Daily Archives: January 10, 2022

ALLEN, FROM ROCHESTER, NEW YORK, HAD A CAMERA (circa 1940)

First, an appropriate soundtrack:

and:

Here’s how the eBay seller described this unique object:

“Absolutely mammoth early 1940s photo album with 690 original photographs. Album of Allen, an African American man – a chauffeur, photos of his friends and family, the family he works for and various travel locations. Rochester, NY, factors heavily – not sure if Allen, the family he works for – or both, are from Rochester. Also a lot of photos in New York City.

There are photos of famous jazz age / big band era musicians and band leaders performing, including Cab Calloway, Cozy Coles, Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian, Erskine Hawkins, Dolores Brown, Tony Pastor with the Andrew Sisters, Bunny Berigan, with some of the photos autographed.

Measuring 12 x 8 inches and 4 inches thick. Album has wooden cover, with WWII Army Navy Excellence award decal and initial decals “A R A.” There are only a couple of photos of a man in uniform, nearly all photos are civilian, and most are of African Americans. Photos in various sizes: mostly 5 x 3 ¼ inches, 4 x 3 black and white and some 6 x 4 with more sepia tone. Photos are attached to album by photo squares, a handful of photos are loose from the album . . . .”

The auction ended Thursday, and when I checked on Wednesday the high bid was over eight hundred dollars. So it’s not mine.

BUT. Through the magic of “Save image,” which sounds rather mystical, I can share a few particularly evocative photographs. Allen was not an obsessive jazz or big band fan, but the few photographs in the album suggest that he got around and heard some of the good sounds so easily accessible then.

First, some photographs of non-musical realities.

Charming everyday life, perhaps a Sunday outing in spring?

I don’t know whether Allen took the photograph of his five friends, but the caption suggests a fine witty approach to life, at the beach or otherwise.

Even though Allen was presumably the family chauffeur, that’s a comfortable photograph, to me.

Now, to music. Allen went to see the Erskine Hawkins band, and the captions suggest he had a fine swinging time.

The leader to the left, who autographed the photo (at a later date, I presume) and one of Hawkins’ saxophonists to the right: either Paul Bascomb or Julian Dash, I assume.

Witty captions left and right, and the gracious Mr. Berigan (who had beautiful unhurried handwriting) in the middle.

Cozy “Coles,” working for Cab Calloway.

Finally, the prize for those of us whose life revolves around such glimpses:

Benny, with immense casualness — in a pose your clarinet teacher wouldn’t recommend — and a quick signature, but a new glimpse of Charlie Christian, which also helps to date the album.

I wish we knew more about Allen, but this was his prize, and we assume someone will always recognize our treasures as ours . . .

The highest bidder won this prize for $1325 (plus $12 shipping) and for them, a world opens up. I hope the photographs get seen by as many people as possible. This was the link, although I don’t know how long it will remain.

Thanks to Nick Rossi for bringing this box of treasures to my attention.

May your happiness increase!