Carnival of Swing: Uncovering an Historic Jazz Concert at Randall’s Island Stadium, 1938

In the process of assembling the Otto F. Hess Photographs collection, I came across unique photographs of an historic New York City concert. As I put photos into folders sorted by artists’ names, I noticed pictures of many different groups, all on an outdoor stage decorated with stars and stripes, and featuring a large banner advertising the New York City radio station, WNEW.

I thought these photographs must be from the same concert, so I did some digging. In Hess’s photography notebook (Series VII in the collection), I found a hint: his list of 35mm negatives includes an event titled “Randall’s Island Jazz Festival 1938.” Further investigation revealed this one-of-a-kind event was actually billed as the “Carnival of Swing” and is now considered to be one of the first major jazz festivals.

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Source: New York Public Library

This  post was written by Music and Recorded Sound volunteer, Isaac Maupin. As part of a summer project, Isaac compiled the Otto Hess Photographs (which had been dispersed across Music’s Iconography Files) into a single collection, created an inventory, and wrote the historical and descriptive notes for the collection. All photographs featured in this post are from the collection.