Archives & Manuscripts - Guide to the Collections
The collections of the Birmingham Public Library Archives contain more than 400,000 photographs and 30,000,000 documents, including government records, business records, maps, letters, diaries, scrapbooks and architectural drawings.
Television, Radio and the Movies
The Collections
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Alabama Theatre
Photographs, mostly 1940s
Promotional photographs of actors.
Size : 1 box
Collection Guide Available : Yes (online)
Cunniff, J., Public Relations
Records Relating to A.G. Gaston, 1979-1983 and undated
A.G. Gaston was a prominent African American businessman in Birmingham. Born in Demopolis, Alabama in 1892, the family relocated to Birmingham in 1905. Gaston served in the military during World War I and then worked in the mines of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. As a budding entrepreneur, Gaston sold lunches to fellow miners and then began offering burial insurance. His business holdings came to include the Smith and Gaston Funeral Home, Booker T. Washington Insurance Company and the Gaston Motel. Gaston was one of the business leaders who negotiated the end to civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham in 1963. This collection contains material relating to Gaston’s business activities and smaller amounts of material relating to his family. The bulk of the material relates to his radio station WENN.
Size : 2 boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Hunt, Oscar V.
Photographs, 1910-1930
Oscar V. Hunt was one of Birmingham’s most prolific and adventurous early commercial photographers. Born in Bowdon, Georgia in 1881, Hunt lived most of his life in Birmingham. He worked briefly as a streetcar motorman for the Birmingham Railway, Light, and Power Company before spending a decade working and training in the studios of two of Birmingham’s best known early photographers, Bert Covell and R. T. Boyett. Hunt had his own studio by the early 1920s and also took photographs for the Birmingham Ledger newspaper. Hunt often focused on Birmingham streetscapes in his photographs and documented Birmingham area manufacturing and mining, trains and streetcars and the construction of downtown buildings. He is credited with making the first aerial photograph of Birmingham in 1912 and he photographed leisure activities such as parades and day trippers at local parks. Hunt’s photographs show an interest in individuals, especially working people, and his construction and industrial images often highlight workers. Some of Hunt’s photographs, such as one of Terminal Station with the old Magic City sign out front, have become iconic images of Birmingham. During his later years in the 1950s, Hunt’s studio became a favorite hang out for young photographers and photo enthusiasts. Oscar Hunt died in Birmingham in 1962.
Size : 1,269 photographs
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Hurlbert, Raymond D.
Alabama Educational Television Papers, 1952-1976
Alabama established the first public television network in the United States. This collection contains reports of Congressional hearings, minutes of meetings, correspondence and scrapbooks of press releases relating to the Alabama Educational Television Network.
Size : 6 boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Jefferson County Board of Equalization
Appraisal Files, 1939-1977
The Board of Equalization is the agency that appraises property in Jefferson County, Alabama for purposes of taxation. Established in 1938, the BOE maintains files on each piece of taxable property in the county. The appraisal files contain basic information on structures (such as whether the structure is wood frame or brick, the type of roofing, heating, plumbing, number of rooms, size of structure) and the accessed value of the property for various years (but not every year). The files usually include an exterior photograph of the façade of the structure and sometimes date the structure. The structures appraised include residences, commercial and industrial buildings, schools, and churches. Some files include references for deeds and mortgages. Structures built before 1938 are included if they were still standing at the time of the Board of Equalization's first appraisal (generally 1938 to 1940). Structures built after the mid 1970s are not included in these files. The files do not include interior photographs, floor plans or other architectural drawings, names of architects, or detailed information on owners or occupants of a structure. In some cases files for demolished structures were discarded by the Board of Equalization before these files were transferred to the Archives Department in 1981. The collection includes several thousand photographs showing African American homes, businesses, schools and churches.
Size : 1,460 linear feet (1,500 boxes)
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Jefferson County, Ala. Movie Review Board
Papers, 1965-1966
The Jefferson Count Movie Review Board was created to review and classify movies shown in the Birmingham area. The papers include rosters of board members and of Birmingham theaters, legislation regarding the board and minutes of meetings.
Size : ¼ linear foot (1 box)
Collection Guide Available : Yes
London, Edith Ward and Family
Papers, 1881-1961
Born in Birmingham in 1881, Edith Ward London was the daughter of Thomas Ward, an early Birmingham industrialist. London was an avid reader and writer, and in her papers she chronicles her childhood, family life, her poor health, social activities, literary aspirations, religious beliefs, her travels in the United States and abroad, her opinions on literature and the events of her day. Edith Ward grew up near the Birmingham Rolling Mill where her father was a manager. After marrying John London in 1901, Edith resided briefly in Ensley, but most of her life was spent in the Southside neighborhood of Birmingham. The Londons had one child, John London III (Jack). In addition to pursuing her interest in writing, Edith was a member of the Nineteenth Century Club, the Birmingham Camera Club and the Birmingham Amateur Movie Association, for which she wrote movie scripts. She was an active, and sometimes questioning, member of St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church. Edith London died in Birmingham in 1933. In addition to correspondence this collection includes examples of Edith Ward London’s poetry, short stories, religious writings, essays, and scrapbooks. The scrapbooks are typical of the kind kept by women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and include photographs, clippings, dance cards, calling cards, poetry, pencil drawings, dried flowers, letters, and greeting cards. The collection also includes material relating to Edith’s husband and son, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, educational records, photographs, and material relating to the Birmingham Amateur Movie Association. The two volumes of Edith’s diaries included in this collection are extensive typed excerpts that provide a detailed chronicle of the life of an upper middle class girl and woman. The location of the original diaries is not known. The bulk of the material in this collection covers the 1880s to the 1930s.
Size : 4 linear feet, 1 reel, 9 flat boxes
Collection Guide Available : Yes
May, Elizabeth Ann
Papers, 1935-1949
These papers contain brochures, correspondence, subject files, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and photographs relating to May’s activities while President of the Birmingham Business and Professional Women’s Club. The collection also contains newspaper clippings, correspondence and other material relating to the 1948 demonstration of Alabama’s first television broadcast; National Business Women’s Week and Woman of the Year for Birmingham; the cancellation of the Freedom Train stop in Birmingham due to controversies over racial segregation; the March of Dimes campaign in Birmingham; and clippings on the role of women on the home front during World War II.
Size : 1 box
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Merrill, Jimmie
This scrapbook contains memorabilia collected by Merrill, a radio announcer at station WSFA.
Size : 1 reel microfilm
Collection Guide Available : No
Photographs (General Collection)
Photographs, 1873-Present
The general photograph collection is an artificial collection created by the Archives Department to house photographs acquired individually rather than as part of a larger body of material. New images are added to the collection as they become available. This collection contains photographic prints and negatives. The images relate primarily to the Birmingham area and to a lesser extent Alabama, and include streetscapes, buildings, and events. The images date from the 1870s to the 1990s with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1890s to the 1950s.
Size : 4,900+ photographs
Collection Guide Available : Yes
Waters, Newman H., Sr.
Newman Waters was a Birmingham real estate developer who built a number of drive-in movie theaters and theater houses in the Birmingham area in the 1930's and 1940's. He was a director of Southern Electric Steel Company, developer of Office Park, constructed numerous major office buildings in downtown Birmingham, and developed Eastwood Mall, the area's first indoor shopping mall, in 1960. Waters was first president of the Downtown Club (1947), and chaired several Cerebral Palsy Telethons, the organization's project. He was active in the Downtown Improvement Association, serving as president in 1958. These papers, mainly newspaper clippings, relate to Waters’ various interests and activities.
Size : 1 box
Collection Guide Available : Yes (online)
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