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Finding Aid to the Henri Lenoir Papers, 1921-1994
BANC MSS 92/842 c  
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Henri Lenoir papers
    Date (inclusive): 1921-1994
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 92/842 c
    Creator: Lenoir, Henri
    Extent: 2 cartons, 1 box, 3 volumes, 2 oversize folders, 1 videocassette tape 4 linear feet 1 Digital Object (2 images)
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Henri Lenoir papers consist of personal correspondence, business correspondence and materials related to the management of Vesuvio Cafe and Lenoir's promotion and sale of art by the bohemian set he worked with in San Francisco. Also included are biographical materials, geneological materials and materials related to the history of San Francisco, specifically North Beach.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

    Information for Researchers

    Access Information

    Collection is open for research.

    Conditions of Use

    Materials in this collection may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of University of California gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html .

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Henri Lenoir Papers, BANC MSS 92/842 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital reproductions of selected items are available.

    Removed or Separated Material

    Photographs and drawings have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of the Bancroft Library (BANC PIC 2004.158).

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
    Lenoir, Henri--Archives
    Beat generation.
    North Beach (San Francisco, Calif.)-- Social life and customs.
    Restaurants-- California-- San Francisco.
    Restaurateurs-- California-- San Francisco.
    Iron Pot (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Vesuvio Cafe (San Francisco, Calif.)

    Administrative Information

    The Henri Lenoir Papers were given to the Bancroft Library by Bonnie McClintock in July, 2004. Additions were made in 2012.
    No additions are expected.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Jack Doran in 2012.

    Biography/Organization History

    Henri Lenoir was born Silvio Velleman on March 17, 1904 in Zuoz, Switzerland. His father was Antoine Velleman , a headmaster at a boys’ boarding school, and his mother, Ethel Ireland, was a homemaker. Silvio was sent to boarding school in England at an early age, and upon his parents’ divorce, took his mother’s maiden name. In 1920, he was enrolled at King William’s College on the Isle of Man, and was soon expelled. He then enrolled in the Ecole National d’Horticulture et de Viticulture in Geneva, but left in 1921.
    Lenoir held a number of jobs over the next several years, including a drummer in a dance band in the Chateaux d’Oex, a tour guide in Italy, a claims adjuster in Paris and a ballroom dancer in Nice. He arrived in New York in the company of an American woman on July 5, 1929, and lived there for just over a year before departing for Hollywood in 1930. Broke and threatened with deportation for an expired work visa, he changed his name to Henri Lenoir and left for San Francisco.
    Despite having no formal secondary art education, Lenoir had an eye for talented artists, and after holding another series of jobs throughout the 1930s, he began hanging art work at the Iron Pot in 1941. He gained a reputation for boosting clientele through the promotion and showing of art, and in 1949, Lenoir bought the Vesuvio Café. It quickly became a center of bohemian activity, and was famously a favorite spot of Beat poets and artists. Lenoir owned and operated the Vesuvio for nearly two decades until he sold it in 1968 amidst rising rent prices and a general decline of artistic activity in the area.
    Lenoir continued to promote art throughout the rest of his life and was known to friends and tourists alike as the “King of Bohemia.” He died on March 30, 1994.

    Scope and Content Note

    The Henri Lenoir papers consist of personal correspondence, business correspondence and materials related to the management of Vesuvio Cafe and Lenoir's promotion and sale of art by the bohemian set he worked with in San Francisco. Also included are biographical materials, geneological materials and materials related to the history of San Francisco, specifically North Beach.
    The collection has been divided into five series. Series 1 consists of personal correspondence, largely with artists Lenoir knew, promoted or otherwise worked with. Correspondence with artists may also contain clippings, exhibition catalogs and ephemera. Series 2 consists of Family Papers, and includes correspondence between Lenoir and his parents and brother, as well as materials related to his immediate and extended family and geneological materials. Series 3, Business Papers, consists of materials dealing with Lenoir's activities as an art promoter and consultant. The bulk of the series is made up of Lenoir's management of the Vesuvio Cafe. Also included are artist files. Series 4, Personalia, includes detailed biographical information on Lenoir and correspondence and ephemera related to the history of San Francisco, specifically North Beach. Also included in this series is a video cassette tape entitled, "Memories of North Beach" (cataloged as Motion Picture 1301D). Series 5, Clippings, includes writings from newspapers and other publications about Lenoir as a public figure and also his activities as a bar owner and promoter. A friend to Herb Caen throughout his career and life in San Francisco, Lenoir was frequently mentioned in Caen's San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle columns. There is also an extensive collection of clippings of Vern Wiman's work as an illustrator for the Examiner.