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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 558

Melvin R. Seiden collection of Al Hirschfeld drawings, prints, sketchbooks, and ephemera


Contains drawings, prints (visual works), sketchbooks, ephemera, and a single painting by Al Hirschfeld, mostly on topics relating to theatrical figures and productions, celebrities, and the general theatrical and film culture of the United States from 1928 to 2002.


  • 1928-2002

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

A portion of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


11.2 linear feet (9 boxes, 293 folders, and 2 frames)

Contains drawings, prints (visual works), sketchbooks, ephemera, and a painting created by Al Hirschfeld, and mostly collected over time by Melvin R. Seiden.

Series I contains portrait drawings of theatrical figures and celebrities, drawings based on scenes from theatrical productions, composite drawings depicting contemporary theatrical figures and performances, as well as several political cartoons and caricatures of theatrical culture. Many of these drawings were published in the New York Times during Hirschfeld’s tenure creating caricatures of actors, directors, critics, producers, and more for the newspaper’s drama section from 1928 to approximately 2002.

Series II contains lithographs of Hirschfeld’s work, including portraits of theatrical figures and celebrities, as well as scenes from productions a films. Prints depicting composite images of multiple scenes from Broadway seasons are included as well, with some cultural caricatures and cartoons in addition to the theatrical and film-related works. Many of these are lithographs of drawings prepared for the New York Times, and there is some overlap of subjects and depictions from the drawings and prints (visual works) series.

Series III contains nine volumes of sketchbooks filled mainly by pencil sketches made by Al Hirschfeld, often when at the theatre.

Series IV includes ephemera relating to Al Hirschfeld, including a copy of his book on speakeasies in New York, Manhattan Oases, as well as print materials such as magazines, newspapers, and programs, phonograph albums, drawings, a single t-shirt, and a custom Hirschfeld drawing pad.

Biographical / Historical

Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) was a caricaturist known for depictions of theatre and celebrity figures. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to New York, New York at the age of twelve. He studied at the Art Students League in New York and in Paris, and served as an art director at Selznick Pictures early in his career. In 1926, he drew a caricature during a theatre performance, and decided to submit it to the New York Herald Tribune, where it was published. In 1927, the New York Times commission Hirschfeld to provide a drawing of actor Harry Lauder, which was published in 1928 January, and his artwork appeared regularly in the New York Times drama section for the following seventy years, focusing on Broadway and theatre figures, as well as some celebrities from the film industry.

Melvin R. Seiden (1921-2011) was a collector, an honorary curator of Visual Arts at Harvard College Library and an associate director of Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.


Materials are arranged in four series: I. Drawings, II. Prints (visual works), III. Sketchbooks, and IV. Ephemera. Only Series I and II have been processed.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Most of this collection was the gift of Melvin R. Seiden and Janine Luke at various times from approximately 1978-2012. The materials given by Janine Luke in 2012 were given in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and Fredric W. Wilson. Materials with a different source of acquisition, whether purchases or gifts from other individuals, are noted in the file description.

Related Materials

Related materials at Houghton Library include: Al Hirschfeld sketchbook (MS Thr 374). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup, 2018 August.

Seiden, Melvin R. Melvin R. Seiden collection of Al Hirschfeld drawings, prints, sketchbooks, and ephemera, 1928-2002 (MS Thr 558): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2018 August 28
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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