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Guide to the Edwin Rolfe Photograph Collection ALBA.PHOTO.010

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
10th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Evan Daniel, 2004

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 19, 2017
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Rolfe, Edwin, 1909-1954
Title: Edwin Rolfe Photographs
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1937
Abstract: Edwin Rolfe - born Solomon Fishman - (1910-1954) was a journalist, author, and Communist Party activist. In 1937, Rolfe went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War for the Volunteer for Libertyand the  Daily Worker. The images in this collection were accrued by Rolfe in the course of his work as a journalist in Spain. The collection contains images of British author and assistant commissar of the Fifteenth International Brigade Ralph Bates and African-American author Langston Hughes as well as barricades, bombed/shelled buildings, medical personnel and street scenes
Quantity: 1.5 Linear Feet
Quantity: (3 Document boxes) Approximately 250 black and white photographs sized from 1.25 x 1.75 to 4 x 5 inches and approximately 215 black and white negatives sized from 1.25 x 1.75 to 2.75 x 4.5 inches.
Call Phrase: ALBA.PHOTO.010

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Historical/Biographical Note

Rolfe was born Solomon Fishman to Russian Jewish parents. He spent the first few years of his life in Philadelphia before the family moved to New York City. His father was a socialist and an official of a union local in New York, who later became a member of the Lovestonite faction of the Communist Party. His mother was active in the birth-control movement, a supporter of the striking Paterson silk workers in 1913, and later a member of the Communist Party. During high school Fishman began using pen names; the name Edwin Rolfe appears on some of his publications in the 1920s.

Rolfe joined the Communist Party in 1925 when he was 15 and was assigned to the Young Communist League. He published his first poem, "The Ballad of the Subway Digger," in the Daily Worker in 1927. He quit the Party in 1929 and moved from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin, to enroll in the Experimental College at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He spent his time writing non-political poems between 1929 and 1930 and in 1932 was published in   Pagany. He left the university during his second year and rejoined the Party in New York City. After a variety of temporary jobs he began working full time at the Daily Worker. Rolfe published  To My Contemporaries, his first book of poetry, in 1936, the same year he married Mary Wolfe. A few months later the Spanish Civil War began. After the Comintern began organizing international volunteers to help defend the Spanish Republic, Rolfe joined the International Brigades in the spring of 1937. Once in Spain he was assigned to edit the  Volunteer for Liberty, the English-language magazine of the volunteers, in Madrid until joining the troops in the field in the spring of 1938. Rolfe's wife Mary joined him in Barcelona that fall.

In January of 1939, the Rolfe's returned to the United States where the Spanish cause was already under attack. Martin Dies began congressional hearings on Communist activity and the volunteers who fought in Spain, as well as their supporters, were immediate suspects. Rolfe's brother Bern Fishman, a federal employee who had raised money for the fledgling Spanish Republic came under scrutiny and Milt Wolff was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. While government harassment of the Lincoln Brigade veterans commenced, Random House published Rolfe's, The Lincoln Battalion, in 1939. He subsequently worked for the Soviet news agency TASS until he was drafted in 1943. Mary moved to Los Angeles and Rolfe joined her after the war where he published a mystery novel (  The Glass Room) and found occasional work on the fringes of the film industry. He was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947 and continued to be active in the struggle against McCarthyism until his death, by heart attack, in 1954.

Rolfe accrued the images in this collection in the course of his work as a journalist for the Volunteer for Libertyand the  Daily Worker.

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Scope and Content Note

The Edwin Rolfe Photograph Collection includes approximately 250 black and white photographs of varying sizes from 1.25 x 1.75 to 4 x 5 inches. The vast majority of the negatives are 2.75 x 4.5 inches and a few measure 1.25 x 1.75 inches.

Series I:The approximately 250 black and white prints are arranged alphabetically by topic and were all taken in Spain during the Civil War. Over one-half of the images are portraits split evenly between individual and group portraits. The collection contains excellent images of British author and Assistant Commissar of the Fifteenth International Brigade Ralph Bates and African-American author Langston Hughes as well as barricades, bombed/shelled buildings, medical personnel and street scenes.

