Category Archives: Teenie Harris

24 Hours with JFK and Teenie Harris


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.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, John F. Kennedy exiting Air Force One at Pittsburgh airport for presidential campaign visit, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Police officers greeting John F. Kennedy at airport with Air Force One in background, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

4:00 p.m.: Harris captures the crowds gathered in Aliquippa, the site of Kennedy’s first speech of the trip.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Crowd on hillside and in street for President John F. Kennedy’s visit, with political signs for William Kovolenko for Legislative Representative and “Let’s Free the Toll Bridge,” Aliquippa, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, President Kennedy in Aliquippa: President Kennedy addressing crowd in Aliquippa with banner reading “Aliquippa Voters, I Need You”, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, President Kennedy in Pittsburgh: President Kennedy addressing crowd in University of Pittsburgh field house with Kennedy portrait and banner for Dilworth for Governor in background, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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.

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See more Teenie Harris photos from the archive on our Collection page and on Getty Images.
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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.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, President Kennedy in McKeesport: President John F. Kennedy under marquee addressing audience at outdoor field along Lysle Boulevard in McKeesport, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, President Kennedy in McKeesport: John F. Kennedy speaking under awning outdoors to a large crowd, Hirshbergs, Peoples Union Bank, and Reubens in background, near intersection of Walnut Street and Lysle Boulevard, 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

Charles “Teenie” Harris, President Kennedy in McKeesport: John F. Kennedy speaking under awning outdoors to a large crowd, Hirshbergs, Peoples Union Bank, and Reubens in background, near intersection of Walnut Street and Lysle Boulevard, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

11:40 a.m.: Running 10 minutes behind schedule, Kennedy makes his remarks in Monessen.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, President John F. Kennedy speaking from podium, with Senator Joseph S. Clark and Pennsylvania Governor David L. Lawrence seated behind him, Monessen, Pennsylvania, 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

Charles “Teenie” Harris, President John F. Kennedy speaking from podium, with Senator Joseph S. Clark and Pennsylvania Governor David L. Lawrence seated behind him, Monessen, Pennsylvania, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, President Kennedy in Monessen: President John F. Kennedy speaking at a podium to a crowd with Rosenson's furniture store in background, 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

Charles “Teenie” Harris, President Kennedy in Monessen: President John F. Kennedy speaking at a podium to a crowd with Rosenson’s furniture store in background, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

Harris also captured the event from Kennedy’s point of viewa 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.

Charles "Teenie" Harris, President Kennedy in Washington: President Kennedy addressing crowd from platform in front of large stone building with doric columns and sign saying "Welcome Mr. President," Washington, Pennsylvania, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

Charles “Teenie” Harris, President Kennedy in Washington: President Kennedy addressing crowd from platform in front of large stone building with doric columns and sign saying “Welcome Mr. President,” Washington, Pennsylvania, October 1962, black and white: Kodak Safety Film, Heinz Family Fund

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 in Quilts


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Selection of quilts inspired by Charles “Teenie” Harris’s photograph, “Boy school crossing guard holding back group of children…”

Black and white cloth. Gloves, glasses, and patrol guard belts. Children’s earnest faces. On October 17–20, 2013, the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Side displayed the Nia Quilt Guild’s unique project, “A Quilter’s View of the Arts.” The event was sponsored by YMWAHA (Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association) and the concept was for the quiltmakers to respond to challenges representing five distinct art disciplines: painting, dance, spoken word, music, and photography. The Charles “Teenie” Harris portrait (below) of a 1949 school patrol guard, on a street with outstretched arms protecting just under a dozen children, was chosen to represent the photographic arts.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Boy school crossing guard holding back group of children, including: Donald Christmas, Joann Collins, Elaine Robinson, Kenneth Holiday, Curtis Andrews, Beverly Myers, and Marlene Brown, on corner of Kirkpatrick and Reed Streets with A. Leo Weil School on left in background, Hill District, 1947, black and white: Kodak Safety Film; Heinz Family Fund

With clever flair, seven quilters captured their personal interpretation of the photo image, sewn in black, gray, and white cloth, mimicking the black and white photography Mr. Harris is best known for. On some of the works, strips of straight lines depicted the crossing guards belt and street patterns, while on others patterned swirls imitated the children’s posture and energy. One quilt even had small gloves and glasses echoing the guard’s attire. I was quite impressed with them all, but was especially drawn to the quilt of the children’s images copied onto cloth and placed in the silhouette of Teenie’s famous Speed Graphic camera, with which the photo was undoubtedly taken. As quilt artist Joyce Broadus gave me a tour of the quilts, she mentioned that using black and white cloth had been particularly challenging to the seamstresses accustomed to using more color and pattern, but that they eventually found it exciting to bring life to the static palette. I chuckled aloud, however, when informed that one quilter, who didn’t like the lack of color, sewed the back of her piece with bright red circles to depict the vitality of children, and aptly titled her creation, “Don’t Make Me Do Black and White Again!”

Photography illustrated through needle and thread is a refreshing appreciation of the Harris collection. Known for being a very down-to-earth gentleman, Teenie certainly would be thrilled that his work was characterized in such unique fashion, and in support of programs benefiting a popular subject of his lens—youngsters of color. Bravo for an exceptional exhibition!

Vote for Teenie!


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.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Two women in front of George Harris’ confectionery shop at 2121 Wylie Avenue, Hill District, Pittsburgh, c. 1940-1955, Heinz Family Fund, 2001.35.FilmK

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.

