RCA News and Information Department photographsCreation: 1860-1985 Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1983
The RCA News and Information Department served a public affairs role for RCA corporate headquarters at Rockefeller Center in New York City. The collection contains photographs and negatives created or commissioned by RCA that document much of RCA’s history and activities. Many of the photographs were organized by the News and Information Department into subjects that cover the history of radio, television, communications, and consumer electronics, with a particular emphasis on RCA”s role in that history. Additional photographs are grouped by RCA division and document their specific achievements, with the RCA laboratories being especially prominent. This collection also contains a large number of photographic negatives that were taken by the public relations firm, Carl Byoir & Associates, which showcase many of RCA’s products, events, and facilities.
- Creation: 1860-1985
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1983
37.25 Linear Feet
3230 negatives : b&w ; 35mm. 5340 negatives : b&w ; 120. 87 negatives : b&w ; 70mm. 29 negatives : color ; 4x5 in. 8885 negatives : b&w ; 4x5 in. 161 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 1 negative : color ; 8 x 10 in. 9 photographic positives : color ; 4 x 5 in. 2000 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 28 photographic prints : color ; 8 x 10 in. 198 photographic prints : b&w ; 4 x 5 in. 211 photographic prints : b&w ; 9 x 11 in. 549 contact sheets : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 2866 slides : color ; 35mm.
The RCA News and Information Department served a public affairs role for RCA corporate headquarters at Rockefeller Center in New York City. This collection is entirely photographic, with very few records to contextualize how they were used, let alone to help us better understand the operations or history of the department. One exception to this is a letter from RCA Photo Librarian and Staff Photographer, Frida Schubert, that is dated July 25, 1986, which was sent to Phyllis Smith at the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, New Jersey. In the letter, Schubert notes the upcoming closing of the News and Information Department on July 31 and looks back on her work of the past nineteen years. The noteworthy duties she describes are: photographing feature stories for news releases; in-house assignments for RCA’s Communicate magazine and the annual report to shareholders; portrait and candid photographs of key executives and officers; product photography for press kits and periodicals; preparing slides for presentations; and documenting special events, such as press conferences, shareholder meetings, exhibits, and award ceremonies. Schubert also notes in an attached resume that she created and cataloged the RCA Photo Library, which contained 80,000 color and black-and-white images. A follow up letter outlines how these photographs were divided and shipped to different RCA divisions based on subject relevance. Therefore, the approximately 20,000 photographs and negatives found in this collection represent about a quarter of the original photo library.
RCA also retained the services of the public relations firm, Carl Byoir & Associates for many decades. In addition to serving as their public relations counsel, Carl Byoir & Associates was hired to photograph many of RCA’s public events and marketing efforts.
The original arrangement of this collection was maintained during processing. The RCA News and Information Department photographs are arranged alphabetically by subject, according to the organizational scheme created by RCA. The Carl Byoir & Associates series of negatives is arranged numerically by their originally assigned RCA image numbers.
Scope and Content
This collection consists of photographs, negatives, and contact sheets that document much of RCA’s history and activities. The collection spans the history of radio, television, communications, and consumer electronics, along with many additional technical achievements pioneered by RCA. Many of the photographs are accompanied by short news briefings or captions associated with the subject of the photo. Numerous events are also documented, such as corporate meetings, award ceremonies, product and technology demonstrations, celebrations, and World’s Fairs.
The collection is arranged into ten series: Early Radio, Radio Broadcasting 1920s - 1940s, Consumer Electronics 1920s - 1980s, Television History 1920s - 1980s, General Electric Co. 1917-1930, RCA Communications 1920s-1940s, RCA Labs R&D 1920s-1970s, RCA Divisions (excluding RCA Labs), RCA Labs 1960s-1980s, and Carl Byoir & Associates.
The Early Radio series contains photographs that document the history of radio, which includes photographs of early pioneers, Guglielmo Marconi, Dr. Lee deForest, John Ambrose Fleming, and Reginald Fessenden. Also included are photographs of some early radio stations.
