Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Bert Morgan Photographic Negatives
circa 1932-1963, 1981
(bulk, 1960-1961)
 PR 367

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Joseph Ditta

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 27, 2018
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical Note

By most accounts Bert Morgan (1904–1986) was the dean of society photographers. Between the 1930s and 1980s, wherever the wealthy and notable gathered—New York, Southampton, Newport, or Palm Beach—Morgan was there to photograph them at charity balls, banquets, horse shows, and weddings.

Born Bernard Stanley Morgan in England in 1904, "Bert" emigrated with his family to the United States in 1911 and settled in Brooklyn, New York. With a seven-dollar pawn shop camera he began working as a syndicate news photographer in 1919. For a decade Morgan supplied northeastern papers like the New York Daily News with images of the common man. In 1930 he became the official photographer for the  Social Spectator. The paper sent Morgan to Palm Springs that winter to capture New York celebrities at play, launching his fifty-year career of documenting their progress from the "Four Hundred" to "Café Society" to the "Jet Set." His son, Richard Morgan (1936–2012), also a photographer, eventually assisted.

Morgan's modus operandi was to position his camera and tripod at some heavily-trafficked hotspot, be it nightclub or racetrack (he was the official photographer for the New York Racing Association) to shoot luminaries as they went by. His gentlemanly demeanor and encyclopedic memory endeared him to his subjects: he could identify thousands of them by name and residence simply by looking at their pictures. At his death Morgan left 1.5-million negatives. Some 500,000 of them make up the Bert Morgan Archive, administered by Archive Farms, Inc.

[This note is drawn from Morgan's obituary in the Palm Beach Daily News, Sunday 21 September 1986, and from information in  South Hampton Blue Book 1930 to 1960: Photographs by Bert Morgan (Shelter Island, N.Y.: Archive Farms, Inc., 2014).]