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Guide to the Harry Kalmus papers and photographs ARC.046

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201
718-222-4111
library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Weatherly Stephan

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on September 13, 2016
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Kalmus, Harry, 1924-1987
Title: Harry Kalmus papers and photographs
Dates [inclusive]: 1938-1987
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1947-1955
Abstract: The Harry Kalmus papers and photographs consist of materials spanning 1938 to 1987 (bulk 1947-1955) and measure 4.7 linear feet. The majority of the material is photographic in nature, containing images taken by Harry Kalmus during his career as a photographer in Brooklyn. Document types include correspondence, autograph books, printed material, photographic prints, slides, stereoscopic slides, and black-and-white negatives.
Quantity: 4.7 linear feet in two folders, two records cartons, two phases boxes, and two stereo slide boxes.
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.046 Box 3 of 6
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.046 Box 6 of 6
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.046 Box 1 of 6
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.046 Box 4 of 6
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.046 Box 5 of 6
Graphic materials [Box]: 74
Graphic materials [Box]: ARC.046 Box 2 of 6
Text [Box]: A0132
Call Phrase: ARC.046
Sponsor: This collection was processed and described as part of the project, "Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn's 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation," funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, with additional support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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Biographical note

Harry Kalmus was born in 1924 and grew up on Vermont Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York. He attended Yeshiva Toras Chaim and Thomas Jefferson High School. After serving in World War II, Kalmus returned to Brooklyn and began his career as a professional photographer. He worked for advertising agencies and corporate offices in Manhattan as well as photographing events such as weddings and bar mitzvahs in Brooklyn. In 1957, he and his family moved to the Queens neighborhood of Kew Gardens, and eventually settled in Freeport, N.Y. Kalmus died in 1987.

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Scope and Contents

The Harry Kalmus papers and photographs consist of materials spanning 1938 to 1987 (bulk 1947-1955) and measure 4.7 linear feet. The majority of the material is photographic in nature, containing images taken by Harry Kalmus during his career as a photographer in Brooklyn. Document types include correspondence, autograph books, printed material, photographic prints, slides, stereoscopic slides, and black-and-white negatives. The collection is organized in two series: Papers and  Photographs.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Autograph albums
  • Color slides
  • Correspondence
  • Negatives (photographic)
  • Photographs
  • Stereoscopic photographs

Subject Organizations

  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.).
  • Hotel St. George (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • P.S. 63 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • Yeshivah Toras Chaim (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).

Subject Topics

  • Bar mitzvah
  • Commercial photography
  • Empire State Building (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jews -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Weddings

Subject Places

  • Bensonhurst (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Religious life and customs
  • Brownsville (New York, N.Y.)
  • Coney Island (New York, N.Y.)
  • Crown Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Cypress Hills (New York, N.Y.)
  • East New York (New York, N.Y.)
  • Flatbush (New York, N.Y.)
  • Grand Army Plaza (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
  • Jones Beach State Park (N.Y.)
  • New Lots (New York, N.Y.)
  • Prospect Park (New York, N.Y.)
  • Times Square (New York, N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use note

Copyright held by the Brooklyn Historical Society. All uses beyond fair use requires a licensing agreement pursuant to Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Harry Kalmus papers and photographs, ARC.046, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials note

Additional photographs by Harry Kalmus are held by the Archives at Queens Library, located at the Central Branch of the Queens Library, Jamaica, N.Y.

Other Finding Aids note

Item-level description and digital versions of images from the collection are available for searching via the image database in the library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Natalie Kalmus and Frana Kalmus Baruch, 1991.

Processing Information note

Minimally processed to the series level.

This collection is composed of three accessions: 1991.038, 1991.045, and V1991.011.

A select number of negatives from the collection have been digitized, individually numbered, and catalogued; these negatives are stored in phase boxes. The remainder of the negatives are stored in record cartons.

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Container List

Series 1: Papers, 1938-1987. 0.2 linear feet in two folders.

Scope and Contents

This series contains an autograph book, correspondence, and printed materials belonging to Harry Kalmus. The autograph book dates from Kalmus's graduation from Yeshivah Toras Chaim in the late 1930s and includes the signatures of his classmates. Correspondence in the collection consists of letters to Kalmus from East New York childhood friends commending a series of photographs he took in the 1970s, titled "Vermont Street Memorabilia." Printed material describes his freelance work, particularly his role as a freelance photographer for local businesses and corporations; notices of Kalmus's death are also included.

Series 2: Photographs, Bulk, 1947-1955 circa late 1930s-1960. 4.5 linear feet in two records cartons, two phase boxes, and two stereo slide boxes.

Scope and Contents

The Photographs series consists of approximately 13,339 black-and-white negatives, 108 prints, 880 slides, 186 stereoscopic slides, and a stereoscopic viewer. The series contains both Kalmus's personal and professional photographs. Kalmus family pictures in the series document the Kalmus's wedding as well as Jewish high holy days and family gatherings. Documentary-style photographs show views of Brooklyn and Manhattan, including Ebbets Field, Coney Island, Prospect Park, Grand Army Plaza, Times Square, and the Empire State Building. A small portion of the materials relate to Kalmus's childhood neighborhood around Vermont Street in East New York, Brooklyn, including 32 black-and-white prints and 14 black-and-white negatives. Portraits, as well as some candid shots, of babies and families are interspersed throughout the series.

Kalmus was probably best known for photographing Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzvahs in Brooklyn, particularly in the neighborhood of Crown Heights. These photographs provide rich documentation of Jewish traditions in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. Wedding and Bar Mitzvah locations depicted in the series include Young Israel of Eastern Parkway, B'nai Jacob, the Park Sheraton, Hotel St. George, DeLuxe Palace, Franklin Manor, Twin Cantors, Empire Mansion, Mt. Eden Center, Sunrise Manor, Imperial Gardens, and Young Israel of New Lots and East New York. Bar Mitzvah boys are regularly depicted posing with the Tenach (prayer book) and  tallit (prayer shawl), his parents, the cake, and friends attending the celebration. Wedding photographs show the ceremony under the  chuppah (canopy), recitation of the  Sheva Brachot (seven blessings), signing of the  ketubah (Jewish marriage contract), the  Kiddush and  Hamotzi blessings with wine and  lechem mishneh (two breads),  Horah (dance with bride and groom in chairs), and  Mezinke Tanz (dance around the parents of the bride or groom).

Items in the collection are loosely arranged by format, year, and individual event. Families depicted in wedding and Bar Mitzvah photographs are identified on photograph and negative sleeves, and these names can be searched in the image database in the library.

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