Overview of the Collection
Scope and Content
Overview of the Collection
Title: Joseph Rickard papers
Dates (inclusive): 1934-2003
Collection Number: mssHM 68942-69272
Rickard, Joseph, -1994.
2,513 pieces in 34 boxes
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Abstract: This collection contains the papers of dance studio founder and
choreographer Joseph Rickard (1918-1994), and includes manuscripts, printed
material, ephemera, music scores, production files, and photographs related to the First Negro
Classical Ballet and Negro Classical Ballet, which Rickard founded, and local
ballets in San Gabriel, California. The papers are especially strong as a visual
record with a large number of photographs, publicity material, costume sketches, and
printed posters. including
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services
Department. For more information, contact Reader Services. The audiovisual material is uncataloged and not available for paging
until reformatted; please contact Reader Services for more information. Please note: the audiovisual material does not include
any material relating to the First Negro Classical Ballet.
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to
quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such
activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is
one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
[Identification of item]. Joseph Rickard Papers, The Huntington Library, San
The collection was acquired, beginning in 1994 and continuing until 2019, from
Collection of correspondence, documents, programs, clippings, photos, sheet
music, tape recordings, set designs relating to the First Negro Classical Ballet
(FNCB), Negro Classic Ballet (NCB), and other local ballet companies, 1947-1992;
acquired from Joseph Rickard, July 13, 1994 (accession number 1715).
A group of 42 reel-to-reel tapes and 2 super 8 mm films, ca. 1955-1975; acquired
from Gretchen Berlew, July 25, 1995 (accession number 1762).
A group of personal papers, documents, checks, bills, photographs, reel-to-reel
tapes, ca. 1960 - ca. 1968; acquired from Gretchen Berlew, Oct. 17, 1995
(accession number 1764).
A collection of manuscripts, correspondence, documents, ballet notes, costume
notes and sketches, clippings, photos, ephemera relating to the FNCB, the NCB,
and other local ballet companies, 1947-1993; acquired from Gretchen Berlew,
Dec. 5, 1995 (accession number 1773).
A group of correspondence, photos, clippings and ephemera, 1961-1990; acquired
from Gretchen Berlew, Feb. 21, 2000 (accession number 2052).
A group of 26 cassette tapes and 8 video tapes, 1961-1990; acquired from
Gretchen Berlew and Thomas Wagner, June 23, 2003 (accession number 2220).
A group of correspondence, photos, ephemera, ca. 1950-1996; acquired from Thomas
Wagner, Nov. 7, 2005 (accession number 2346).
A group of programs and other printed material, also eight printed books (Boxes 33-34); acquired from Thomas Wagner, April
2019 (accession number CSmH_2019_138).
1. It was decided, for easier paging and usage, to semi-catalog the collection;
each folder has been given an individual HM call number rather than a box and
folder number. When citing or quoting from the collection, please use the
assigned HM folder number rather than the box number.
2. The photographs represent an important part of the collection; these are
arranged by ballet company (i.e. FNCB, Southern California Ballet, etc.), and
then, where possible, chronologically. The majority of the photographs are
unidentified and undated but an attempt was made to group together all of the
photos from the same ballet company. The photos for the San Gabriel Valley Civic
Ballet and Southern California Ballet are grouped together as, apparently, some
of the same dancers performed in both companies.
3. Joseph Rickard was in the habit of stapling or clipping together material in
his ballet files; these metal fastenings have been removed for conservation but
the groups of material have been kept together. These groupings of material have
been either clipped together with a plastic clip or placed in an envelope inside
the folder; it is requested that researchers do not disassemble or mix-up these
unique groupings of material. Also, where possible, Rickard’s original file
titles have been retained.
4. The Joseph Rickard papers were initially cataloged in 2011; the printed materials and books were added to the collection
in 2019 (Boxes 33-34), accession CSmH_2019_138.
Joseph Rickard (1918-1994) was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, September 17, 1918. He
moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s to study ballet with Bronislava and Irina Nijinska
but his real gifts lay in teaching (especially adults) and choreography. In 1946, he
overheard an African-American woman being turned away from a dance studio where she
sought lessons for her daughter; Rickard, from that moment, became determined to
start his own dance studio where he could train African-American dancers in
In 1947, the First Negro Classical Ballet (FNCB) debuted in Los Angeles to great
acclaim and performed together for the next ten years. About 1968, Rickard founded
the Negro Classic Ballet (NCB) after the demise of the FNCB and, at the same time,
and for the next 30 years, organized and taught in other integrated local ballet
companies, including the Southern California Ballet and the San Gabriel Valley Civic
Ballet. On August 24, 1994, Joseph Rickard died of heart failure as the result of
several bouts of pneumonia in Glendale, California.
Scope and Content
The papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, documents, ephemera, audiovisual material, and printed material
related to the First Negro Classical Ballet (FNCB), Negro Classic Ballet (NCB), and
local San Gabriel Valley ballet companies; the papers also include sheet music and
original music scores, ballet production files and photographs for the FNCB and NCB.
The papers are especially strong as a visual record with a large number of
photographs, publicity material, costume sketches, and printed posters. The
collection also contains Joseph Rickard’s working notes on the process of creating a
ballet, including the elements of choreography, lighting, musical score, and
costumes; within this material is also the talented work of the costume design of
Nancy Coppola, the set design of Robert Usher and the original music scores by the
African-American arranger and composer, Claudius Wilson. The collection is
unsurpassed as a record of the first African- American classical ballet company.
