Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Ruth Ellington Collection of Duke Ellington Materials

Collection ID:
Boatwright, Ruth Ellington, 1914-2004
Physical Description:
33 Cubic feet
77 boxes, 3 oversize folders
The collection consists of correspondence, appointment books, business records, music manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, and ephemera documenting the activities of Duke Ellington and the management of Tempo Music, Incorporated. There is a small amount of material relating to the Ellingotn family.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Ruth Ellington Collection of Duke Ellington Materials includes music manuscripts (circa 1930-1981), sound recordings, Duke and Ruth Ellington's business and personal correspondence (1942-1991), business records covering the years 1923-1988, performances and programs covering the years 1951-1989, numerous awards and honors to Ellington and the orchestra, and personal papers relating to the Ellington family. Also among the materials are minutes of business meetings, letters, and newspaper clippings relating to the Duke Ellington Society in New York city, the certificate of incorporation and invitations for the Ellington Cancer Center, and slides, film, and home videos. The collection is arranged into eleven series.

Divided into eleven series:
Series 1: Music Manuscripts, Scripts and Compositional Materials, 1930-1981, undated
Subseries 1.1: Music Manuscripts, undated
Subseries 1.2: Published Books, 1943-1986, undated
Subseries 1.3: Oversize Materials, undated
Subseries 1.4: Music Manuscript Notebooks and Untitled Music, undated
Subseries 1.5: Tempo Music, Incorporated Copyright Sheets of Non-Ellington Material, undated
Subseries 1.6: Uncopyrighted Submissions, 1958-2002, undated
Subseries 1.7: Notes, Scripts and Compositions, 1958-1969, undated
Series 2: Business Records, 1923-1988, undated
Series 3: Performance Materials, 1951-1989, undated
Series 4: Publicity, 1935-1992, undated
Series 5: Awards and Recognition, 1936-1989, undated
Series 6: Correspondence, 1942-1991, undated
Series 7: Photographs, 1937-1990, undated
Series 8: Family Papers, 1911-1981, undated
Series 9: Other Artists, 1955-1986, undated
Series 10: Harry Carney Materials, 1938-1959
Series 11: Audiovisual Materials, circa 1946-1970
Subseries 11.1: Sound Recordings, circa 1946-1970
Sub-subseries 11.1.1: Duke Ellington Concerts
Sub-subseries 11.1.2: Duke Ellington Volumes 1 through 58
Sub-subseries 11.1.3: Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
Sub-subseries 11.1.4: Duke Ellington Jazz Society Guest Talks
Sub-subseries 11.1.5: Interviews
Sub-subseries 11.1.6: Miscellaneous
Sub-subseries 11.1.7: Non-Ellington Materials
Sub-subseries 11.1.8: 16" Transcription Discs
Subseries 11.2: Moving Images, 1929 - 1970

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Born in 1915, Ruth Dorothea Ellington Boatwright was the sister and only sibling of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. Sheltered and doted upon, she was almost sixteen years younger than her brother. She attended elementary and junior high schools in the Washington Metropolitan area and finished her basic schooling in New York City where the family moved in the early 1930s. Her mother, Daisy, died there in 1935, followed by her father, J. E. in 1937. Sometime after those life altering events, Ms. Ellington graduated from the New College program at Columbia University with a degree in biology.
In 1941, Duke Ellington established Tempo Music, and surprised his sister Ruth, by installing her as president of the company. He had a strong desire to maintain control of his own publishing, television, and recording rights, and after his sister's graduation, Duke felt that she could assist in accomplishing this goal.
Ruth's duties at Tempo included signing contracts, arranging some travel at Duke's request, and, most importantly, keeping Duke's music copyrighted. According to her own interview statement, she never arranged bookings. Other interests included hosting a Sunday salon for musicians, appearing at and listening to recording studio sessions once or twice a year, and keeping in touch with the older band members' wives. The older band members (i. e., Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Otto Hardwick, and Arthur Wetsol) along with the earlier singers (Ivie Anderson, Joya Sherrill, Marie Cole, and Kay Davis) were like family to Ruth.
In the 1950's, she was host of a radio program on WLIB in New York on which she interviewed guests including the writer Ralph Ellison.
Ruth Ellington's first marriage to Daniel James, a journalist and political scientist, produced two sons Michael and Stephen James. This marriage ended in divorce and she later married McHenry Boatwright, an operatic baritone. Boatright died in 1994.
Ruth was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was a founder of the jazz ministry of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Manhattan and a friend of the first designated jazz pastor, the Reverend John Garcia Gensel.
After Duke's death in 1974, Ruth maintained Tempo until 1995 when she sold fifty one percent of the company to a New York publishing firm, Music Sales. Ruth Dorothea Ellington Boatwright died in 2004 at the age of 88 in Manhattan. She was survived by her two sons.

Deborra A. Richardson, Ann Kuebler, and Ted Hudson
Processing and encoding funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the National Museum of American History in 1991. A second set of materials was received from Ruth Ellington Boatwright in 1993.
Existence and Location of Copies
Master and reference copies exist for all of the sound recordings. Only referencee copies may be used.
Processing Information
Processed by Annie Kuebler, archivist; Deborra Richardson, archivist; Ted Hudson, volunteer, 2000; and Rebekah Keel, processing assistant, and Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist, 2015.
Details have been reported and incorporated for Series 1: Music Manuscripts based on the notes of Michael Kilpatrick, 2021.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction. Copyright restrictions exist. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Ruth Ellington Collection, 1923-1992, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Business records -- 20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence -- 1930-1950 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jazz musicians -- United States Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jazz Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Music Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Music -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Musicians -- United States Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tempo Music, Inc. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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Suite 1100, MRC 601
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