Skip to main content

Standard Oil (New Jersey) Collection [SONJ]

 Collection
Identifier: 1981_001-PA
The Standard Oil (New Jersey) (SONJ) Collection consists of approximately 70,000 original black and white negatives; approximately 1175 color transparencies; approximately 25,000 glossy file prints arranged by subject; approximately 17,000 glossy file prints arranged by negative number; approximately 88,000 caption cards, and 182 volumes of vintage matte prints with caption information, arranged by area and subject (27,181 prints). There is overlap between groups: an image may appear in both subject files and albums, and be filed by negative number as well. The collection photographers included Charlotte Brooks, Esther Bubley, John Collier, Jr., Harold Corsini, Arnold Eagle, Russell Lee, Sol Libsohn, Gordon Parks, Edwin and Louise Rosskam, Charles Rotkin, John Vachon, and Todd Webb. American coverage includes forty-two of the then forty-eight states in New England, the Middle Atlantic, the Southeast, Central U.S., and the Southwest; Standard Oil sites in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and South America are also documented. In addition to documenting the myriad activities related to oil production and distribution, the photographers also recorded industrial workers’ homes and families, religious life, recreation, as well as highways, river transportation, bus travel, and American automobile culture. Designed to improve Standard Oil’s public image, the resulting photographs were made available for any use, appearing in newspapers and major magazines as well as oil-related publications.

Dates

  • 1943-1969
  • Majority of material found within 1946-1956

Creator

Extent

500,000 photographs (25 boxes, 101 drawers, 182 volumes)

Historical Sketch

The Standard Oil New Jersey (SONJ) photography collection is the product of an in-depth photo-documentary project achieved between 1943 and 1956. As an initiative set up by the corporation’s public relations department, the project aim was to document the benefits of oil on everyday life in the United States. As a whole, the Standard Oil New Jersey photography collection offers the largest representation of American life in the 1940s.

Roy E. Stryker (1893-1975) became director of the SONJ photographic project after his previous undertaking ended when the Farm Security Administration (FSA) department was disbanded in 1943, and he continued at Standard Oil until 1951. Stryker shaped the SONJ project much as he had the FSA, and even brought a number of FSA photographers with him to Standard Oil. The principal collection photographers included Charlotte Brooks, Esther Bubley, John Collier, Jr., Harold Corsini, Arnold Eagle, Russell Lee, Sol Libsohn, Gordon Parks, Edwin and Louise Rosskam, Charles Rotkin, John Vachon, and Todd Webb. Stryker and the SONJ photographers accomplished a complete socio-geographical portrait of the times, and their work is still recognized as one of the finest documentary projects ever undertaken.

American coverage includes forty-two of the then forty-eight states in New England, the Middle Atlantic, the Southeast, Central U.S., and the Southwest; Standard Oil sites in Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and South America are also documented. In addition to documenting the myriad activities related to oil production and distribution, the photographers also recorded industrial workers’ homes and families, religious life, recreation, as well as highways, river transportation, bus travel, and American automobile culture. Designed to improve Standard Oil’s public image, the resulting photographs were made available for any use, appearing in newspapers and major magazines as well as oil-related publications.

General

Related collections: 1983_013 – The Standard Oil (New Jersey) Papers; 1993_037 – Standard Oil (New Jersey) interviews by Steve Plattner; 1994_023 – Schinas addition to Standard Oil (New Jersey) collection; 1978_09 – Roy E. Stryker Papers.

Source

Creator

Title
Standard Oil (New Jersey) Collection
Status
In Progress
Author
Elizabeth Reilly
Date
2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752
502 852-6673 (Fax)