Series II:Negatives arranged alphabetically by topic. The 215 negatives are contained in a separate box from the photographs. 200 of the negatives have matching prints. Some of the negatives match more than one print. The negatives that match more than one print list the matching print numbers underneath the negative number located on the negative sleeve. The 200 negatives with matching prints are arranged alphabetically by topic. The fifteen negatives that do not match any prints are in a single folder at the end of the series. Three of fifteen negatives are unidentified individual soldiers, eight are unidentified groups of soldiers, two are of an unidentified town, and two are of a Socialist meeting or political rally.

The photographic prints are identified by four numbers separated by colons. The first number refers to the collection number, the second to the box number, the third to the folder number, and the fourth to the individual print. For example, the first print in this collection is labeled 10:1:1:1. Negatives are numbered in the same fashion and if there is a matching print, the print number is listed below the negative number. If a print does not have a negative, the print sleeve reads “no negative” or “no neg.”

Arrangement

Folders arranged alphabetically by topic in the Prints and Negatives series.

The files are grouped into 2 series:

Missing Title

  1. I: Prints
  2. II: Negatives

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Rolfe, Edwin, 1909-1954
  • Bates, Ralph, 1899-2000
  • Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967

Document Type

  • Negatives (photographic)
  • Black-and-white photographs.

Subject Organizations

  • Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Abraham Lincoln Battalion
  • Spain. Ejercito Popular de la Republica. Brigada Internacional, XV

Subject Topics

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939.

Subject Places

  • Spain -- History -- Civil War, 1936-1939 -- Participation, American.

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Administrative Information

Provenance

The Rolfe Photograph Collection was donated to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, formerly housed at Brandeis University. The collection came to New York University in January 2001 as part of the original acquisition of ALBA collections.

Access Restrictions

Materials are open to researchers. Please contact the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives for more information and to schedule an appointment, tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Use Restrictions

Any rights (including copyright and related rights to publicity and privacy) held by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), were transferred to New York University in November 2000 by the ALBA Board of Governors. Permission to publish or reproduce materials in this collection must be secured from the Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives. For more information, contact tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu or 212-998-2630.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

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Container List

Series I: Photographs

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Artwork
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 2 At the Front: Non-Combat
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Barricades
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 3a Bates, Ralph
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Behind the Lines: Daily Life of the Soldiers
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Bombed/Shelled Buildings
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Casualties
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Cates, J.
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Gittleson, Lester
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Group Portraits: Identified
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Group Portraits: Unidentified
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Guillen, Nicolas
ca.1937
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Hughes, Langston
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Individual Portraits: Unidentified
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 1a Kish, Leslie
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Little, John
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Medical Personnel
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Monuments/Statues
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Rolfe, Edwin
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Routbart, Anthony
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Shipboard
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Spanish Children
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Spanish Countryside
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Street Scenes
ca.1937
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Wall Newspaper
ca.1937

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Series II: Negatives

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Artwork
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 2 At the Front: Non-Combat
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Barricades
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 3a Bates, Ralph
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Behind the Lines: Daily Life of the Soldiers
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Bombed Buildings/Casualties
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Cates, J.
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Gittleson, Lester
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Group Portraits: Identified
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Group Portraits: Unidentified
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Guillen, Nicolas
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 11 Hughes, Langston
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Individual Portraits: Unidentified
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 12a Kish, Leslie
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Little, John
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Medical Personnel
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 15 Monuments/Statues
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 16 Rolfe, Edwin
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 17 Routbart, Anthony
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 18 Shipboard
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 19 Spanish Children
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 20 Spanish Countryside
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 21 Street Scenes
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 22 Wall Newspaper
ca.1937
Box: 3 Folder : 23 Unmatched Negatives (Fifteen negatives: eight are group portraits, three are unidentified individuals, two are of an unidentified town, and two are of a Socialist meeting or political rally .)
ca.1937

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