Four scrapbook albums, two photograph albums with 200+ photos, mixed ephemera
Unlike many of our Prints and Photographs Collections holdings, which derive from individual artists, photographers, and agencies, the Carney Christie Collection derives from many sources—family photos, postcards, handwritten correspondence (on hotel stationary), theater programs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera—which dovetail into a mixed media portrait of an individual man.
A graduate of Staunton Military Academy, the actor Carney Pitcher Christie (1887–1932) gained early and enduring professional success on Broadway, perfecting the role of Pietro in Edward Locke’s comedy The Climax. Christie was the son of a prominent West Virginia druggist and brother to Mary Christie, a music teacher and sought-after pianist (and presumed assembler of the materials in our collection) with whom he often collaborated on popular “interpretive recitals” of Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Thomas Nelson Page. The family maintained residences in Richmond and Brooklyn, and a summer home in the resort town of Palmer Lake, Colorado, and Christie corresponded with them, especially Mary, during his theatrical tours all over the United States. According to one theater reviewer, he was “the very incarnation of buoyant youth.” About 1928, however, a “nervous collapse” forced Christie to quit touring and instead teach acting at the Leland Powers School in Boston. He later moved to Richmond to live with his sister’s family, where he died of a heart attack in 1932 at age 45.
The collection includes more than 200 individual photographs of Christie and his family in domestic, travel, and studio settings; newspaper clippings raving about Carney and Mary’s early school performances; sundry reviews of The Climax; odd self-help and inspirational pieces (“The Art of Being Happy,” “The Value of Home to the Soul Life,” “Injurious Effects of Taking Liquor Before Retiring”) clipped from different periodicals; and nine original handwritten and typed poems and some typed philosophical musings, all of uncertain authorship. In the photos Christie is revealed as a dreamy-eyed young man in various personae—a Cambridge boater in a prim straw hat, a kerchiefed gypsy, a playboy in a satin dressing gown. In one candid photo he has leapt like an adult child into the arms of a laughing woman, possibly a fellow Thespian.
On a side note, one of the scrapbooks in the collection is an example of Mark Twain’s “blank book” with pre-glued pages, patented by the author in 1873 and put through many iterations. Christie’s is the 1892 version, produced by Daniel Slot and Co., New York.
Arrangement and access:
An inventory of the collection is available in an accompanying file.