The series, Radio Broadcasting 1920s- =1940s, contains photographs of early radio stations, performers and personalities, including conductor Arturo Toscanini.
The Consumer Electronics 1920s-1980s series contains photographs of radio receivers and marketing materials, particularly for RCA Radiola receivers. One folder of cassette players and recorders from the 1970s and 1980s is also featured.
The series, Television History 1920s-1980s, features photographs of television cameras and receivers, from both the black-and-white and color eras. The series also contains photographs that document television research and development, manufacturing, and transmission.
The General Electric Co. 1917-1930 series contains photographs of a variety of electron tubes from this period.
The series, RCA Communications 1920s-1940s, features photographs of the Rocky Point, New York transmission station, ship-to-shore wireless, and examples of facsimile transmission.
The RCA Labs R&D 1920s-1970s series contains photographs documenting the research and development of various technologies, such as computer memory, lasers, and electron tubes. Photographs of the David Sarnoff Research Center are found in the folder Public Relations, while another folder contains photographs from the Riverhead, Long Island laboratory.
The series, RCA Divisions (excluding RCA Labs), contains examples of the activities carried out at many of RCA’s divisions across the United States and internationally. Well represented divisions include, RCA Astro-Electronics, RCA Missile and Surface Radar, and RCA Victor, although many other divisions are also found in this series. Particularly well documented subjects include microwave communications, microwave radar, satellite and space programs, and missile weapon systems.
The RCA Labs 1960s-1980s series contains photographs documenting the research and development of various technologies, such as television and video cameras, computers and computer memory, lasers, microwaves, radar, solar energy, solid state technology, and television picture tubes.
The series, Carl Byoir & Associates, is divided into two subseries: Negatives, and Prints and Contact Sheets.
The Negatives subseries is a large set of corporate public relations negatives documenting a diverse range of RCA activity. Prominent themes are corporate meetings and publicity events, many of which feature David Sarnoff. Numerous projects, products, and other activities related to RCA are shown, including work on the Apollo program and communications satellites, trade shows, documentation of manufacturing processes and technical research, and promotional material featuring consumer electronics or their components. RCA’s participation in the 1964 New York World’s Fair is also featured. Additional events, such as award dinners, birthday celebrations, and other occasions significant to David or Lizette Sarnoff, or their son Robert, are also represented.
The Prints and Contact Sheets subseries contains photographs and negative contact sheets that represent a small subset of the images found in the Negatives subseries. Photographs include such diverse subjects as, the Viking and Explorer spacecraft, avionics systems, CB radio, video games, video tape recording, the TIROS-N weather satellite, television sets, parts, and manufacturing, and Videodisc. RCA divisions and locations represented include, Automated Systems Division, Burlington, Massachusetts; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Solid State Division; Astro & Electronics Division, Moorestown, New Jersey; Astro-Electronics, Hightstown, New Jersey; Indianapolis, Indiana; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Hertz Car Rental; Mountain Top, Pennsylvania; Bloomington, Indiana; Circleville, Ohio; and the Government Services Division. Some noteworthy RCA personal included are, James Hillier, Roy Pollack, and Anthony Lee Conrad, as well as several celebrities, such as John Denver, Tony Bennett, Arthur Ashe.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected materials online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Negatives and slides (Boxes 12-40 and 44-52) are located in remote storage. Please contact staff 48 hours in advance of research visit at email@example.com
Language of Materials
These materials were originally maintained by the RCA News and Information Department at 30 Rockefeller Center, New York City, New York. They were transferred by RCA Photo Librarian Frida Schubert to the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, New Jersey, when the News and Information Department was closed in 1986.
In 2009, along with the rest of the archival collections of the David Sarnoff Library, this collection was donated to the Hagley Museum and Library.
A series of David Sarnoff publicity photographs that were originally part of the RCA News and Information Department photographs, was separated and moved to the David Sarnoff papers collection (Accession 2464.55). Our decision was made in part due to our knowledge of David Sarnoff’s role in selecting and approving these images.
- Sarnoff, David, 1891-1971 (Person)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- RCA News and Information Department photographs
- Kenneth Cleary
- 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.