Guide to Fox Movie Flash Street Photography Records
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0853
Creators:
Fox Movie Flash
Selle, Joseph, 1906-1988
Rose, Bob
Dates:
circa 1930-1975
bulk 1945-1975
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
4 Cubic feet
(6 boxes)
Repository:
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.

Scope and Contents
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.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Collection is divided into four series.
Series 1, Biographical Information, 1938-1981 and undated
Series 2, Operating Records, 1941-1981 and undated
Subseries 1, Administrative Materials, 1941-1975 and undated
Subseries 2, Correspondence, 1938-1981
Subseries 3, Weekly Reports, 1947-1952
Subseries 4, Payroll, 1945-1948
Series 3, Financial Records, 1940-1975 and undated
Subseries 1, Business Records, 1944-1947
Subseries 2, Tax Records, 1945-1975
Subseries 3, Bank Records, 1942-1975
Subseries 4, Receipts, 1940-1975
Series 4, Photographs, 1941-1950 and undated

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Street photographer Joseph (Joe) Nicolas Selle (1906-1988) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and grew up in the small, rural town of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. His father, born in Strasbourg, Germany, worked as a portrait photographer. In 1933, he moved to the West Coast. According to a eulogy found in the collection written by a member of the Elks Club, Selle attended barber school before joining the Merchant Marines as a seaman, though the dates of his service are unknown. The eulogy indicates that Selle, along with a man named Harry Chesterfield, worked on a project that allowed for fresh water to reach the island prison of Alcatraz.
Selle began taking photographs at the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair, and began working as a street photographer in 1936. He traveled to Texas, where he met his future wife, Augusta ('Gusta) Crosbie from San Antonio, Texas. They were married on May 29, 1938 in Nevada and then moved to Washington state. In 1940, Selle operated his first street photography business with co-owner T. Hegge, called Actionette Studios. The business had two offices, one in Seattle, Washington at 1331 3rd Avenue, (at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Union Street) and one in Spokane, Washington (at the corner of Riverside and Wall Street). In each city, Selle and Hegge stood near major thoroughfares and photographed pedestrians as they walked by. They then handed the pedestrians photograph order cards with a specific number that correlated with their photograph. If the customer was interested, they could send the order card with their home address and twenty-five cents to Actionette Studios, where Selle and Hegge would print the photograph and mail it to the customer.
Selle moved to San Francisco in either 1939 or 1940, and sought a buyer for his business. On November 12, 1940, Selle and Hegge entered into a conditional sales contract with Kurt Riess for the rights, equipment, and property of Actionette Studios for five thousand dollars. On December 16, 1940, Selle and Hegge were summoned by the Superior Court of the State of Washington as defendants in Riess vs. Selle and Hegge. Riess alleged that Selle and Hegge fraudulently misrepresented the profitability of the business in Spokane; Selle and Hegge denied the charges. They reached a settlement, the details of which are unknown.
Licensed to drive a public vehicle in 1942, Selle worked as a taxi cab driver and a rental car chauffeur periodically until 1945 while taking photographs on the streets of San Francisco. On May 16, 1946, Selle became licensed to conduct business as the owner of Fox Movie Flash, the street photography company he would operate for the next forty years. The office was located in downtown San Francisco at 942 Market Street, above the Pix Theater. Selle and the photographers he hired would stand on street corners and photograph pedestrians as they walked by. The solicitation process was similar to that of Actionette Studios. The photographers would hand pedestrians they photographed an order card with the number of the photograph printed on it, which the customer could then mail along with a specific payment, (ranging from twenty five cents in the mid-1940s to two dollars in the 1970s) for copies of the image.
With a staff of photographers (including the donor of the collection, Bob Rose, who also served as a promotional manager), darkroom technicians, and administrative personnel, Fox Movie Flash documented life in the prime retail shopping districts of San Francisco. Selle would frequently position himself at one of his favorite intersections, typically in front of the Flood Building at Market and Powell Streets or in front of the Pix Theater at Market and Mason Streets. Some of his other favorite locations included the corners and side streets around Union Square, and on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The photographers used modified DeVry 35mm newsreel-type movie cameras that were loaded with 100-foot rolls of film, capable of snapping up to 1500 images. The cameras were focused ten feet in front of the photographer, allowing them to point and shoot a specific spot repeatedly. Selle had the rolls of film developed in his darkroom by technicians, and they printed the images that people ordered.
Fox Movie Flash photographers worked in the California towns of Fresno, San Jose, Sacramento, and Stockton, as well as San Francisco. The photographers in his employ photographed numerous celebrities, including Marilyn Monroe, Red Skelton, the Iranian Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini, Edward, the Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson. According to Andrew Eskind of the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, which houses Selle's entire archive of photographs and negatives -- a total of about one million images -- Fox Movie Flash was in operation until the 1970s. Towards the end of his career as a street photographer, Selle and Augusta owned a beef cattle ranch in Sonoma, California. He died in 1988.
References
The Joseph Selle Collection of Street Vendor Photography http://www.andreweskind.com/andy/streetphot/ (accessed on February 2, 2011)
Luminous Lint for Collectors and Connoisseurs of Fine Photography http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/photographer/Joseph__Selle/A/ (accessed on February 2, 2011)
Richard L. Nelson Gallery & Fine Art Collection, University of California, Davis http://nelsonga.ipower.com/archives/2005/04/joseph_selle.html (accessed on February 2, 2011)

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Erin Molloy (intern), February, 2011; supervised by Alison Oswald, archivist.
Existence and Location of Copies
Original negatives located at the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, New York. See http://vsw.org/research/fmf/index.html. Many scanned images are found online here.
Author
Erin Molloy.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was donated by Bob Rose.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research. Some materials in Series 3, Financial Materials, Subseries 3, Bank Records, are restricted. Some materials contain items with social security numbers. See repository for more details.
Preferred Citation
Fox Movie Flash Street Photography Records, circa 1930-1973, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collections items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from the Archives Center: reproduction fees may apply.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Business records -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Street photography Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photography, Flash-light Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographers -- 1950-1970 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- Photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 20th century Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Fox Movie Flash Co. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Actionette Studios Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives