Carl Oscar Borg scrapbooks, 1903-1955

A Finding Aid to the Carl Oscar Borg Scrapbooks, 1903-1955, in the Archives of American Art, by Rosa M. Fernández

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Self taught Swedish-American artist Carl Oscar Borg (1879-1947) began his career as a sign painter in New York. He emigrated to the United States from Stockholm, Sweden in 1901, settling in Los Angeles in 1903 where he became active in the emerging Los Angeles art community. He became the protogé of Phoebe Apperson Hearst (mother of William Randolph Hearst) whose support and endorsement enabled him to study in Europe. He established himself as a serious artist after World War II working in the fields of print, film and painting, enabling him to secure a place among the Los Angeles artistic elite. Borg specialized in painting the Southwestern Hopi and Navajo Indians. He also painted mariners and the seal hunting scenes which took place in Channel Island near Santa Barbara. He was a member of the National Academy of Design, the National Academy of Arts, the Sociéte Internationale des Beaux Arts (Paris) and the prestigious Salmagundi Club. He traveled to Sweden in 1939, remaining there until the end of World War II. Upon his return to California, he settled in Santa Barbara where he remained until his death in 1947.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of three scrapbooks compiled by Borg, and after his death by his widow, Lily Borg Elmberg. These contain newspaper clippings from the U.S. and Sweden, documenting Borg's lifelong career as a painter and printmaker since his arrival in Los Angeles in 1903. One scrapbook, 1925-1938, highlights his role as supervising art director for the1926 silent film, The Black Pirate starring actor Douglas Fairbanks. Also included are articles about his years working in the silent movie industry (1925-1928) as the art director of films, Black Pirate, The Gaucho, The Night of Love, The Magic Flame, Two Lovers, and The Iron Mask.

Arrangement and Series Description

Volumes are divided into three main categories: I. Los Angeles Years (1903-1935), II. Silent movies and trip to Sweden (1925-1938), and III. Sweden and Santa Barbara years (1935-1955). The dates of a number of the newspaper clippings and exhibition catalogs found in the scrapbooks overlap. In addition, Scrapbook I, 1903-1935, is in fragile condition and should be handled with care.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Names" when they are creators or contributors and under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents.


  • Motion picture industry
  • Motion picture art directors -- California
  • Painters -- California -- Los Angeles
  • Painters -- California -- Santa Barbara
  • Silent films
  • Artists -- Sweden


The collection was donated in 1998 by Helen Laird, who received the papers from Borg's widow, Lily Borg Elmberg in preparation for a biography on Carl Oscar Borg.

How the Collection was Processed

Processing of the collection was completed June 26, 2000 by Rosa M. Fernández at the Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Carl Oscar Borg scrapbooks are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

The collection is available on microfilm reel number 5671. The microfilm is available for interlibrary loan.

How to Cite this Collection

Carl Oscar Borg scrapbooks, 1903-1955. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1903-1955
(box 1, 0.3 linear ft.)

Box Reel
1 (sol) 5671 Scrapbook I: The Los Angeles Years, 1903-1935
1 (sol) 5671 Scrapbook II: Silent Movies and Trip to Sweden, 1925-1938
1 (sol) 5671 Scrapbook III: Sweden and Santa Barbara Years, 1935-1955