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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Leon H. Caverly Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1917-1920
Creator: Caverly, Leon H. (1884-1966)
Extent: 25.00 items.
Collection Number: MSC0802
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Caverly was a cinematographer sent to document military activities in Belgium, France, and Germany in World War I. He also filmed Russian prisoner camps and the civilian riots in Berlin. In 1919 he spent six months filming in Cuba and Haiti. This collection consist primarily of letters to F. G. Riley, a New York photographer, but also includes a few photographs, a sketch, and a business card.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs Box 1

Access: This collection is open for research.

Use: Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, Copyright Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials.


Preferred Citation: Leon H. Caverly Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Leon H. Caverly was born on November 22, 1884 in Dover, New Hampshire, married in the early 1900s and had a child. His wife died in the flu pandemic of 1918, by which time Caverly was a cinematographer who had, in June 1917, joined the Marine Corps Publicity Bureau. His daughter was raised by his wife's mother.
Caverly was sent to Europe where he documented military activities in France, Belgium, and Germany with both motion picture and still photography. He writes in a later letter that a film titled America's Answer to the Huns, the second official U.S. government war film, contains much of his work. A surviving print of this film has not yet been located. After the Armistice, he worked filming Russian prisoner camps in Germany and German civilian riots in Berlin. In September of 1919, the Marines sent Caverly to Cuba and Haiti for six months to do documentary photography. He was mustered out in 1920.
He returned to private sector employment, and through the 1920s seems to have worked for or with traveler and travel writer E.M. Newman, traveling and photographing for the "Newman Traveltalks" books; Seeing Paris (1931) includes 300 Caverly photographs. He married a second time in 1925, Grave V. Kopp, and may have had his own busiess from 1926 to 1929 or 1930. In 1933, the Caverlys had a daughter, Lynn Gail Caverly Hartung. Damaged financially by the 1929 stock market crash, he took a took a job as a photostat operator in New York City, in which position he remained until he retired in 1956, at the age of 72. He died December 12, 1966, and was buried in the Long Island National Cemetary.
Some of his glass slides of World War I were donated to the Historica Societyin Newark, New Jersey. There is also a collection of Caverly's materials at the Smithsonian Musuem in Washington, D.C.

The collection comprises a series of 20 letters, 4 photographs and 1 business card. All but one of the letters are written by Caverly to F. G. Riley, also a New York photographer. Letter of August 1, 1918 includes a signed sketch. The collection also includes one letter dated January 24. 1917 from movie director and producer Herbert Brenon to Riley. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Photographs are in protective sleeves.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: GENERAL

  • Series 1: GENERAL
  • Box 1:
  • Correspondence - 1917-1920
  • Photographs
  • Copies of letters of commendation and biographical information about Caverly provided by his daughter, Lynn Caverly Hartung.
  • "My Trip Over Seas"
    LHC's seven page account of his travel to France on a troopship, the first months of training in France for trench warfare, and his first visit to the trenches. Also an descriptive inventory of approximately 300 photographs he made in France. Both documents are photocopies of LHC typescripts held by the New Jersey Historical Society. Two photographs have printed out from digital versions and placed in this folder.

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.