Scope and arrangement
The John Martin papers (1890-1985) document the pioneering critic's career, as well as his interests in theater, the history of dance, and dance education. The collection includes professional correspondence, personal and family documents, a large collection of dance photographs, programs and playbills from performances Martin attended, scrapbooks of his work for the New York Times, and plays and articles Martin wrote before he began work as a dance critic.
The John Martin papers are arranged in six series:
This series holds primarily business related correspondence. Letters from dancers, producers, managers, and fans highlight Martin's important role in the New York dance community. Many letters are letters of introduction of dancers who were new to New York or to the United States. Written by company managers or producers, they attempt to curry favor with Martin or invite him to attend a performance. Dancers often corresponded with Martin thanking him for his support. Letters from Martha Graham in the 1940s discuss the need for dance programs in high schools, and give a report on the limited dance syllabus available to current students. Other notable correspondents include Murray Louis, Carmelita Maracci, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and Lincoln Kirstein. Arranged alphabetically.
Series II consists of materials related to Martin's personal life and growth. Family photographs (many of Martin as a child), plays, manuscripts, and art produced by friends and colleagues, educational materials including Martin's labanotation books, legal papers, financial material, and awards are held here. Martin's educational materials include his labanotation study books and pamphlets, diplomas, and photographs and materials from his honorary degree ceremony at Ohio University in 1974. The financial materials in this series primarily concern receipts for gifts, including the gifts of his wife's marionettes to the Museum of the City of New York after her death. Legal documents consist of Martin's honorary discharge certificate from the army and estate and will documents. Martin retained scripts and screenplays written by his acquaintances from his time working with the theater, such as a marionette adaptation of The Rose and the Ring written by his wife before their marriage. Martin's family and personal photographs are also held within this series, and consist of pictures of his parents, siblings, and his wife, as well as some later photographs of Martin with colleagues. A small amount of material relating to his wife, Hettie Louise Martin is here. A scrapbook created in 1969 by friend Brad Bjork contains photographs of Martin accompanied by some of his most famous quotations regarding dance. Of interest in this series is Martin's proposal for a dance company at UCLA in 1962. Arranged alphabetically.
This series also contains two reel to reel tapes of Martin's 1970 lectures on Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. Inquiries regarding audio materials in the collection may be directed to the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Audio/visual materials may be subject to preservation evaluation and migration prior to access.
The dance photographs contained in this series document the history of American dance throughout the middle of the 20th century. Martin retained press photographs that were sent to him by dance companies, dancers, and their managers even when he was not planning on using them in publication. The result is a collection of dance photographs with a wide breadth of subjects and genre. Photographs are arranged in one of two ways: by company name or by individual. Individuals with large amounts of material have their own folder, otherwise researchers should look under the alphabetical folders when attempting to locate a specific dancer. Researchers should keep in mind that to find images of a specific dancer, one should additionally check under the name of their related dance companies or partners. For example, Nora Kaye often partnered with Igor Youskevitch, and photographs of both can be found under their respective names.
Dancers represented in this series include Alicia Markova, Maria Gambirelli, Martha Graham, Pearl Primus, Hadassah, Alexandra Danilova, William Dollar, Hugh Laing, Jerome Robbins, Ruth St. Denis, and Helen Tamiris. Arranged alphabetically.
The Programs and Playbills series contains theater playbills, dance programs, flyers, and concert handbills dating from 1900 to the 1980s. The majority of the programs are organized by decade. These document not only the hundreds of dance performances that Martin reviewed over the years, but also his interest in theater and other art forms. Following the date arrangement are programs of selected dancers, dance companies and dance venues. These programs provide a glimpse into the sheer volume of dance performances Martin attended during his career, as well as his efforts to attend not just major performances but minor works by up and coming dancers and companies.
The folders dated before 1930 contain playbills from the Chicago Little Theater, where Martin often performed as an actor. He is credited as Jack Martin.
The dance programs demonstrate a diverse range of dance interests. Represented performers include Argentinita, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Anna Pavlova, Pearl Primus, Ruth St. Denis, and many other well known dancers. Arranged alphabetically and by date.
The scrapbooks cover the dates 1927 through 1962, and are a well kept record of Martin's work with the New York Times. Scrapbooks dating from between 1929 and 1935 have been unbound and have had preservation work done. Scrapbooks dating 1936 or later are still bound. The scrapbooks not only contain Martin's regular column for the Times, but also writings for the Saturday Review and special year-end pieces. Columns are displayed with their title, date, and any accompanying photographs. Arranged by date.
Series VI contains articles, drafts, and lecture notes kept by Martin, as well as more than a dozen scripts and screenplays written between the years 1920 and 1940. The articles are comprised of notes, drafts and ideas for his professional writings. The lecture notes are more thorough, though often undated and untitled. The scripts and screenplays are mostly unpublished. These are often accompanied by correspondence indicating he was attempting to get some of them produced or made into films. Many of the scripts are romantic comedies. This series provides insight into the early period of Martin's life, and his struggles to succeed as an actor and in theater. Arranged alphabetically.