- Collection ID:
Shell, Theodore, Dr. (dentist)
- Physical Description:
Periodical articles, news clippings, concert programs, radio transcripts, personal correspondence, broadsides, photographs, and pencil sketches collected by Dr. Shell. The material documents part of Duke Ellington's music career, especially ca. 1940-1974.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Dr. Theodore Shell Collection of Duke Ellington Ephemera contains autographs, concert programs, publicity booklets, conference materials, correspondence, periodicals, news clippings, photographs, play lists, transcripts of radio broadcasts and a variety of other ephemeral materials that document the life, career, and legacy of Duke Ellington, as well as the early history of Jazz. The collection is arranged alphabetically. Oversized materials are located at the end of the collection but are listed alphabetically within the container list.
Items of particular interest include: a collection of programs, napkins, and menus autographed by Duke Ellington and other members of his orchestra including Johnny Hodges; concert programs spanning forty years of Ellington's career (1933-1973); a pencil-sketched portrait of Duke Ellington; and photographs of Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, "Peg leg" Bates, Cat Anderson, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Harold Ashby, Russell Procope and many other Ellington band members taken or collected by Dr. Shell. There are radio broadcast transcripts that contain the scripts, play lists, and promotional spots from various Ellington radio performances between 1943 and 1946. Biographical notes document the life of one of Ellington's public relations agents, Jerome O. Rhea, and there are also some photographs that might possibly be of Rhea's family. Also of interest are a transcript of a meeting related to the organization of a Negro Baseball League and several hand-illustrated poems by African American poets, both of which are found in the Miscellaneous folder.
Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Dr. Theodore Shell (1915- ), dentist, "amateur" photographer and Ellington enthusiast, was born in Rahweh, New Jersey. He graduated from Shaw University in 1937 with a degree in science and chemistry, and he served five years in the U.S. Army's chemical warfare service during World War II in the European Theatre. In 1950 he received his dentistry degree from Howard University and began a practice in Washington D.C. Dr. Shell also held the position of Clinical Professor of Dentistry for 43 years at Howard. He retired in 1993.
Dr. Shell first became interested in Ellington's music in 1952. He and Maurice Lawrence, a fellow member of the Omega Psi Phi National Fraternity, founded a Duke Ellington Club in 1956, and it eventually became Chapter 90 of the Ellington Society by 1962. Other founding members of this chapter include Grant Wright, Terrell Allen, and Juanita Jackson. Over the course of his activities with the Ellington Society, Dr. Shell had the privilege of meeting with Duke Ellington on numerous occasions, the first time being in 1964, and in 1971 he hosted Ellington's 72nd birthday party in his own home. Currently, Dr. Shell is serving as president of the organization.
Processed by Jeremy Nordmoe, Scott Schwartz, and Evelyn Kramer, July 23, 1996 (revised March 16, 1998).
Collection processed by Jeremy Nordmoe, Scott Schwartz, and Evelyn Kramer, July 23 1996.
Jeremy Nordmoe, Scott Schwartz, and Evelyn Kramer
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Dr. Theodore Shell donated his collection of Duke Ellington ephemera to the National Museum of American History on November 17, 1993.
Using the Collection
Dr. Theodore Shell Collection of Duke Ellington Ephemera, 1933-1990, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright restrictions. Contact the Archives Center.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
According to Dr. Shell, many of the materials found in this collection were originally found in the garage of a house purchased by a friend of his, circa 1980-1981. It was suggested to Dr. Shell by Melvin Smith, another friend, that the materials were originally compiled by the Ellington's bus driver. In addition eighty-three copy photographs, taken by Smithsonian Institution's Photographic Services, were made from two photographic montages created by Dr. Shell of his original photographs taken of performances of the Ellington Orchestra in the Baltimore and Washington area during the late 1960s and early 1970s. These copy prints were added to the collection on May 15, 1996.
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012