The William H. Butler Photograph Collection depicts some aspects of his professional career as a conductor and arranger, and his role as a public figure, from the 1930s to the late 1960s.The collection consists of individual and group portraits and candid shots of Butler, his wife Mary, friends and professional colleagues; views of receptions, dedications and social gatherings; some views of orchestras; and a view of a ship. The collection lacks views of Butler's personal life and his work as a publisher, and is limited in depicting his role as conductor and arranger.
The collection includes undated studio portraits of Butler, though one portrait shot in England may date from his studies at the Royal Academy of Music (ca. 1935); an undated group portrait of Butler, probably as a music arranger, with a group of unidentified musicians; an undated view of Butler conducting an orchestra at an unidentified vaudeville show; at a nightclub gathering with wife, Mary, composer W. C. Handy and actor Canada Lee (n.d.); in a group portrait with members of the Good Hearts Welfare Association that includes group vice president Wilhelmina Adams (ca. 1938); in attendance at a dedication for jazz musician Snub Mosley outside CBS Headquarters, New York (n.d.); with an unidentified individual at an affair for composer W. C. Handy (1968); attending a social gathering at the Northside senior center, probably in New York City (1969); and at an unidentified church concert (n.d.).
The collection also includes studio portraits of Butler's friends and associates, some of which are inscribed, that include W. C. Handy and his wife, Irma Lou, Marian Robinson and Robert St. George; views of an unidentified ship (n.d.); and a photographic reproduction of an engraving depicting John Greenleaf Whittier's 1864 poem "Barbara Frietchie."
Content: Many photographs bear either photographer's or photography studio's hand stamp on verso; two images bear photographer's blindstamp on recto; some images have studio name either printed or handwritten on recto. Some photographs have handwritten notations on verso; some items have inscriptions; one image has typewritten caption attached to verso. Some items are duplicates.
Content: Collection includes work by Lorenzo Tucker, James J. Kriegsmann, M. Smith Studio, and Inge Hardison, among others.
Biographical/historical: William H. "Billy" Butler, arranger, conductor and publisher, was born in New York City in 1903. He received his musical education at Chicago Musical College (1929), the Royal Academy of Music, London (1935) and Julliard School of Music, New York (1945). Between 1932 to 1948 he was conductor and arranger for several musical and theatrical shows, and for various individuals, including Fletcher Henderson, Lew Leslie, Fats Waller, Katherine Dunham, Doc Cooke and Ed Sullivan's orchestra, as well as his own orchestras. In 1947, he founded and published Travelguide, a directory of non-restricted accomodations for persons of African decent, and was an active member of the Negro Actors Guild of America. Butler died in New York in 1981.
Content: Forms part of William H. Butler Papers, 1917-1982.