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Al Henderson Photographs

Identifier: MG Henderson, Al-(Offsite)

Scope and Contents

The major portion of the Henderson photograph collection consists of 24 large boxes containing more 20,000 negatives. Negatives and proof prints are filed in individual envelopes, each representing a commercial job. The envelopes are labeled with the order number, the customer's name and address, and the date of the sitting. Envelopes typically contain several negatives, with proof-prints. The subjects are mostly individual studio portraits, but some events (especially weddings) are also included. The sitters include children, graduates, musicians, clergy, members of fraternal organizations, and well-known Newark families (such as the Whighams and the Fulliloves). The envelopes are grouped by year, and are filed alphabetically within each year. Most customers' addresses are in Newark, but some are from surrounding towns. A few white and Hispanic customers are included. The portraits are notable for meticulous attention to lighting and design. By the 1960s some of the work is done in color, and many proof-prints have faded badly. NOTE: A database, compiled by Sandra West, listing 3,075 customers' names derived from the envelope labels is available in the Reading Room. One additional box of miscellaneous documents and photos (labeled "Box# 1") contains family and personal photographs (including several photos of Newark jazz bands), sheet music, three issues of "New Jersey After Hours" (1949), photocopies of programs and flyers. A second portion of the collection (filed in a cabinet containing oversize photographs from several collections), consists of 3 boxes of 11" x 14" and 8" x 10" black and white prints (ca. 1950s-1960s), 5 folders of 5" x 7" negatives and miscellaneous prints (1960s-1980s), and 1 folder of photocopied reference material (flyers, photos, clippings, etc.), probably used to prepare the Library's 1991 exhibit on Henderson. The boxed prints are mostly studio portraits of jazz and gospel groups, suitable for lobby display or publicity purposes. Many are labeled with the group's name. Also included are photocopied material on Henderson (1930s flyers, etc.), 2 Newark street scenes, and a portrait of the Irvine Turner family.


  • 1930s-1987


Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff. Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission. More restrictions apply, must sign legal agreement -- contact CFCNJIC for more information.

Biographical / Historical

Over the course of five decades, Alfred (Al) Henderson photographed many aspects of African-American life in Newark, including black civic and social leaders in the city. Henderson was born ca. 1914 in Alabama. He began playing trumpet in grade school and had already played with several local bands before he graduated from East Side High School. He later played tuba and finally settled on bass. In the 1930s he formed the Al Henderson Orchestra and played at famous Newark venues such as the Savoy Ballroom (of which Henderson was one of the original proprietors). He went on to perform and tour with several other bands.

In the mid-1940s Henderson turned to photography professionally, and studied briefly at a New York photo studio. He soon became Newark's premier African-American portrait photographer. In addition to maintaining his own studio at 126 West St., Henderson worked as a staff photographer for the magazine "New Jersey After Hours: A Weekly Guide to Entertainment," Harry B. Webber, Editor, published in Newark in the late 1940s. Al Henderson and his wife Florence lived for many years at 701 Clinton Avenue; the couple traveled widely and were noted for the lavish New Year's Eve parties they hosted.


12 Linear Feet (Linear feet estimated. 28 file drawer boxes.)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Florence Henderson NjN

No finding aid, text from catalog entry
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Charles F. Cummings New Jersey Information Center, Newark Public Library Repository

3rd Floor
Newark Public Library
5 Washington St.
Newark NJ 07102 United States