On this day in September 1967, labor leader and civil rights pioneer A. Philip Randolph was honored during a Labor Day Mass at the Civic Arena, where Bishop John Wright presented him with an award for his outstanding leadership in a distinguished career that spanned more than half a century. Photographer Teenie Harris was in attendance that day, covering the event for the Pittsburgh Courier, when he captured this stark black-and-white image of Randolph being welcomed by a delegation of clergy from the Pittsburgh region and beyond. Continue reading
During his decades-long photographic career, Teenie Harris photographed President John F. Kennedy more than any other US president. Kennedy visited Western Pennsylvania several times during his presidential campaign, but during a 24-hour period on October 12 and 13, 1962, while campaigning for Democratic congressional and state candidates, Teenie Harris captured all of his speaking engagements in the area. Kennedy spoke on national issues still pertinent today, including jobs, healthcare, and education, as well as the discord between congressional Democrats and Republicans. All of his speeches in Western Pennsylvania during those two days expressed these same themes, but were delivered differently at each stop. They were also recorded on audio tape and are available today through the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.
Friday, October 12, 1962
Afternoon: Kennedy flies to the Pittsburgh area after attending a Columbus Day parade in New York City. Harris waits in the crowd at the airport, possibly getting damp from a passing rain. He photographs the president disembarking Air Force One and greeting the crowd.
4:00 p.m.: Harris captures the crowds gathered in Aliquippa, the site of Kennedy’s first speech of the trip.
The newspapers report that the rain ended in time for the president’s speech. Harris is crowded by other press photographers and takes only one known picture, perhaps knowing he got a clear view at that moment. Hear Kennedy’s speech in Aliquippa or read the transcript.
Late afternoon: The Pittsburgh Press prints the exact route that Kennedy’s motorcade would take to Pittsburgh so that the public could line the streets to watch. After arriving in Pittsburgh, Kennedy checks in to the Penn-Sheraton Hotel for a few hours before his next event.
9:00 p.m.: Kennedy speaks to a packed crowd at the Fitzgerald Field House on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland.
Harris isn’t able to, or chooses not to, get close to the platform. He also experiences a little camera trouble or a darkroom accident, as several of the negatives have light leaks on the left margins. It is likely that he was quickly developing and printing the film later that night (or the early hours of the morning) in the basement darkroom of his house in Homewood. Hear Kennedy’s speech from University of Pittsburgh or read the transcript.
Saturday, October 13, 1962
10:30 a.m.: The weather has cleared, and is described as “near perfect.” Kennedy’s first speech of the day was scheduled in McKeesport.
Harris moves about the crowd photographing from several angles, capturing the president framed by the dark shadow of the marquee and the massive crowd gathered in downtown McKeesport. Hear Kennedy’s speech in McKeesport or read the transcript.
11:40 a.m.: Running 10 minutes behind schedule, Kennedy makes his remarks in Monessen.
Here Harris makes one of the most beautiful images of the president, as well as one among the most popular in his body of work. He seems to be standing on the speaker’s platform and perhaps leaning slightly against the railing on the right. No other photographers are jockeying for his spot. And the police officer on the roof in the distance becomes a foreshadowing element to many who view the image today.
Harris also captured the event from Kennedy’s point of view—a trademark of his photographic work with musicians and other celebrities on stage. Hear Kennedy’s speech in Monessen or read the transcript.
12:30 p.m.: Kennedy’s last stump speech took place in Washington, Pennsylvania, where he also had lunch.
Harris again stayed back in the crowd, perhaps aware of the strength of the portrait he had taken less than an hour earlier. That negative was likely still undeveloped and secured in his coat pocket or the trunk of his car. Hear Kennedy’s speech in Washington, PA, or read the transcript.
3:00 p.m.: Kennedy returns to the Pittsburgh area to take a flight to his next event in Indianapolis, Indiana. Harris is likely in his darkroom. The next day, a US military surveillance aircraft took aerial photographs of Cuba, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Kerin Shellenbarger, Research Archivist, Teenie Harris Archive
Teenie Harris’s 16mm film collection has been nominated as one of Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts as part of the Save Pennsylvania’s Past initiative to protect and preserve the state’s cultural collections. Your vote could help the collection earn the People’s Choice Award, and your donation will directly fund the conservation of Teenie Harris’s film. Vote for before November 1, 2013! You can vote, donate, and share as many times as you like.
But you might be wondering—Teenie Harris also made 16mm films in addition to the 80,000+ photographic negatives that he shot? Why haven’t I seen them? Well, we have not been able to show the film due to its fragile condition. In the 1940s, Teenie Harris used to hang a bed sheet on his garage wall to show films to the neighborhood children. These included popular cartoons, boxing matches, and footage that he shot around the neighborhood and during his travels for work and pleasure.
So far, we’ve only been able to examine the film without projecting it. Some sections of the film are damaged and becoming increasingly brittle. We would like to repair the film, make a copy, and digitize it so that it may be possible to view online and during exhibitions. What we’ve seen so far is very exciting. Some footage compliments subjects in still photos Teenie Harris took, such as a vacation to Atlantic City, scenes outside his studio and his brother’s confectionary store in the Hill, and Negro League baseball games at Forbes Field.
Other footage is unknown and will require research and assistance from you to help identify it. By donating to the Teenie Harris film collection, you will help save this important part of Harris’s work and help make it visible for all to see.
Two years ago, the Archives of American Art posted a photo on their website captioned “Where Art Comes Alive.” This struck such a chord with me that I posted it on the door to the CMOA Archives. There are so many treasures in our archives! No matter what question I’m researching, I invariably run across something fascinating—a letter, photo, book, or sometimes something a little more unusual, like this box of flags, which used to hang in the Music Hall during the Founders–Patrons dinner, in honor of all the countries represented in the Carnegie International. The black tie dinner always coincided with the opening of the International. Finding these actual flags really brings the photo below to life. It makes me wonder about all of the materials from this year’s International, and which ones will resurface 100 years from now.
Be sure to stop in the small room in Scaife gallery 16 to see more treasures from the CMOA Archives, in a special installation highlighting the history of the Carnegie International. Or learn more on the digital archive for the exhibition.
And stay tuned for more treasures from the archives!