Scope and Contents
The collection documents the professional activities of Joseph Selle (1906-1988), a photographer and proprietor of Fox Movie Flash, a street photography business in San Francisco, California. There are a few documents relating to Selle's personal life, but the bulk of the papers relate to his street photography business. Most of the documents date from between 1945 and 1975 and include insurance papers, correspondence, legal documents, receipts, tax records, cashbooks, employment applications, newspaper clippings, licenses and permits, payroll materials, and bank statements, as well as samples of photographs from the business.
Series 1, Biographical Information, 1938-1981 and undated, contains textual documents providing personal information on Joseph Selle, including seller's permits, his marriage license to Augusta Crosbie Selle, a bail receipt from the Berkeley Police Department, correspondence, business and identification cards, a map of the University of California, Berkeley campus where Selle took photographs, and a copy of his eulogy. Other materials in this series include a contract transferring ownership of Actionette Studios from Selle and T. Hegge to Kurt Reiss, court documents related to the lawsuit Reiss brought against Selle and Hegge, correspondence with lawyers, and rental lease agreements. This series also contains newspaper clippings about Selle and Fox Movie Flash, as well as clippings relating to street photography, advertisements placed by Selle to hire photographers, and attendance records of California State Fairs, some of which Selle photographed. Series 2, Operating Records, 1941-1981 and undated, consists of four subseries: Subseries 1, Administrative Materials, 1941-1975 and undated; Subseries 2, Correspondence, 1938-1981; Subseries 3, Weekly Reports, 1947-1952; and Subseries 4, Payroll, 1945-1948. This series contains the bulk of the information about Selle's street photography business. Materials include licenses and permits for Selle and his photographers, including Bob Rose, the donor of this collection and promotional manager for Fox Movie Flash. Other materials include insurance policies, office supplies (such as stationary and rubber stamps), booklets containing blank order cards handed to potential customers, applications for employment, weekly reports on the photographs taken by all employees (which are arranged chronologically by employee surname), and payroll ledgers.
Also included is correspondence with Selle and Fox Movie Studios. The bulk of the subseries consists of letters, although some telegrams and postcards are included. Some of the letters relate to personal matters, though the majority of them deal directly with the operation of the business. Frequent correspondents includes officials at the California State Fair, where Selle held a concession to take candid photographs in 1949, 1952, 1953, and 1956. Selle also corresponded with his lawyer William H. Rois of Rois & Fowler when he was being sued by Kurt Reiss for breach of contract and misrepresentation about Actionette Studios. Additionally, Selle received correspondence from the Better Business Bureau which mediated between Fox Movie Flash and dissatisfied customers who requested refunds. The remainder of the correspondence consists of orders for photographs taken by Fox Movie Flash cameramen by customers, and orders to and from vendors for supplies.
Series 3, Financial Records, 1940-1975 and undated, consists of four subseries: Subseries 1, Business Records, 1944-1947; Subseries 2, Tax Records, 1945-1975; Subseries 3, Bank Records, 1942-1975; and Subseries 4, Receipts, 1940-1975. This series contains both personal and business financial records of Selle and Fox Movie Flash. Included are city, state and federal tax returns, as well as tax documents from the California Department of Employment. Also included are business records and ledgers, bank statements, bills, checks, financial notes, payroll ledgers, and receipts. Many of his receipts are from equipment and materials purchased for the company, including film, developing chemicals, and paper from companies such as Ansco Photographic Materials and Equipment, Brooks Cameras, Eastman Kodak Stores, and The Haloid Company; equipment repair from Friedberg-Smith Optical Instruments; bus tickets and material shipping to and from Fresno from Pacific Greyhound Lines; postage from the United States Postal Service; office supplies from Wobblers, Inc.; and help wanted advertisements from theSan Francisco Examiner.
Series 4, Photographs, 1941-1950 and undated, contains photographic prints, most sized four by six inches. Additionally there are fifteen photographic prints that have been mounted onto both sides of four by six sheets of metal or wood. These mounted prints were used by the photographers to display sample photographs to prospective customers. These mounted prints have been placed into sink mats for protection. The photographs were taken on the streets of San Fransisco, at the 1941 California State Fair in Sacramento and on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The majority of the campus photographs feature college students, graduates, and faculty members. These photographs also feature male soldiers and sailors, and "WAVES," women in the US Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve). The street photographs in San Fransisco feature unknown pedestrians, Selle and other street photographers, camera equipment, and celebrities. The celebrities in these photographs include actors Edward G. Robinson, Tony Curtis and Bing Crosby, heavyweight boxer Primo Carnera, and burlesque dancer Noel Toy.