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Finding Aid to the Henri Lenoir Pictorial Collection, circa 1930-circa 1990 (bulk circa 1970-circa 1985)
BANC PIC 2004.158  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Henri Lenoir pictorial collection
    Date (inclusive): circa 1930-circa 1990
    Date (bulk): circa 1970-circa 1985
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 2004.158
    Collector: Lenoir, Henri
    Extent: 18 boxes, 10 albums, 7 oversize folders (circa 2350 photographic prints, circa 400 drawings, circa 1230 negatives, circa 650 slides, circa 70 prints, circa 1700 postcards, 1 painting) and 4 negatives : 61 x 92 cm or smaller.
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

    Information for Researchers

    Access Information

    COLLECTION STORED, IN PART, OFF-SITE: Advance notice required for use.
    NEGATIVES RESTRICTED. Use of negatives only by permission of the appropriate curator. Inquiries regarding these materials should be directed, in writing, to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Henri Lenoir pictorial collection, BANC PIC 2004.158, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Related Material

    Henri Lenoir papers (BANC MSS 92/842 c)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Banducci, Enrico--Pictorial works.
    Dunham, Ward--Pictorial works.
    Gibney, Luke--Pictorial works.
    Gomez, Isadore--Pictorial works.
    Koci, Frank--Pictorial works.
    Lenoir, Henri, 1904-1994--Archives
    Lenoir, Henri, 1904-1994--Henri Lenoir papers
    Lenoir, Henri, 1904-1994--Homes and haunts--Pictorial works.
    Lenoir, Henri, 1904-1994--Pictorial works.
    McClintock, Bonnie--Pictorial works.
    Wiman, Vern
    Wiman, Vern--Pictorial works.
    12 Adler Place (San Francisco, Calif.)--Pictorial works.
    Black Cat Café (San Francisco, Calif.)--Pictorial works.
    Iron Pot (San Francisco, Calif.)--Pictorial works.
    Vesuvio Café (San Francisco, Calif.)--Pictorial works.
    Art dealers--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    Artists--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    Authors, American--California--San Francisco--20th century--Photographs.
    Bars (Drinking establishments)--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    Nightlife--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    Restaurants--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    Restaurateurs--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    North Beach (San Francisco, Calif.)--Pictorial works.
    North Beach (San Francisco, Calif.)--Social life and customs--Pictorial works.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Social life and customs--Pictorial works.
    Photograph albums.
    Slides, color.

    Administrative Information

    Gift ; of Bonnie McClintock ; 2004.
    Additions: Gift ; of Bonnie McClintock ; 2012.

    Processing/Project Information

    Series descriptions include names of people, places and events which were transcribed from manuscript annotations on the backs of photographs or on accompanying envelopes, lists, etc. While many of these names could be verified for accuracy and spelling, several lesser-known names have been transcribed as found, whether or not the annotations were accurate.

    Biography/Organization History

    Henri Lenoir was born Silvio Velleman on March 17, 1904 in Zuoz, Switzerland. His father was Antone Vellman, a headmaster at a boys' boarding school and his mother, Ethel Ireland, was a homemaker. Silvio was sent to a boarding school in England at an early age, and upon his parents' divorce, took his mother's maiden name. In 1920, he was enrolled at King William's College on the Isle of Man, and was soon expelled. He then enrolled at the Ecole Nationale d'Horticulture et de Viticulture in Geneva, but left in 1921. Lenoir held a number of jobs over the next several years, including as a drummer in a dance band in the Chateaux d'Oex, a tour guide in Italy, a claims adjuster in Paris and a ballroom dancer in Nice. He arrived in New York in the company of an American woman on July 5, 1929, and lived there for just over a year before departing for Hollywood in 1930. Broke and threatened with deportation for an expired work visa, he changed his name to Henri Lenoir and left for San Francisco. Despite having no formal secondary art education, Lenoir had an eye for talented artists, and after holding another series of jobs throughout the 1930s, he began hanging art work at the Iron Pot in 1941. He gained a reputation for boosting clientele through the promotion and showing of art, and in 1949, Lenoir bought the Vesuvio Café. It quickly became a center of bohemian activity, and was famously a beatnik landmark. Lenoir owned and operated Vesuvio for nearly two decades until he sold it in 1968 amidst rising rent prices and a general decline of artistic activity in the area. Lenoir continued to promote art throughout the rest of his life and was known to friends and tourists alike as the "King of Bohemia." He died on March 30, 1994.

    Scope and Content Note

    Includes snapshot photographs of Henri Lenoir, his friends, associates and customers, many taken in the restaurants, bars and other establishments owned and/or frequented by Lenoir in San Francisco’s North Beach district. Among the individuals depicted are Vern Wiman, Frank Koci, Luke Gibney, Enrico Banducci, Isadore Gomez (aka Izzy Gomez), Ward Dunham and Bonnie McClintock. Among the locations depicted are Vesuvio Café, the Iron Pot, 12 Adler Place, Enrico's, Enrico's Sidewalk Café, the Black Cat Café, Isadore Gomez’ Café, as well as Lenoir's North Beach residences and offices. North Beach street scenes and other San Francisco views are also present. Also includes original drawings and other artwork collected by Lenoir; photographs of artwork and artists promoted by Lenoir; and a portion of Lenoir's famous postcard collection. Original drawings by caricaturist Vern Wiman are well-represented. For a more complete list of persons, places and subjects depicted, consult series descriptions.
    While there are a few photographs depicting Lenoir prior to his arrival in San Francisco in the 1930s, and very limited documentation of the beat generation and bohemian milieu associated with Lenoir's heyday as the owner of Vesuvio Cafe in the 1950s and 1960s, the bulk of the collection documents Lenoir's later social life of the 1970s and 1980s.