Hugh Pickett fonds now available!

Thanks to the generous attendees of the Hugh Pickett Gala in 2017 and the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, we are pleased to announce that the descriptions for the Hugh Pickett fonds are now available and searchable online.

Hugh Pickett was born and raised in Vancouver. His first job was as an usher at the Colonial Theatre in 1928 – he always had a love for show business. He later worked for Dingwall Cotts Steamship Co. and served in the Canadian Army as the secretary to Brigadier Langdon out of an office in the old Vancouver Hotel.

Portrait of Hugh Pickett in 1943 (from scrapbook). Reference code: AM1674-S8-F09

In 1950 Pickett, along with Holly Maxwell, took over Hilker Attractions and re-named it Famous Artists Ltd. Pickett was Company Manager from 1947 until 1964. Famous Artists Ltd. was “an artistic management enterprise dedicated to sponsoring appearances by artists and by ballet and theatre companies in Vancouver and Victoria.” Known as Vancouver’s impresario it is no surprise that Pickett’s records are peppered with names and photographs of local, national and international celebrities and artists.

George London, Holly Maxwell and Hugh Pickett in 1954. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F06- : 2014-089.0930

Famous Artists Ltd. was responsible for bringing big names to Vancouver such as Pink Floyd, Maria Callas, Vincent Price, Artur Rubinstein, John Prine, Lily Tomlin, Paul Anka, Leontyne Price, Mitzi Gaynor, Neil Young, The Supremes and hundreds more. Pickett played a key role in securing Vancouver’s spot on many international tours.

Ron McDougall, Leontyne Price and Hugh Pickett in 1975. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F01- : 2014-089.0690

During this time Pickett became heavily involved with Theatre Under the Stars and was the manager from 1952 until 1954. He also acted as the manager for Marlene Dietrich for 12 years in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Page from Pickett’s scrapbook from 1943 featuring Marlene Dietrich before he was her manager. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F07

The Hugh Pickett fonds documents Pickett’s professional career and personal life; his role as manager and co- owner of Famous Artists Ltd., his youth and travels in the 1940’s and his involvement with Theatre Under the Stars. The records include publicity materials, news clippings, scrapbooks and photographs that demonstrate his passion for the entertainment industry and his interest in and relationships with celebrities and artists. The fonds consists of a wide variety of records, such as correspondence, invoices, and financial reports; production records such as travel arrangements, artist requests and fees, stage layout designs and cast photographs; as well as promotional records, such as press releases, programs and press clippings.

Hugh Pickett seated at the Malkin Bowl for Theatre Under the Stars in 1956. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F06- : 2014-089.1003

The fonds has been arranged into nine series:

There were a few interesting and unexpected records in the Hugh Pickett fonds. One example is a number of tear sheets from British theatre companies starting in the year 1802, some of the oldest records at the City of Vancouver Archives.

British theatre tear sheet from 1802. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F16

Gaiety Theatre tear sheet from 1892. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F16

Another is his collection of scrapbooks documenting his youth, his work with the Spitfire Fund, his close friends and family, vacations and trips (local and international) and his time serving in the army. The scrapbooks contain some well composed photographs, ticket stubs, correspondence, writing, decorations and greeting cards.

Below are a few highlights from Pickett’s scrapbooks.

Scrapbook page documenting a trip to Savary Island. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F10

Drawing from Pickett’s scrapbook, possibly by Hugh Pickett. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F11

Page from Pickett’s scrapbook containing a Department of National Defence letter from 1943 certifying travel permission for Pickett, as well as a Tijuana, Mexico brochure. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F11

Scrapbook page featuring Elsa Maxwell of the Spitfire Fund. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F04

Scrapbook page with Spitfire Fund pins. Reference code: AM1674-S8-F04

Not only does the Hugh Pickett fonds offer a unique glimpse into the life of Impresario Hugh Pickett and the operations of Famous Artists Ltd., but also the artistic, political, theatrical and cultural landscape of Vancouver through the 1930’s until the early 2000’s. We invite you to come to the archives and have a look at these records. Our reading room staff would be happy to help you with your search. It is our goal to have a portion of the photographic content digitized and available online in the coming year.

We are very grateful to the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, Bill Allman of Famous Artists and Gordon Boyd for their generous support in expediting the processing of these wonderful records. Our thanks go as well to Ron McDougall for his time and work assisting us with identifying individuals in over 300 photographs.

4 responses to “Hugh Pickett fonds now available!

  1. Martha Miller

    Confused by this use of ‘fonds’.

  2. Heather Gordon

    It’s an archival term, from the French fonds d’archives, used in Canada to refer to the entire body records of a single creator, created and used during their lifetime (or in the case of a business or organization, the organization’s life span.

  3. Rae Ackerman

    I am absolutely thrilled that Hugh’s personal archives have been saved in the City’s Archives.

  4. Heather Gordon

    Thank you, Rae. They’re wonderful records and we’re so pleased Hugh’s family felt we were the place for them.

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