Eubie Blake manuscript and ephemera collection
The Eubie Blake Manuscript and Ephemera Collection contains correspondence, manuscript materials, ephemera, awards, certificates, and other materials from the estate of Baltimore born composer and pianist James Hubert “Eubie” Blake (1887-1983). The materials span from circa 1905 to his death in 1983.
- circa 1905-1983
- Blake, Eubie, 1887-1983 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use.
Conditions Governing Use
The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.
James Hubert (Eubie) Blake was born in Baltimore on February 7, 1887 and died in Brooklyn, New York on February 12, 1983, a few days before his ninety-sixth birthday. Composer, lyricist, and pianist, he was a major figure in the revival of ragtime and early jazz, returning them to prominence as true American musical genres.
Blake was playing piano professionally and composing by the age of 16. His career began to take shape when he met fellow musician Noble Sissle in 1915. Together, the two of them wrote hundreds of songs, many of which became major hits. Blake and Sissle also collaborated on writing the musical play Shuffle Along, which featured classic songs such as “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” Shuffle Along, Blake and Sissle’s most famous work, was significant not only for reviving the black musical genre, but also for helping launch influential young performers and composers who went on to their own successful careers. Among them were Josephine Baker, Florence Mills, Paul Robeson, and William Grant Still. Many songs from Shuffle Along became great hits and were recorded dozens of times.
Blake gave talks and performed well into his nineties. The musical Eubie!, based on his songs, appeared in 1978 and became a major Broadway hit. Blake was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show during the 1970s, and among his many awards was the Presidential Medal of Freedom. To recognize his approaching hundredth birthday, the Kennedy Center presented the televised "Eubie Blake: A Century of Music," which won an Emmy Award in 1983.
(This Biographical Note written by Michael Mark, library volunteer in November 2015)
31 Linear Feet (72 boxes; 2 oversized folders)
Language of Materials
The collection is organized into 12 series by type of material chronologically and/or by author or title within each series.
Series I: Correspondence, 1918–1983, undated (Boxes 1–16)
Subseries A: Correspondence to Eubie Blake, 1918–1982, undated (Boxes 1-9)
This subseries consists of correspondence arranged in 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 others. These letters provide illuminating details about their authors' lives as well as about Eubie Blake. Selected items are noted in the container list.
Subseries B: Correspondence from selected individuals, 1928–1983, undated (Boxes 10–12)
This subseries consists of correspondence to Eubie Blake arranged alphabetically from a variety of individuals including Presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, Josephine Baker, James Reese Europe, Bob Darch, W.C. Handy, Joe Louis, Langston Hughes, Cole Porter, Andre Razaf, A. Philip Randolph, Milton Reddie, Noble Sissle, and more. The items are arranged alphabetically. Selected items are noted in the container list.
Subseries C: Institutional Correspondence, 1921–1982, undated (Boxes 13–15)
The correspondence contained in this subseries provides information on Eubie's compositions and his struggle to get them published and performed.
Subseries D: Marion Tyler Blake Correspondence and other materials, 1925–1982, undated (Box 16)
This subseries includes correspondence to and by Marion Blake and records pertaining to her life before and after her marriage to Eubie Blake. Her letters to Eubie during their courtship are of particular interest. Selected items are noted in the container list.
Series II: Eubie Blake Financial Records, 1914–1982, undated (Boxes 17–21)
This series contains Eubie Blake's financial records and other materials including contracts, copyright and royalty statements. Important 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. Selected items are noted in the container list.
Series III: Beldock, Levine and Hoffman, legal correspondence and other materials, 1969–1983, undated (Boxes 22–25)
The legal correspondence contained in the files of Beldock, Levine and Hoffman provides many insights into Eubie Blake’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 Blake. This series also contains Elliott Hoffman’s materials relating to Eubie and Marion Blake’s funerals, including Hoffman’s eulogy to Marion, as well as events honoring Eubie after his passing, including an event at the Maryland Historical Society in November of 1983 celebrating Eubie’s life and the donation of his collection to this institution.
Series IV: Scripts, Lyrics, Biographical Sketches, 1921–1979, undated (Boxes 26-27)
Eubie's life is set out in several sketches and interviews contained in this series. This series also contains scripts and lyrics of some of Eubie Blake’s works, including Shuffle Along and In Bamville.
Series V: Printed Ephemera, 1920–1983, undated (Boxes 28–39)
Subseries A: Travel Ephemera, 1962–1977, undated (Boxes 28–29)
Eubie’s travel experiences can be seen in the souvenir material he collected in this series.
Subseries B: Programs, 1920–1983, undated (Boxes 30–32)
Eubie’s love of the theater, especially the musical stage, are indicated by the many programs he and Marion saved. Also contains programs for Eubie Blake performances.
Subseries C: Miscellaneous Ephemera, 1959–1982 (Boxes 33–39)
This subseries contains ephemera related to the Automated Musical Instruments Collectors Association (AMICA), ragtime organizations and performances, African-American culture and history, various musical performers, and Eubie Blake related ephemera including his business cards and flyers and publicity for Chocolate Dandies and Shuffle Along.
Series VI: Public Press, 1921–1983, undated (Boxes 40–45)
This series adds to the information on Eubie Blake’s public performances and appearances. Blake also collected clippings and articles on African-American issues, political figures like Shirley Chisholm, and performers and musicians such as Duke Ellington.
Series VII: Music Related Documents, undated (Box 46)
This series contains Blake’s collection of collected Ragtime and Jazz publications.
Series VIII: Miscellaneous Memorabilia, 1934–1981, undated (Boxes 47–51)
This series consists of miscellaneous ephemera and other items including drawings of Eubie Blake, Eubie’s card file of addresses, invitations, World War I memorabilia and other items.
Series IX: Greeting Cards, 1939–1989, undated (Boxes 52-67)
This series contains Christmas, birthday and other greeting 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.
Series X: Al Rose Biography of Eubie Blake, undated (Box 68)
Included in this series is a complete copy of the typescript and galleys of Eubie Blake by Al Rose, a biography of Eubie published in 1979.
Series XI: Awards and Certificates (Boxes 69-70)
This series contains awards and certificates accumulated over Eubie Blake's life including his first wife Avis’ marriage certificate, Avis Blake’s high school diploma, and various certificates awarded to Eubie Blake.
Series XII: Miscellaneous (Boxes 71–72, Oversized Folders 1-2)
This series consists of miscellaneous materials, mostly oversize, including Eubie Blake’s wallet and passport, his first check from the American Society of Composers, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and ephemera, a plaque from the City of Chicago, posters, birthday cards, and other items.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of the Estate of Eubie Blake in 1984.
Scope and Contents
The Eubie Blake Manuscript and Ephemera Collection consists of 72 boxes and 2 oversize folders of materials from the estate of Eubie Blake. These materials include a large amount of Eubie’s personal correspondence, legal correspondence, financial records, programs from performances, public press, lyrics and scripts for Eubie’s musicals including In Bamville and Shuffle Along, and miscellaneous music-related and travel ephemera.
- Guide to the Eubie Blake manuscript and ephemera collection
- Under Revision
- Damon Talbot
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- 2020-03-18: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Sandra Glascock