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Guide to the Orrin Sage Wightman Collection
[1895-1945]
 PR 94

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


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 04, 2017
Description is in English.

Container List

Series 6: American Red Cross Mission to Russia

Scope and Contents note

In July 1917, Wightman traveled to Russia on a medical mission organized by the American Red Cross. The mission was led by Colonel William Boyce Thompson. The Americans sailed from Vancouver, B.C. to Japan, and then traveled by the Trans-Siberian Rail Road through Manchuria, Mongolia, and across Russia to Petrograd. Wightman was issued permission by the Russian government to take still and moving film images of the trip and of war conditions in Russia. He was technically assisted in this by Lt. Harold Wyckoff, and was accompanied throughout his travels in Russia by a Cossack guide and translator, Capt. A. Ilowosky. In addition to documenting the mission's train journey, Wightman traveled to small towns in Russia and to Moscow and Odessa to take photos and films. He then traveled to the war front in Romania and photographed soldiers and hospitals there. In late October and November, Wightman traveled back across Russia and sailed home from China.

While in Odessa, Wightman was robbed of his passport, money, and photographic permits. Much of the correspondence in Subseries 6, Folder 1 relates to this theft and the subsequent necessity for emergency permits and passport.

The second half of 1917 saw Russia embattled and exhausted from fighting the Great War. One of the special subjects of Wightman's work, The Russian All-Women's Battalion, consisted of women training to fight, in response to some Russian men's refusal to go to battle. Most of the images from Romania show intense war devastation to small towns, and document the plight of refugees. Wightman's time in Russia coincided as well with major political upheaval. The overthrow of the Czarist regime by the Communist revolutionaries occurred in October 1917. Upon his return to the United States, Wightman gave many illustrated lectures and often discussed the Russian political situation and how it pertained to the end of the war (clippings and documents pertaining to these talks are in Subseries 6, Folders 9 and 10 below.)

The photographs depict peasant life in Manchuria, Mongolia, Russia and Romania. They show bread lines and vendors along the Trans-Siberian Rail Road. The All-Women's Battalion is pictured at leisure activities and in training. Russian and Romanian soldiers are also pictured in preparation for and at the frontlines. The Russian YMCA and its activities are documented, as is the flight of some early Nieuport British airplanes. In addition to these human scenes, Wightman photographed many historically important or architecturally notable buildings in Moscow, Petrograd and Odessa. While in Romania, Wightman had an audience with the royal family, and they are pictured at a soldier's hospital attending to patients. While in China on his way back to the United States, Wightman stayed in Peking and Shanghai, and took many pictures of street activity in those cities. He also photographed the Forbidden City, a complex of ornate temples and gardens.

The documents in Subseries 6 and 7 supplement the photographs and contribute to a more complete understanding of Wightman's experiences and views of his trip. Although none of Wightman's moving picture film is with this collection, the film log in Subseries 8 gives a shot by shot narrative of what kinds of activities he filmed and considered valuable documentation.

Wightman numbered a series of approximately 400 photographs of his trip which appear within the various forms below. Although he took many more pictures, this set seems to be one with which he lectured and from which he tried to sell prints to interested parties. The most coherent representation of this set is found in the numbered lantern slides which were originally housed in four wooden boxes with a typed index. The negatives and the prints (both in albums and loose) correspond to this numbered set, although an exact correlation of images does not exist between the differing media. A Microsoft Access database was created to provide quick reference among the different media. For example, if the title of a lantern slide is known, the database will show whether or not a negative or print of that same image exists in the collection. Each subseries below contains a complete (or a large part of the) numbered set, as well as additional and often complementary pictures.

Subseries 1: Negatives

Scope and Contents note

The great majority of these are negatives that correspond to lantern slides and prints. A few are for Wightman's emergency passport.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 22 Numbers 1 - 388
Box: 23 Numbers 389 - 438

Subseries 2: Lantern Slides

Scope and Contents note

Contains the basic set of Wightman's photographs of the trip. Some slides have duplicates or triplicates. Slides not included in the numbered run are often similar views from different angles.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 6 Numbers 1 - 37
Box: 7 Numbers 38 - 98
Box: 8 Numbers 99 - 158
Box: 9 Numbers 159 - 219
Box: 10 Numbers 220 - 280
Box: 11 Numbers 281 - 348
Box: 12 Numbers 349 - 417
Box: 13 Numbers 418 - 481
Box: 14 Numbers 482 - 510

