Van Drake, Helen
Scope and Content
7000.1--Portrait files consists of photographic prints maintained in over 53,000 file folders. The bulk of the portrait files photographs are gelatin silver prints and made to the conventional American standard dimension of 8x10 inches, although other dimensions are present as well. The dates of the prints cover the newspaper's lifetime, but the vast majority date from the early 1930s to the paper's closure in 1961. A small number of original and copy negatives are scattered through the files. Newspaper libraries weeded their morgues from time to time to remove images that were judged to have lost their news value.
If a print was used in the newspaper, it usually bears a pasted-down clipping of the published image with its caption and a stamped date on its back. Most prints include at least the name of the subject and a stamped date indicating when it was deposited in the morgue. Most of the prints appear to be from wire services like the Associated Press or International News. These are identified with the wire service name and usually include a supplied caption either printed as part of the print, or pasted or paper clipped to the print. The remainder of the photographs were either supplied by individuals for the paper's society pages or are publicity photos from a variety of sources, but most frequently from public relations firms, the military, and movie studios. The publicity photographs usually have a caption and source information on the back. There do not appear to be a large number of photos taken by Examiner staff photographers, although there are some scattered throughout the files. The prints in this collection formed the active working files for the editors, writers and photographers of the Examiner. They were used repeatedly (and some, frequently) over an extended period and show signs of use, including bending, creasing, tearing, marking, poor photographic fixing, deterioration, and the advanced wear-and-tear of multiple uses. Many of the prints show permanent evidence of their use such as crop marks, retouching by highlighting or shading, and manipulation of the image by physically moving elements of it around. These marks cannot be removed as they are an integral part of the record of a working newspaper morgue and have been preserved as part of the history of the morgue.
The Portrait files consist of both formal portraits and snapshots of people. Prominent Californians and Los Angelenos, as well as most historical figures from the 1930s to the late 1950s are represented. However, the Examiner also maintained a separate morgue called the Closet File, which included the prints of many famous people and was not included in the donation USC received. The Portrait files are arranged in the original order in which they were received from the Los Angeles Examiner, which is loosely in alphabetical order by surname. Many of the files contain alphabetical ranges of surnames, but those people who were more important or frequently used, or who had a large quantity of prints, received their own files. However, the range files and the individual files are not mutually exclusive, and it is a good idea to look in the range files even if the person has his or her own file(s). As was prevalent at the time these files were created, women were generally referred to by their husbands' names. The Examiner staff often (but not always) labeled a woman's file under her husband's name modified by "Mrs." Researchers should also look up alternate spellings, pseudonyms, and maiden and married names.
- 1903 - 1961
- Majority of material found within 1930 - 1959
Conditions Governing Access
Advance notice required for access.
From the Collection: 833.75 Linear Feet (1997 boxes)
Language of Materials
From the Collection: English
Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States