Teenie Harris, Professional Basketball Player


Photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris was a well-known athlete in his youth long before he earned his moniker of “One Shot.” In the first half of the 1920s, along with Bill Harris (no relation), he founded the Pittsburgh Crawfords baseball team that would become a Negro League powerhouse. Around the same time, he was developing a reputation as an ace dribbler and fast player on the basketball court, and later as a well-respected team manager and coach. The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper would report weekly details of his actions in the game.

Among the first teams Harris gained his reputation was as captain on the Paramount A. C. basketball team that played in the 1926 city championship. Through the 1920s and early 1930s he played intermittently for the team, including brief stints on rival teams including Holy Cross and Loendi. Paramount A. C. later became the Hotel Bailey Big Five team in whose uniform he’s captured in this image by an unknown photographer.

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Copy of a c. 1929–1931 photograph of Charles “Teenie” Harris in Hotel Bailey basketball uniform, with basketball on floor, in studio setting, copy created by Harris c. 1950–1970, Heinz Family Fund

In 1934, he extended his coaching skills to the local Savoy women’s basketball team whose games were described as “fast-paced.” Also at this time, when Harris was in his mid-20s, his career was at its peak with the Iron City Elks team. Chester Washington, in his sports column for the Pittsburgh Courier on March 28, 1936, describes Harris as:

“…the deceptive little scooter and dribbler, a former Paramount A. C. speedster who is not only a sterling little runner if the race grows hot and needs him, but together with Harry Beale handles the managerial reins of the antlered ponies.”

The Iron City Elks completed against teams from the greater western Pennsylvania region, east coast, and fraternities and colleges such as Wilberforce. Through his managerial skills, he was able to bring the New York Renaissance and Celtics teams to play in Pittsburgh. According to his son, Charles A. “Little Teenie” Harris:

“The greatest achievement my dad felt that he had was bringing to Pittsburgh the two best basketball teams in the world from New York—the Renaissance and the Celtics.  He never looked forward to a basketball game as much as he did when the Rens came to town.”

Harris began to get serious about photography in late 1937 and began publishing his images in Washington DC based Flash Newspicture Magazine in 1938. Consequently, he named his next basketball team “Flash.” On February 10, 1938, the New York Renaissance came to Pittsburgh to play the Pittsburgh Pirates basketball team and two days later they played Flash. Flash lost to the New York Renaissance at the Centre Avenue YMCA.

Shortly thereafter he increasingly turned his attention to coaching, including the Centre Avenue YMCA team, and formed a recreational team made up of former professional and college players named “The Old Timers” a few years later. His love of the sport and admiration for the New York Renaissance was passed on to his son. “Little Teenie” formed and captained his own teams which he named “The Rens,” and played on school teams as well.

In 1946, father and son played against each other in what his son humbly described as “basketball 101,” since the youth were so instructed (and beaten 34–22) by their elders.

Teenie’s basketball career declined by the 1950s, when his Old Timer’s team was referred by the Courier as the “’Real’ Old-timers… held together by ankle wraps and lineament.”

Teenie’s first photos in the Pittsburgh Courier?


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Spread from Flash Newspicture magazine, February 14, 1938, pages 22–23

Seventy-five years ago today, in 1938, the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper printed pictures of a young Lena Horne (a Pittsburgher at the time) at the Allegheny County Airport as she departed for Hollywood. She spent the hours before at a farewell party in her honor at the Loendi Club in the Hill District. At the airport, her husband Louis Jones, her father Teddy Horne, and friends Woogie and Ada Harris were there to wish her a bon voyage—she had even borrowed a Persian lamb coat from Ada Harris for the trip. Teenie Harris was there the entire time and photographed the young star in broad smiles looking excited and beautiful. Shortly afterwards, the readers of the Courier, the most widely circulated black newspaper in the country, saw these pictures, though without any credit to the photographer. However, we believe that they are possibly the first ones that Harris had published in the Courier.  At the same time, these pictures, along with several others, were published in a two-page spread in the Washington, D.C.-based Flash Newspicture magazine.

Harris had begun contributing images to Flash in the autumn of 1937, about the time he purchased his trademark 4×5 Speed Graphic camera.

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Photographer unknown, Charles “Teenie” Harris in front of Flash circulation office, 2132 Centre Avenue, Hill District, c. 1937

By 1938, he was listed on the masthead of Flash as one of the publication’s photographers, and he had opened a photography studio with Harry Beale at 2128 Centre Avenue in the Hill District. Several stories circulate about exactly how, when, and why Harris began to work with the Courier, but he was beginning to make a name for himself as a photographer. Other Pittsburgh Courier staff, including reporter-photographer Joe Sewell, photographer Alex Rivera, and gossip columnist Julia Bumry Jones also contributed to Flash.  Whatever the specific details were (and we would love to know them) about Harris’s early relationship with the Courier, within a few months he was regularly freelancing for the publication. In the May 7, 1938, issue he was finally credited for his picture of Marva Louis, wife of boxer Joe Louis, at a fashion show.

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Charles “Teenie” Harris, Marva Louis standing behind artificial palm tree, for Centre Avenue YMCA Junior Hostesses Fashion Revue, April 1938

Harris became a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier in 1941, and continued into the mid- to late 1970s, amassing possibly the largest body of work of a black community by a single photographer in the mid-twentieth century.