Let’s lighten the mood a bit.
In honor of this Sunday’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view event, today’s Finding Aid Friday features collections based on professional wrestling.
Professional wrestling doesn’t get much consideration, appreciation, or serious thought by many outside its fandom, but it is an art form in the same vein as commedia dell’arte that has been in existence for well over a century. It’s growth and development is reflective of changes in American economic, social, and cultural life.
Once you make the leap over your own biases, it is a fascinating subject worthy of study and exploration.
The first finding aid is for the Russ and Sylvia Davis Collection held by the Chicago Film Archives. The Davis’ produced a weekly wrestling program out of Chicago that was syndicated across the country in the 1950s. The finding aid has information on date, size, and a good biography. There’s no container listing, but it doesn’t seem necessary from our current perspective because the films have been digitized and uploaded to YouTube!
If your grandma or great-grandma was a wrestling fan, she most likely watched Wrestling From Chicago. You can see what got Nana all riled up on Chicago Film Archive’s YouTube channel. If still photos are your more speed, the finding aid and Chicago Film Archive’s announcement page has a few of old photos to drool over.
PS: If you want to see women’s wrestling that’s longer than three minutes and lacks a sexist asshole, a sycophant, and an out-of-touch 70-year-old’s proxy doing commentary, give the YouTube channel a whirl.
Next up are the Pfefer papers. Jack Pfefer was an early- to mid-20th century pro wrestling promoter who’s largely responsible for perpetuating many of the genre’s less savory features. He was also a hoarder who kept every scrap of paper that came his way, which made the Jack Pfefer Wrestling Collection in Notre Dame’s Joyce Sports Research Collection a treasure trove for research on the history of sports entertainment.
The collection is over 100 cubic feet and several finding aids, based on series, were developed to gain control over and access to all he retained. Finding aids for periodicals, scrapbooks and business records are online; the poster collection has been described down to the item level (good times for fans of old school wrestling).
Finally, what’s a wrestling finding aid round-up without a finding aid for a wrestler? The papers of Stu Hart — Golden Age wrestler, Stampede promoter, Dungeon trainer, prolific father — are housed in the Glenbow Museum, located in lovely Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (One of the benefits of being a wrestling fan is that you get an awareness of Canadian geography that most Americans don’t).
Fun archives find: Stu Harts collection of Wrestling Observer newsletters!!!
If you can’t make it up to Calgary, the Glenbow has digitized a few photos from the collection that give a glimpse into early-to mid-20th century amateur and professional wrestling. And there’s a boxing in boxes find! Jack Dempsey and Stu Hart, ca. 1940-1950!!!