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FRANK SCHIFFMAN APOLLO THEATER COLLECTION, 1933- 1985 #540

(4 cu. ft.: 16 DB)

by: Danielle Snyder, 2002

History

The Apollo Theater is located in the Harlem section of New York City. A prominent and influential institution, the Apollo Theater hosted numerous performances by popular entertainers who were primarily African-American, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday, Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations from the early 1930s to the present. It became best known as the site of "amateur night" programs, which catapulted many of its winners (and losers) to national and international acclaim. To this day, the Apollo Theater remains an important fixture in both the music industry and the African-American community.

The son of Austrian immigrants, Frank Schiffman began his career in the promotion and distribution of motion pictures in New York City. As his career grew, he managed various New York theaters such as the Lafayette and the Harlem Opera House. In 1934, Frank Schiffman became the first manager of the ApolloTheater. Soon thereafter, he became co-owner, and retained the management position until the early 1960s. Schiffman's lack of racial bias as well as his keen business sense helped the Apollo Theater to become a cultural icon within the performance industry. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Schiffman's sons, Jack and Robert assisted him with the management of the Apollo, and later took over management when Frank Schiffman's retired. Frank Schiffman died in 1974 at the age of 80.

Scope & Content

The Frank Schiffman Apollo Theater Collection documents the business endeavors of Frank Schiffman, and the Apollo Theater’s contribution to American culture. The collection includes sound recordings, personal and business correspondence, photographs, business records, and printed material. The collection is arranged in six series as follows:

Series 1: CORRESPONDENCE, 1938-1985: letters and telegrams to/from Frank Schiffman, Jack Schiffman, and various business associates and friends. Correspondence are arranged by correspondent and thereunder chronologically.

Series 2: BUSINESS RECORDS, 1931-1974: financial ledgers; phone books; booking cards containing names, dates, and performance reviews; and accounting documents pertaining to the management of the Apollo Theater.

Series 3: PUBLICITY, n.d.: includes print media, pamphlets, scrapbooks, and flyers documenting the numerous performances and activities at the Apollo Theater. Several of the newsprint advertisements were reprinted in two books written about the Apollo Theater: Ted Fox’s Showtime at the Apollo Theater, and Jack Schiffman’s Uptown: The Story of Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

Series 4: PHOTOGRAPHS, n.d.: primarily standard publicity stills of vocalists, comedians, musicians, and other artists who performed at the Apollo Theater, such as Lena Horne, Bo Diddley, Pearl Bailey, B.B. King, Jackson Five, Pigmeat Markham, Moms Mabley, Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, and the Nicholas Brothers. Also includes candid shots of Frank Schiffman with business associates and friends. Similar to the print media, many of the photographs were used as illustrations in Ted Fox’s Showtime at the Apollo Theater, and Jack Schiffman’s Uptown: The Story of Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

Series 5: EPHEMERA, n.d. includes interview transcripts, various manuscripts, and architectural drawings of the Apollo Theater.

Series 6: AUDIO RECORDINGS, 1940-1975 holds promotional broadcasts, publicity shorts, and one random music album. All of the audio recordings in the Schiffman Collection originated on 1/4" open reel audio tape and have cassette reference copies.

Access

The scrapbooks in Series 5 are in extremely fragile condition. They cannot be made available for use until they are preserved.

Provenance

The Frank Schiffman Apollo Theater Collection was donated to the Smithsonian Institution by Jack and Robert Schiffman in January 1996.

SERIES 1: CORRESPONDENCE, 1938-1985

Box Folder Description

1

1

Telegrams to Frank Schiffman, 1938-1949

1

2

Telegrams between Frank Schiffman and Leonard Reed, 1938

1

3

Telegram to "Mr. Schiffman" (probably Frank), 1965

1

4

Personal and Business Correspondence to Frank Schiffman, 1938-1965

1

5

Correspondence from Frank Schiffman, 1947-1949

1

6

Correspondence between Frank Schiffman and the William Morris Agency about Pearle Bailey, 1947-1949

1

7

Correspondence between Frank Schiffman and Shaw Artists Co. about Harry Belafonte, 1949

1

8

Correspondence to/from Frank Schiffman about the F.E. Miller Dispute, 1947

1

9

Correspondence to "Mr. Schiffman"(probably Frank), 1947-1949

1

10

Correspondence to Jack Schiffman, 1980-1983

1

11

Correspondence from Jack Schiffman, 1983

1

12

Correspondence to "Jack," 1985

1

13

Correspondence from "Jack," no date

1

14

Telegram to Henry Schiffman, 1983

1

15

Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1938-1948

SERIES 2: BUSINESS RECORDS, 1931-1974

2

1

"Lafayette Theater Telephone Directory," ca. 1933

2

2

Record Book, 1956-1959

2

3

Record Book, 1959-1962

2

4

Performer Biographies, no date

3

1

"Acts from August 1963," Journal (A-I)

