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Guide to the Jack Sydow papers
1933-2001 (bulk dates 1942-1945)
 PR289

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


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Audrey Belanger

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on August 16, 2012
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: Jack Sydow Photographs and Papers Collection
Dates: ca. 1933-2001 (bulk dates 1942-1945)
Abstract: This collection contains photographs and documents of Jack Sydow - actor, director, playwright, and professor. The items in the collection span the majority of Sydow's life, with a concentration on his time serving in the military during World War II and acting in the soldier show Hump Happy, and on his later theater career.
Quantity: 2.5 Linear feet (3 boxes)
Location Note: Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Call Phrase: PR289

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Biographical Note

Jack Sydow – actor, director, playwright, and professor – was born John David Sydow in Rockford, Illinois, 1921. Sydow served in the military in World War II with the Air Transport Command. While stationed in Assam, India, Sydow and fellow ATC enlisted men created a variety show Hump Happy, named for the range of mountains separating India and China referred to as "The Hump." The show featured Sydow dressed as a woman in a delayed-peel act and as one of the singing Andrew’s Sisters.  Hump Happy traveled to military bases in India, the Middle East, and Africa, becoming the first soldier show to travel across combat areas.

Sydow graduated from the University of Illinois and received his master’s from Yale School of Drama. He continued to work in theater as an actor, director, and playwright throughout his life, receiving an Obie award for a theatrical adaptation in 1958 and a Tony award nomination for directing in 1966. From 1970 to 1986, Sydow was on the University of Washington School of Drama faculty, where he served as executive director and head of the directing program.

After retiring from the University of Washington, Sydow moved to Los Angeles where he continued to act both on the stage and in television. Sydow passed away in Los Angeles in 2010 at the age of 88.

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Scope and Content Note

This collection of photographs, correspondence, and documents spans the majority of Jack Sydow's life. The bulk of the collection is from 1942-1945 when Sydow was serving in the military in World War II and acting in the traveling soldier show Hump Happy. The WWII portion of the collection contains letters Sydow wrote to his family, photographs, articles, and other documents relating to Sydow's travels and shows. The rest of the collection spans Sydow's adult life with a heavy focus on his theater career, and includes personal and stage photographs, play ephemera, and song books.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in two series.

Series I: World War II, includes photographs and documents from Sydow's life while enlisted.

Series II: Life and career, includes photographs and documents from Sydow's life and career outside the military.

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Access Points

Subject Topics

  • Theater -- United States
  • United States. Army Air Forces. Air Transport Command
  • World War, 1939-1945

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Administrative Information

Provenance

Donated to the New-York Historical Society by J. Riley Caldwell-O'Keefe, PhD in 2012.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. See guidelines in Print Room for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from:

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270
Fax: (212) 579-8794

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Jack Sydow papers, PR 289, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Materials at the New-York Historical Society

For additional materials related to the entertainment of WWII troops, see the Radio Entertainers and Announcers Collection.

The N-YHS Library's collection of World War II related materials can be searched using the online catalog.

References

Ford, Corey and Alastair MacBain. “Flying Strip Tease.” Collier’s, November 18, 1944.

“Jack Sydow: Obituary.” Rockford River Star, June 28, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2012. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/rrstar/obituary.aspx?n=jack-sydow&pid=143765026#fbLoggedOut

Berson, Misha. “Memorial Set for UW’s Jack Sydow.” The Seattle Times, June 16, 2010. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thearts/2012135909_sydow17.html

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Container List

Series I: World War II, 1942-1945, undated

Subseries I.1: Photographs

Arrangement note

Photographs have been arranged by subject into photographs of shows Sydow was involved in and photographs of travel and military life during his enlistment. Within the subject areas, photographs are arranged primarily by size. The numbers on the backs of each photograph correspond to an inventory created by Dr. J. Riley Caldwell-O'Keefe and are not indicative of original order.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Military and travel photographs
ca. 1942-1945
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Military and travel photographs
ca. 1942-1945
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Show photographs

Scope and Contents note

Shows include Hump Happy and  Who Was That Lady, possibly others.

ca. 1943-1945

Subseries I.2: Correspondence

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Sydow to his family
1942
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Sydow to his family
1943 January-June 3
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Sydow to his family
1943 June 24-July
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Sydow to his family
1943 August-December
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Sydow to his family
1944 January-May
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Sydow to his family
1944 June-December
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Sydow to his family
1945 January-June
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Sydow to his family
1945 July-December

Subseries I.3: Documents

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Newspaper clippings

Scope and Content Note

Contains clippings about Hump Happy, obituaries for soldiers, and a French paper.

1944-1945, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Show documents and ephemera

Scope and Content Note

Includes posters, fliers, handwritten lyrics, a newsletter, and a letter from Anita Loos.

1943-1945, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 14 City guides and army badges

Scope and Content Note

Contains city guides to Madras and Calcutta published for U.S. soldiers and Sydow's army badges, including the China Burma India insignia.

undated
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Magazines

Scope and Content Note

Contains multiple copies of Collier's from Nov. 18, 1944 and  Yank from Feb. 11, 1944. Magazines contain articles about  Hump Happy.

1944

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Series II: Life and career, 1933-2001, undated

Subseries II.1: Photographs

Scope and Contents note

Although the majority of the photographs are undated, they appear to span Sydow's adult life. Photographs of Sydow include professional portraits and personal photographs of Sydow both alone and with friends. Photographs of shows include shows that Sydow acted in as well as shows that Sydow directed.

Arrangement note

As the majority of the photographs are undated, they have been arranged by topic (either photographs of Sydow, photographs of shows, or miscellaneous). The photographs of Sydow and of shows have been further divided into black & white and color photographs. Within these divisions photographs are arranged primarily according to size, although an attempt was made to group like photographs together and to arrange them in rough chronological order, based primarily on guesswork.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Sydow - black and white photographs
1947-52, 1960, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Sydow - black and white photographs
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Sydow - black and white photographs
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Sydow - black and white photographs
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Sydow - color photographs
ca. 1970-1992, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Sydow - color photographs
ca. 1994-2001, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Shows - black and white photographs - identified

Scope and Content Note

Shows included: Oh, Coward!, Glass Menagerie, The Late Christopher Bean, The Crucible, John Brown's Body, A Touch of the Poet, Once Upon a Mattress, and  The Imaginary Invalid.

ca. 1948-1975
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Shows - black and white photographs - identified

Scope and Content Note

Photographs and documents from Adding Machine. Originally housed in a photo album.

ca. 1970-1971
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Shows - black and white photographs - unidentified
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Shows - black and white photographs - unidentified
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Shows - black and white photographs - unidentified
1957, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Shows - color photographs - identified

Scope and Content Note

Photographs from Shadowlands.

ca. 1993
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Shows - color photographs - unidentified
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Other unidentified photographs
1933, 1943, undated

Subseries II.2: Documents

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Play ephemera

Scope and Content Note

Includes newspaper clippings and playbills.

1939-1967, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 15 Miscellaneous documents and drawings
1942, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Stage plans

Scope and Contents note

Stage plans for The Matchmaker.

1977
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Song books
undated

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