering first telecasts of historic events from the White House, U.S. Congress and other places in the United States Capital. He arrived in the city in 1945 to establish the first television station programming department. Subsequently, he was program manager for the NBC network in Washington, and Vice President-Manager of Channel 7 Television. He held other senior executive positions in television, including the Public Broadcasting Service.

Mr. Kelly was born in Ivanhoe, Georgia, near Savannah. His broadcasting career began in high school with an internship at a local radio station. From high school into college he was employed as announcer and writer for radio stations. Like so many other men of his generation, his civilian life was interrupted by World War II. At the outset of the War, he transferred from East Tennessee State Teacher's College to the U.S. Maritime Officers Training School at New York, graduating to join the United States Merchant Marine, and serving in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans until 1944, when an injury ended his service.

Soon after leaving the Merchant Marine, he became a production planner and producer of programs at the experimental television station of the DuMont Electronic Laboratories in New York. In late 1945, Mr. Kelly was sent to Washington by DuMont to establish the program department of their experimental station under construction at the Harrington Hotel. The station became WTTG-Channel 5. Subsequently, when the National Broadcasting Company constructed transmission and studio facilities at the Wardman Park Hotel (later the Sheraton Park), he became Program and Production Manager of WNBW-Channel 4 and the NBC network programs originating in Washington. Eventually, he was appointed Operations and Program Manager of the Evening Star Stations WMAL Radio and WMAL-TV-Channel 7, which encompassed responsibility for ABC radio and television network production in Washington. During this period, he also conducted classes on television broadcasting for several semesters at The American University. His last position with the WMAL stations was as Vice President and Manager of WMAL-TV.

Mr. Kelly's television career included many exciting moments, some of the most memorable of which date from the 1940s and early 1950s when he was producer or director or executive in charge of many first telecasts of programs and events in Washington of local, and sometimes, national significance. These include the first telecast of a presidential State of the Union Address on the occasion of President Truman's appearance before the Joint Session of Congress, January 1946; the first telecast of a Congressional Hearing, the Hiss-Chambers investigation hearings; the first telecast of a president speaking to the nation from the Oval Office (featuring President Truman); the Army-McCarthy Hearings; and the first Washington nightly newscast, newsreel, documentary.

Mr. Kelly's television work became the impetus for his avocation, the collection of photographic images of Washington. He became acquainted with the District's historical, urban photographic archives, private and public, when illustrations were sought for news and information programs. He found the existing collections inconvenient to use because they were not catalogued by venue or date. In response, he began to assemble a personal collection of original and copy photographs in 1945, focusing on developing chronologies of landmark sites, and collecting panoramas, views of buildings (including city street vistas), neighborhoods, and parks. His first personal camera for this use was a Rolleiflex (2 1/4 X 2 1/4"). Later, he used 35mm Leicas, a Hasselblad (2 1/4 X 2 1/4"), a Linhof (4 X 5"), a Voightlander (6 X 9 cm, postcard format) and a Mamya (6 X 7 cm). Very early, he equipped a photographic dark room, and studied architectural photography, processing and preservation criteria and printmaking techniques. His avocation, extending over nearly half a century, produced a collection of original and copy photographs, books and papers that was one of the largest of its kind in private hands.

The book Washington, D.C. Then and Now (New York: Dover), published in 1984, was an outgrowth of his research. Since its publication, extended series of Then and Now features, using his archival photographs, have appeared in The Washington Post, publications of the National Archives Association, and elsewhere. Most recently, two sequences of his Washington pictorial chronologies appeared in the 1994 book, How Buildings Learn by Stewart Bland (New York: Viking, Global Book Club). Mr. Kelly has also shared his research through illustrated lectures on U.S. Capital history at Utica College of Syracuse University, the United Nations, the American Institute of Architects, Washington Historical Studies Conferences of the George Washington University, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., the D.C. Public Library, and other institutions and groups.

Extent

31 Linear Feet

Language

English

Abstract

Collection includes photographs and negatives, slides, postcards, stereoscopes, and some manuscript material and ranges in date from 1856-1983. The bulk of the material ranges from 1890-1920 (which consists mainly of copy prints of photographs). The images in the collection cover primarily the northwest section of Washington, D.C. including many buildings and street scenes.

Collection Organization

Organized into ten series: : Manuscript materials, Photographic prints, Contact prints, Postcards, Stereoscopes, Kodachrome transparencies (slides), Negatives, Exhibition facsimiles, Oversized materials, and Prints of Washington D.C. memorials, statues and monuments.
Title
Guide to the Charles Suddarth Kelly photographic collection on the history of Washington, D.C., 1856-1983
Status
Completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America