Thursday, October 24, 2013

Chronology for Russian Crown Jewels photographs in the U.S.

The discovery of a photo album of the Russian Crown Jewels from George Frederick Kunz' personal library in 2012 has generated a number of questions about the chronology of images of the jewels in the United States in the early 1920's. Created below is a chronology of documentation regarding these photographs, as it is currently known:

Images in publications:
  • December 20, 1922: DIAMOND CROWNS OF THE LATE CZAR AND CZARINA OF RUSSIA TO BE SOLD BY THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT. The Jewelers' Circular. the Czarina's diamond crown is pictured on the cover and the Imperial Russian crown on page 49. The issue is Volume 85, number 21. Both photos credit "Wide World Photos" as their source.
  • December 24, 1922: PRICELESS RUSSIAN CROWN JEWELS NOW IN SOVIET HANDS. St. Louis Post – Dispatch. page B25 (includes pictorial spread)
  • December 31, 1922: RUSSIAN'S CROWN JEWELS. San Francisco Chronicle. Includes Pictorial spread featuring images of the Czar and Czarina’s crowns, Orloff scepter, Aquamarine pendant, fan and Catherine’s bouquet pin.
Documentation from the Archives of the American Museum of Natural History
  • October 1, 1923. Internal memo from Assistant Director, R.G. Murphy, to Executive Secretary George Sherwood requesting copies of 75 photographic prints of the Russian Crown Jewels. Dr. Murphy states that the photographs are in Dr. Kunz possession as a "confidential trust" and that "no prints must be allowed to get abroad."
  • October 2, 1923. Memo from Mr. Sherwood to Dr. Murphy confirming receipt of the request and asking that Dr. Kunz send the photographs directly to Mr. Sherwood.
  • October 5, 1923. A typed note in the file quoting a letter from Dr. Kunz to Dr. Murphy, confirming that he would attend to sending the photographs to Mr. Sherwood that day.
  • October 5, 1923. A memo, signed by Kunz to Mr. Sherwood, confirming his request for negatives and prints to be made as well as, in the future, lantern slides, possibly colored. Kunz notes that the book is to be shown to no one but the photographer nor is anything to be said about it, "for various reasons." Kunz offers in this message to use the slides for a possible lecture at the museum.
  • October 10, 1923. A types memo (unsigned), presumable from Mr. Sherwood, to Dr. Kunz confirming receipt of a letter as well as the book of photographs and confirming that the work would be done but that there was no immediate hurry.
  • June 25, 1924. A typed memo (unsigned),presumably from Dr. Murphy (Acting Director) to Dr. Kunz,stating that the production of the negatives were complete and offering to have the Russian captions translated by a Miss Van Feld on their staff.
  • October 28, 1924. A typed memo (unsigned), presumably from Dr. Murphy (Acting Director) to Dr. Kunz, returning the book of photographs as well as a set of the prints.
  • March 26, 1928. Typed memo (unsigned) from an unnamed Director to Director C. Clyde Fisher, requesting that they ask Miss Van Fliet to look up the photographs which were copied for Dr. Kunz and have a set of prints made and send to him with the compliments of the museum.
That is all that is known at this time. The Associated Press (successors to the Wide World Photos) has been consulted but was unable to provide any information about the photographs they licensed in 1922.