New Digital Collection Complete
The Jack Sheaffer Photograph Digital Collection, which spans three decades of southern Arizona's history, is now available online via the UA's Special Collections.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications,
July 5, 2011

Jack Sheaffer's 1950-1970s-era images illustrate Tucson and southern Arizona's history during a time of explosive growth.

The University of Arizona's Special Collections, which regularly digitizes selections from its holdings to increase access to unique and rare material via the Web, has recently completed the Jack Sheaffer Photograph Digital Collection. 

The collection of more than 10,000 images now available online, is an important addition to the University’s digital archive, said Erika Castano, an assistant librarian for UA Libraries. 

"The photographed the fabric of southern Arizona," Castano said. "It is unique, special and very comprehensively documents Tucson during the 1950s through the 1970s."

The Sheaffer family granted the UA's Special Collections his papers, business records, negatives, as well as some prints upon his death in March of 1999.   

The newly digitized collection, which spans 1955-1975, was culled from about 30,000 negatives, provides students and researchers from around the world with access to more than three decades of photographs documenting the people, places and events that shaped Tucson and southern Arizona in the latter half of the 20th century. 

Known through his life for his cigars and woolly attitude, Sheaffer is best remembered today for his colossal catalog of photos.

Sheaffer photographed tragic accidents, civil rights and anti-war marches, politicians, athletic events, celebrity visits and local beauty pageants, and the collection is continually growing.

His vast assortment of negatives includes thousands pertaining to the Tucson Rodeo and also “mugshots” of Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Sophia Loren, Johnny Cash, the Three Stooges and dozens of other celebrities.

"The collection really documents Tucson and southern Arizona during a time of explosive growth, where we can away from being a small town to a thriving city," Castano said. "Sheaffer documented the flavor of Tucson and southern Arizona along the way."

Each image is available for viewing upon request, and as visitors solicit reproductions, each newly digitalized photo is added to the digital collection. Rights and reproduction information, as well as an application for permission to publish, is available online.    

"We hope the digital collection will grow over time," Castano said. 

Sheaffer, born in southern Arizona in 1929, was a onetime amateur boxer. Having graduated from Tucson High School in 1947, he earned a scholarship to attend the Fred Archer School of Photography in Los Angeles, a renowned school of the art in the decades after World War II.

Returning to Tucson a year later, Sheaffer began working as a commercial photographer.

After a four-year stint overseas in the U.S. Air Force, Sheaffer returned once again to the Southwest and began freelancing for the Arizona Daily Star, establishing a connection that would shape his career.    

Formally joining the staff in 1973, Sheaffer was the Arizona Daily Star’s chief photographer for 27 years – until 1982. That year, he was badly burned in an explosion at the Tucson Newspaper plant.

In 1985, Sheaffer compiled a book with fellow journalist and former managing editor of the Arizona Daily Star, Steve Emerine, "Jack Sheaffer’s Tucson, 1945-1965," which showcases some 500 of more than 44,000 photographs he made during his 40-year career.

"As chief photographer for the Arizona Daily Star, he took pictures of the gamut of activities going on," Castano said. "The big and the small – that's what makes this collection very special."

Extra info

The UA Libraries' Special Collections contains rare books, manuscripts, photographs and other unique archival materials on Arizona, the Southwest and the U.S./Mexico Borderlands. Special Collections also maintains a variety of digitized diaries, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings, personal papers, reports and legislation. Current digital collections include The Morris K. Udall Oral History Project, the Oury Family Papers, the Civil War Diary of Alexander Grayson Bowman, and the Southwest and Borderlands Photograph Collection.


Resources for the media

Erika Castano

UA Libraries