3

2

"Acts from August 1963," Journal (J-P)

3

3

"Acts from August 1963," Journal (Q-Z)

3

4

"Acts from January 1968," Journal 1968-1973 (A-I)

3

5

"Acts from January 1968," Journal 1968-1973 (J-P)

3

6

"Acts from January 1968," Journal 1968-1973 (Q-Z)

3

7

Ledger, 1/3/1969 - 12/25/1970

3

8

Ledger, 1/4/1971 - 12/25/1973

3

9

Ledger, 1/4/1974 - 12/20/1974

4

1

Ledger, ca. 1931-1934

4

2

1934/1935 Apollo Theater Accounting

4

3

Finance Ledger, 1932-1942

4

4

Ledger, 1/5/1962 - 1/5/1964

4

5

Ledger, 1/3/1964 - 12/31/1965

4

6

Ledger, 1/7/1966 - 12/8/1967

4

7

Ledger, 1/5/1968 - 12/25/1968

4

8

"R & B Singers and Hits, 1968-69" Ledger, 1968-1970

5

Booking Cards (A-L)

6

Booking Cards (Mc-Z)

SERIES 3: PUBLICITY, n.d.

7

1

Print Media / newspaper clippings, flyers, etc. (reference)

7

2

Print Media / continued (reference)

7

3

Print Media / continued (reference)

7

4

Playbills and Pamphlets

7

5

Advertisement Templates

SERIES 4: PHOTOGRAPHS, n.d.

8

1

Vocalists (A-L)

8

2

Vocalists (A-L) James Brown

8

3

Vocalists (A-L) Ella Fitzgerald

8

4

Vocalists (A-L) Gladys Knight

8

5

Vocalists (A-L) Gloria Lynne

8

6

Vocalists (M-Z)

8

7

Vocalists (M-Z) Smokey Robinson

8

8

Vocalists (M-Z) The Temptations

8

9

Vocalists (M-Z) Leslie Uggams

8

10

Vocalists (M-Z) Stevie Wonder

8

11

Gospel Singers

8

12

Gospel Singers

9

1

Comedians and Theatrical Performers - miscellaneous

9

2

Comedians and Theatrical Performers - (Crackshot) Hackly

9

3

Comedians and Theatrical Performers - Jackie Mabley

9

4

Comedians and Theatrical Performers - Pigmeat Markham

9

5

Dancers

9

6

Instrumentalists

9

7

Instrumentalists: Count Basie

9

8

Miscellaneous

9

9

Frank Schiffman

SERIES 5: EPHEMERA, 1940-1975

10

1

Transcript of 1975 interview with Robert Schiffman

10

2

Manuscript - Chapter XI: Memorabilia "The Way We Were"

10

3

Manuscript - Harlem Heyday "A Pictorial Reminiscence of Harlem’s Showplace," by Jack Schiffman.

10

4

Miscellaneous notes

11 [OS]

1

Newspaper article: Sunday News, November 14, 1965

11 [OS]

2

Oversized Photographs

11 [OS]

3

Two tribute books to Frank Schiffman

11 [OS]

4

Architectural prints of the Apollo Theater

12

Scrapbooks 1940, 1941, 1942, and n.d. miscellaneous scrapbook pages [restricted until preserved]

13

Scrapbooks 1940-1949, 1955-1956, and 1958 [restricted until preserved]

14

Scrapbooks 1947-1949, and 1949-1950 [restricted until preserved]

15

Scrapbooks 1950-1961, 1959-1961, and house staff photo, 1950 [restricted until preserved]

16

SERIES 6: AUDIO

RTC 540.1 Side 1

OTC 540.1

"The Apollo":

A NBC promotional broadcast for the Apollo Theater. The program discusses the uniqueness and importance of the Apollo Theater to the African-American community and American pop-culture. [25 min]

RTC 540.2

Side 1

OTC 540.2

[NBC Broadcast - Apollo]

A publicity short about the Apollo Theater. [4 min, 40 sec]

RTC 540.3-1

Side 1

 

RTC 540.3-2

Side 2

OTC 540.3-1

 

 

OTC 540.3-2

"Black Dialogue" Part I:

Radio Program: Discussion between radio host, Bob Law and Apollo manager, Robert Schiffman on the history, audience, and performers of the Apollo Theater. [38 min]

"Black Dialogue" Part II:

Radio Program continued: Bob Law and Robert Schiffman talk over the future of the Apollo Theater. [13 min, 20 sec]

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E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised:  February 24, 2003