Subseries 3: Prints

Scope and Contents note

These loose prints contain an almost complete numbered set which correspond to the lantern slides. A list of missing numbers is included with the prints. Unnumbered prints are often duplicates of numbered ones, or views of similar scenes from different angles. This subseries also contains a few images of Wightman and assistants in the process of taking moving film. A few postcards with Russian writing and commercial photographs of Russia are included.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 25 Numbered prints from 2 - 235
Box: 26 Numbered prints from 236 - 385; all unnumbered prints
Box: 28 8 x 10 prints

Subseries 4: Albums

Scope and Contents note

Two of these albums (#1 and #2) contain large 5x7 prints, which are numbered from 1 to 170. This numbering system does not directly correspond to that of the lantern slides. The untitled album (#3) contains numbered prints that correspond directly to the numbered negatives. This album is a good introduction into the main set of photographs, as it contains all the photographs in the other albums. The last album (#4) is titled "Sample prints" and contains photographs from the beginning of the Mission's trip.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 31 Album number 1
Box: 32 Album number 2
Box: 33 Album number 3
Box: 34 Album number 4

Subseries 5: Pictures brought by Lt. Wyckoff from Russia 1918 - 1919

Scope and Contents note

Depicts activities of the American Red Cross in Archangel and North Russia. Most images are of winter scenes and arctic curiosities, such as ice breaking boats and Samoyed statues. Russian village life is also shown. Memorials and ruins from the war are also pictured. These photographs were not taken by Wightman, but by his assistant, Lt. Harold Wyckoff.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 23 Numbers 1 - 60
Box: 24 Numbers 61 - 151

Subseries 6: Manuscript materials and ephemera

Scope and Contents note

Contains printed material from Wightman's trip, and contributes to a more complete understanding of the undertaking and its subsequent effect on his life. Correspondence with family members (Folder 1) and small snapshots of his children (Folder 9) suggest the importance of family connections to Wightman during his travels. Lists of photographic supplies and receipts for supplies and processing both before and after the trip (Folder 3) document of what kind of equipment was used and its expense. Russian language documents in Folder 4, mainly passes and awards, are interesting evidential documents of the time period in Russia.

Folder 7 contains three poems written by Wightman during his time in Russia, "To the Princess Varvar Kropotkin, one of Russoa's (sic) Noblewomen," "The Cossack," and "Petrograd." Also of interest in this folder are hand drawn and lettered menus from Wightman's time at the Romanian front. These depict the kinds of food eaten by Romanian officers and have detailed watercolor and pastel drawings and cartoons of war scenes and women. Folder 9 contains a Japanese fan.Folder 9 consists of three small notebooks used by Wightman to record expenses, lists of family and friends to whom postcards should be sent, photographic supplies bought and needed, still and moving picture records, and other lists and notations. One of these notebooks contained many small family snapshots and notes in an inside pocket. These have been removed and are housed in a small folder within Folder 9.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 29 Folder : 1 Correspondence (chronological)
Box: 29 Folder : 2 Correspondence with American Red Cross
1918
Box: 29 Folder : 3 Financial reports, receipts and inventories
Box: 29 Folder : 4 Russian Language Documents
Box: 29 Folder : 5 Propaganda and Appeals
Box: 29 Folder : 6 Business Cards and Printed Matter
Box: 29 Folder : 7 Ephemera from Red Cross trip
Box: 29 Folder : 8 Ephemera from Red Cross trip
Box: 29 Folder : 9 Notebooks from Red Cross trip
Box: 29 Folder : 10 Documents from lectures and speeches given by OSW
1918
Box: 29 Folder : 11 Clippings

Subseries 7: Manuscript of Diary of an American Physician in the Russian Revolution

Scope and Contents note

A typed manuscript copy of Wightman's published account of his trip to Russia. Handwritten editing and notes are present, although it seems to be a finalized copy of the manuscript. This was originally in a binder, but has been removed and is now divided into two folders. The New-York Historical Society holds a published copy of this work.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 30 Folder : 1 Manuscript of Diary of an American Physician in the Russian Revolution
Box: 30 Folder : 2 Manuscript of Diary of an American Physician in the Russian Revolution

Subseries 8: Ledger of film titles

Scope and Contents note

A seemingly complete listing of titles for moving pictures taken by Wightman and his crew. Many of these scenes were also still photographed, his descriptions in this ledger may supplement information elsewhere about locations or actions. This document was originally housed in a binder, the front of which has been photocopied and is in the folder with the manuscript. The physical binder, now empty, is housed in Box 30 along with this folder.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 30 Folder : 3 Ledger of film titles

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