Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) was a writer, promoter of African-American artists during the Harlem Renaissance, patron of the arts, and photographer. After he graduated from the University of Chicago in 1930, he entered upon a career as a reporter for newspapers that included The American in Chicago and within a few years The New York Times. At the latter he served as an overseas correspondent in Paris and subsequently as an assistant to the music critic Richard Aldrich in New York City. Van Vechten moved to New York City in 1906 with his first wife Anna Elizabeth Snyder, a teacher. After his divorce in 1912, Van Vechten met and married the stage actress Fania Marinoff. Marinoff made her stage debut at the age of eight in a stock company, and eventually developed a successful stage career. Van Vechten's novels include The Blind-Bow Boy, Interpreters and Interpretations, Nigger Heaven, Peter Whiffle, Tiger By the Tail, and The Tattooed Countess. Van Vechten promoted the careers of many authors' works by writing introductions to their monographs. In his second successful career as a photographer, he had the opportunity to photograph, and to have himself photographed, with many literary figures, stage and screen stars and others.
Papers reflect Van Vechten's social life and professional career as a writer, photographer and patron of the arts; they also document Van Vechten's literary and artistic circle of friends and colleagues. An avid collector, Van Vechten retained the letters of prominent individuals who corresponded with him including Ralph Barton, James Branch Cabell, Arthur Davidson Ficke, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Donald Gallup, Langston Hughes, Edward Jablonski, Klaus Jonas, James Weldon Johnson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Bruce Kellner, Saul Mauriber, H. L. Mencken, Georgia O'Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, Florine Stettheimer, and Henrietta Stettheimer. Papers are also rich in Van Vechten's photographs of prominent individuals, and in 19th century photographs of his family in Iowa. Multiple editions of Van Vechten's monographs and the monographs of others add to the diversity of the papers. Many of the monographs have been autographed by the author.