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Jack Sydow Photographs and Papers Collection

Call Number

PR 289


ca. 1933-2001 (bulk dates 1942-1945), inclusive



2.5 Linear feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials

The documents in the collection are in English.


This collection contains photographs and documents of Jack Sydow - actor, director, playwright, and professor. The items in the collection span the majority of Sydow's life, with a concentration on his time serving in the military during World War II and acting in the soldier show Hump Happy, and on his later theater career.

Biographical Note

Jack Sydow – actor, director, playwright, and professor – was born John David Sydow in Rockford, Illinois, 1921. Sydow served in the military in World War II with the Air Transport Command. While stationed in Assam, India, Sydow and fellow ATC enlisted men created a variety show Hump Happy, named for the range of mountains separating India and China referred to as "The Hump." The show featured Sydow dressed as a woman in a delayed-peel act and as one of the singing Andrew's Sisters. Hump Happy traveled to military bases in India, the Middle East, and Africa, becoming the first soldier show to travel across combat areas.

Sydow graduated from the University of Illinois and received his master's from Yale School of Drama. He continued to work in theater as an actor, director, and playwright throughout his life, receiving an Obie award for a theatrical adaptation in 1958 and a Tony award nomination for directing in 1966. From 1970 to 1986, Sydow was on the University of Washington School of Drama faculty, where he served as executive director and head of the directing program.

After retiring from the University of Washington, Sydow moved to Los Angeles where he continued to act both on the stage and in television. Sydow passed away in Los Angeles in 2010 at the age of 88.


The collection is arranged in two series.

Series I: World War II, includes photographs and documents from Sydow's life while enlisted.

Series II: Life and career, includes photographs and documents from Sydow's life and career outside the military.

Scope and Content Note

This collection of photographs, correspondence, and documents spans the majority of Jack Sydow's life. The bulk of the collection is from 1942-1945 when Sydow was serving in the military in World War II and acting in the traveling soldier show Hump Happy. The WWII portion of the collection contains letters Sydow wrote to his family, photographs, articles, and other documents relating to Sydow's travels and shows. The rest of the collection spans Sydow's adult life with a heavy focus on his theater career, and includes personal and stage photographs, play ephemera, and song books.

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Jack Sydow papers, PR 289, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit


Donated to the New-York Historical Society by J. Riley Caldwell-O'Keefe, PhD in 2012.

Related Materials at the New-York Historical Society

For additional materials related to the entertainment of WWII troops, see the Radio Entertainers and Announcers Collection.

The N-YHS Library's collection of World War II related materials can be searched using the online catalog.


Ford, Corey and Alastair MacBain. "Flying Strip Tease." Collier's, November 18, 1944.
"Jack Sydow: Obituary." Rockford River Star, June 28, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2012.
Berson, Misha. "Memorial Set for UW's Jack Sydow." The Seattle Times, June 16, 2010.

Collection processed by

Audrey Belanger

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:47:18 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024