Robert W. Sarnoff papers1944-1979
Robert W. Sarnoff (1918-1997), son of RCA founder David Sarnoff, became president of NBC in 1956 and succeeded his father as president of RCA in 1965. This collection consists of films, videos and sound recordings dating from 1953 to 1979 documenting the life and career of Robert W. Sarnoff. The collection has been organized into six series: Events, Meetings, Press and media coverage, Speeches, Travel, and General.
- Sarnoff, Robert W. (Person)
15 Linear Foot
General Physical Description (AVD portion only)
(AVD portion only) 2 photographic prints : color ; 16 x 20 in. 1 photographic print : color ; 16 x 16 in. 1 photographic print : color ; 11 x 14 in. 172 sound tape reels. 3 sound cassettes : analog. 20 sound discs : analog, 33 rpm. 16 items. 70 reels : sd., col. ; 16mm. 12 reels: si., col. ; 16mm. 8 reels : sd., b&w ; 16mm. 2 2" video reel.
Robert W. Sarnoff (1918-1997), son of RCA founder David Sarnoff, became president of NBC in 1956 and succeeded his father as president of RCA in 1965. Sarnoff began his career in journalism with a brief stint in the broadcasting section of the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, D.C. but soon enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he saw active duty in the South Pacific during World War II.
Following the war, Sarnoff worked in the front office of The Des Moines Register and Tribune and later, Look magazine. In 1948, he accepted a position at RCA as an account executive in the sales division of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Less than a decade later, Sarnoff was president of NBC and succeeded his father as president of RCA in 1965. He became chief executive only two years later and was elected chairman of the board in 1970.
Under the guidance of Robert Sarnoff, RCA became diversified with interests in car rentals, carpet manufacturing, publishing, frozen foods, and the poultry industry. The company was overextended, thus unable to stabilize a faltering electronics business, and as a result, board members ousted Sarnoff in 1975.
The collection is arranged in six series:
III. Press and media coverage
Files are arranged chronologically.
Scope and Content
This collection consists of films, videos and sound recordings dating from 1953 to 1979 documenting the life and career of Robert W. Sarnoff. The collection has been organized into six series: Events, Meetings, Press and media coverage, Speeches, Travel, and General.
The Events series is made up of various events occurring in the life of Robert Sarnoff. This contains films depicting the dedications of new buildings for RCA, charity events and Sarnoff greeting dignitaries for RCA. Also included here are documents of the many awards received by Sarnoff from organizations such as the Imperial College of Science & Technology, Navy Distinguished Public Service Award and Liege University. The audio includes many dedications and dinners attended by Sarnoff. Of note are recordings of a dinner given in honor of the composer Sammy Cahn, at which Robert Sarnoff made an introduction and the opening of Space Mountain at Disneyworld, where Sarnoff addressed the crowd.
The Meetings series contains sound tape reels documenting various meetings, including several RCA affiliated department gatherings and a shareholders meeting.
The Press and media coverage series consists of audio and films created for and by the media. The films in this series include a press conference and dedications for new RCA buildings, an interview and news pieces about Sarnoff and several other press conferences. Of note is a silent film of Sarnoff sitting down with Harry Truman. The audio contains many press conferences and excerpts from news programs that include Robert Sarnoff.
The Speeches series consists of the many speeches given by Robert Sarnoff throughout his career. There are videos, film and audio recordings of several speeches that were conducted at colleges and universities such as Franklin and Marshall College, Florida Atlantic University, Imperial College, Loyola Marymount University, University of Alaska and John Hopkins University. There are also films documenting Sarnoff’s addresses at events for various organizations such as the IBEW, NBC affiliates, Red Cross, Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association and the Harvard Business School. Sound recordings include speeches given at the London Chamber of Commerce, Executive Club of Chicago, and for organizations RCA was involved with such as United Way and the Red Cross. Of interest is a sound recording of a speech given by Sarnoff at the opening ceremonies of Telecom 75’, the second World Telecommunication Exhibition which took place in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Travel series contains material relating to Sarnoff's trips, particularly to Japan, as well as home movie footage of a fishing trip with Robert Sarnoff, depicting the group he’s with catching a large fish and departing on a small plane. Also included in this series are several short films of Sarnoff arriving and departing on airplanes.
This collection is open for research.
This collection contains material from the Manuscripts and Archives Department (M&A) and the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department (AVD). Box prefixes indicate which department holds an individual file or item.
Film materials are housed in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing (Film Cans 1-66). Please contact the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.
Language of Materials
Donated to the David Sarnoff Library by Anna Moffo Sarnoff in 1997 and 1999. In 2009, along with the rest of the archival collections of the David Sarnoff Library, the Robert W. Sarnoff papers were donated to the Hagley Museum and Library.
- Sarnoff, Robert W. (Person)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Robert W. Sarnoff papers
- Kenneth Cleary and David Burdash
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description:
- The collection was processed with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant.