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Eubie Blake Papers, MS 2800, ca.1905-1983
Eubie Blake Papers, ca.1905-1983
Maryland Historical Society
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Scope and Content Note
For the researcher all of this material is a necessary source for understanding Eubie Blake's character and life, but in the final analysis it must be coordinated with his music which was central to his life.
Judging by the many activities and interests reflected in the voluminous material collected by Eubie Blake and his wife, Marion, he was a more complex person than the cheerful performer/composer we remember. There are 94 boxes of papers which comprise mainly correspondence, photographs and ephemera. They have been organized into categories by type of material and ordered chronologically and/or by author or title within each category.
There are eight boxes of correspondence arranged in ascending chronological order. Most of it was written to Eubie, but there are some responses from him or Marion. The earliest material is scattered and incomplete, but when Marion became Eubie's wife in 1945, she began to serve as his secretary and kept careful and more complete files. Some letters can be found under the correspondent's name when the writer is an important figure: Pearl Bailey, for example, or a collaborator such as Andy Razaf, Milton Reddie, or Ernie. These letters provide illuminating details about their authors' lives as well as about Eubie.
This section is followed by institutional correspondence which provides information on Eubie's compositions and his struggle to get them published and performed.
Correspondence to and by Marions and records pertaining to her life before and after her marriage to Eubie is in the next section. Her letters to Eubie during their courtship are of particular interest.
Eubie's financial records and a section containing contracts, copyright and royalty statements follow. Inportant material on various productions such as /Shuffle Along' and the Eubie Blake orchestra can be found here. These are revealing of Eubie's strength as a composer and performer and his struggle as an African American to succeed. The legal correspondence contained in the files of Beldock, Levine and Hoffman provide many insights into Eubie's career. Elliott Hoffman, Eubie's lawyer and long time friend, was called upon many times to resolve various problems as well as to offer valuable advice to Eubie.
Eubie's life is set out in several sketches and interviews contained in the section titled Scripts, Biographical Sketches. Also in Box 33 there is a complete copy of the typescript and galleys of Al Rose's biography of Eubie.
Eubie's travel experiences can be seen in the souvenir material in the Travel Ephemera files; and his love of the theater especially the musical stage in the many programs he and Marion saved.
The Public Press section adds to the information on Eubie's public performances and appearances. It includes as well clippings on racial issues. Eubie was aparently interested in the success of fellow African Americans and saved articles pertaining to political figures like Shirley Chisholm as well as performers and musicians such as Duke Ellington. Having himself suffered racial discrimination he also saved news items and other material concerning racial injustice.
He collected Ragtime and Jazz publications. A file of AMICA, a publication on player piano rolls, might prove to be valuable source for locating those Eubie made which have not been found with his papers.
There are many Christmas and birthday cards, some of which have informative notes or letters attached. Most are from long time friends, some from other celebrities. There are also cards and notes from school children. The birthday cards are especially interesting in their disclosure of the great affection for Eubie held by his friends as well as strangers.
The photographs are possibly the most revealing documents. They are arranged by category with identification when possible. Unfortunately many individuals are not identified, especially those in the snapshots. Most of these were pasted in albums thereby covering up or destroying identification. In this same section are Eubie's citations and awards, his doctoral degrees of which he was justly proud, and flyers and posters from his and other productions, some of which are probably quite rare.