The papers consist of the following series:
1. Correspondence (Box 1) is arranged alphabetically by author. This series includes
personal letters and letters related to the First Negro Classical Ballet, Negro
Classic Ballet and other local ballet companies. This series also includes letters
by Hal De Becker, Diana Levy, Bronislava Nijinska, Irina Nijinska, Claudius Wilson
and letters to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Peter Jennings.
2. Manuscripts and Documents (Box 2) are arranged alphabetically by author and
title. The manuscripts include short stories, film treatments, autograph notes and a
memoir by Joseph Rickard as well as a “List of Ballets - First Performances” of
Bronislava Nijinska; this series also includes financial documents for the NCB.
3. FNCB and NCB manuscript and printed material (Box 3) is arranged by subject and
format. This series includes autograph notes, costume sketches by Nancy Coppola,
fabric swatches, printed programs, articles and clippings.
4. FNCB and NCB Ballet Scores and Sheet Music (Boxes 4-6) is arranged alphabetically
by title. This series includes printed sheet music used by Claudius Wilson for
ballet classes, as well as original, autograph musical scores for some of his most
famous compositions for FNCB, including: “Cinderella,” and “Pas des Jitterbugs” from
the ballet “Raisin’ Cane.”
5. FNCB and NCB Photographs (Box 7) are arranged chronologically and then sub
arranged alphabetically by dancer or ballet. This series includes photographs of
most of the more prominent members of the FNCB and NCB, including: Graham Johnson,
Bernice Harrison, Claudius Wilson, Yvonne Miller, Theodore Crum, Diana Levy, Joseph
Rickard, Sidney Hurston and Karen Hodges. Also included are publicity photos and
scenes from various ballets and dance recitals.
6. NCB Scrapbook and Oversize FNCB and NCB Printed Material (Box 8) is arranged by
subject and format. Included in this series is a scrapbook of material relating to
the NCB, a FNCB publicity poster and ballet set designs by Robert Usher.
7. San Gabriel Valley Civic Ballet and Southern California Ballet Companies
Manuscript and Printed Material (Box 9) is arranged by subject and format. This
series includes autograph notes, printed programs, publicity material and clippings
relating to the local companies where Rickard taught; also included is printed
material relating to Maidie Du Fresne Dance Arts (Bakersfield, California).
8. Ballet Production Files (Boxes 10 - 14) are arranged alphabetically by subject
and title. These files consist of Rickard’s day-to-day notes on ballet ideas,
choreography, performance possibilities, in addition to his files on specific
ballets, such as: “A Christmas Carol,” “La Mer,” and “Pagliacci.”
9. Articles and clippings about Ballet (Box 15) are arranged by subject. Included in
this series is material on Bronislava and Irina Nijinska, Waslaw Nijinsky, and
10. Southern California Ballet, San Gabriel Valley Civic Ballet and Misc. Ballet
Photographs (Boxes 16 - 18) are arranged chronologically and then sub arranged by
dancer or ballet. The photographs are divided into two groups: So. Calif. Ballet and
San Gabriel V. C. Ballet; then followed by miscellaneous photos of other dancers and
performers, including Marian Anderson, Bronislava and Irina Nijinska and Joseph
11. Audiovisual materials (Boxes 19-32). Includes reel-to-reel tapes, super 8 mm
films, cassette tapes, video tapes.
12. Printed materials and ephemera (Boxes 33-34). Includes printed programs, magazine, printed pamphlets and books.
Organized in the following series:
- Correspondence (Box 1)
- Manuscripts and Documents (Box 2)
- First Negro Classical Ballet (FNCB) and Negro Classic Ballet (NCB)
Manuscript and Printed Material (Box 3)
- FNCB and NCB Ballet Scores and Sheet Music (Boxes 4-6)
- FNCB and NCB Photographs (Box 7)
- NCB Scrapbook and Oversize FNCB and NCB Printed Material (Box 8)
- San Gabriel Valley Civic Ballet and Southern California Ballet Companies
Manuscript and Printed Material (Box 9)
- Ballet Production Files (Boxes 10-14)
- Articles and Clippings about Ballet (Box 15)
- Southern California Ballet, San Gabriel Valley Civic Ballet and Misc.
Ballet Photographs (Boxes 16-18)
- Audio-visual materials (uncataloged) (Boxes 19-32)
- Printed materials and ephemera (Boxes 33-34)
Folders arranged alphabetically and chronologically.
Rickard, Joseph, -1994
First Negro Classical Ballet.
Ballet -- Costume -- United
Ballet dancing -- United
Ballet -- Stage-setting and scenery --
Ballet -- Study and teaching -- United
Ballets -- United States -- Piano
Books -- United States -- 20th
Drawings -- United States -- 20th
Ephemera -- United States -- 20th
Interviews -- United States -- 20th
Letters (correspondence) -- United
States -- 20th century.
Manuscripts -- United States -- 20th
Photographs -- United States -- 20th
Programs (documents) -- United States -- 20th
Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem, 1947-.
Jennings, Peter, 1938-2005.
San Francisco Ballet.