Skip to main content

Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo papers, circa 1940-2001

Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo papers, circa 1940-2001

Okubo, Miné, 1912-2001

Painter

Collection Information

Size: 1.4 linear feet

Summary: The Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo papers measure 1.4 linear feet and date from circa 1940 to 2001. Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall were long-time friends with and patrons of Okubo from the late 1950s until her death. The collection contains letters, writings, and sketches by Okubo. Among the printed materials is a copy of the 1944 special edition of "Fortune" magazine which was sympathetic to Japanese Americans interned during World War II and for which Okubo was hired to illustrate. Also found are scattered documents relating to Hall and Leeper.

Biographical/Historical Note

Miné Okubo (1912-2001) was a Japanese-American painter, illustrator, and author. Miné Okubo (1912-2001) was born in Riverside, California, and educated at University of California, Berkeley, where she received her BA and MA degrees. After graduation she studied in Paris with Fernand Leger for eighteen months before returning to the US with the outbreak of WW II. Back in California she worked under the Federal Arts Project, assisted Diego Rivera on his Treasure Island mural (Pan American Unity), and exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art. In 1942 she and one of her brothers (she had six siblings) were sent to the Tanforan Assembly Center south of San Francisco and then transported to the Topaz, Utah, relocation center. At Topaz, Okubo taught art to children and worked as the art editor for Trek, Nisei literary magazine. In her spare moments she would wander around the camp sketching the people and activities. Her camp sketches, and the book based upon the internment experience, Citizen 13660, are what she is best known for. The book is still in print and won the American Book Award in 1984. In 1944, Fortune magazine brought her out of internment to help illustrate a special (sympathetic) issue on Japanese Americans. She decided to remain in New York and made Greenwich Village her home until her death.

Provenance

Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall donated the collection of Miné Okubo papers in 2001.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool.

Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo Papers, circa 1940-2001, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.okubmine
Author
Finding aid prepared by Jayna M. Josefson
Biographical/Historical note
Miné Okubo (1912-2001) was a Japanese-American painter, illustrator, and author. She is known for her book
Citizen 13600
in which she described her experience at the Topaz War Relocation Camp in Utah through prose and drawings.
Born in Riverside, California in 1912, Okubo began her arts education at Riverside Junior College and transferred to the University of California, Berkeley where she completed her BA and MA in Fine Arts (where she first met Roy Leeper). In 1938, she received an award to travel and study under Fernand Léger in Paris. When World War II began in Europe, she moved back to California and worked under the Federal Arts Project. She produced some solo murals and also assisted Diego Rivera on his Treasure Island mural
Pan American Unity
, (1940).
In April of 1942, Miné Okubo and one of her brothers were sent to the Tanforan Assembly Center under Executive Order 9066, which forcibly interned over 100,000 Japanese and Japanese-American citizens living on the West Coast of the United States. Six months later, they were sent to the Topaz War Relocation Camp in Topaz, Utah. There, Okubo taught art in the camp's school and often sketched camp life. She was art editor for the camp newsletter
Trek
, a supplement to the
Topaz Times
.
In 1944,
Fortune
magazine published a sympathetic special edition on the Japanese and Japanese American internment during World War II. The magazine hired Okubo to illustrate two of the articles. She was permitted to leave the camp and move to New York City, where she remained for the rest of her life, working as a painter and illustrator. She wrote and illustrated a book about her experiences in the Topaz confinement camp,
Citizen 13600
, which won the American Book Award in 1984. Miné Okubo died in 2001. Medical doctor Roy Leeper befriended Miné Okubo while they were both students at the University of California. Later, he and his partner dentist Gaylord Hall were reintroduced to Okubo and her artwork by a mutual friend. They began a life-long relationship with Okuba, both as friends and collectors.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1942-1994 (1 folder; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1957-2001 (0.8 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1940-circa 1970 (3 folders; Box 1)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1957-1998 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1944-2000 (0.3 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1940-circa 1990s (3 folders; Box 1)
Series 7: Artwork, 1960s-1997 (0.1 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
Scope and Contents note
The Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo papers measure 1.4 linear feet and date from circa 1940 to 2001. Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall were long-time friends with and patrons of Okubo from the late 1950s until her death. The collection contains letters, writings, and sketches by Okubo. Among the printed materials is a copy of the 1944 special edition of
Fortune
magazine which was sympathetic to Japanese Americans interned during World War II and for which Okubo was hired to illustrate. Also found are scattered documents relating to Hall and Leeper.
Biographical materials consist of Roy Leeper's medical licenses. The bulk of the collection is comprised of Miné Okubo's letters, many of which are illustrated, to Hall and Leeper discussing her health, career, their purchase of her artwork, and mutual friends. Other correspondents include Howard Hamilton and Doris and Harry Tono. Writings and notes by Okubo inlcude a statement about the pricing of her artwork and a list of artwork. Leeper and Hall's personal business records concern the purchase and loan of Okubo's artwork for exhibitions.
Printed materials include a 1944 edition of
Fortune
magazine devoted to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The issue includes reproductions of Okubo's illustrations of life in the World War II internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Photographs include snapshots of Okubo at an exhibition with her art and of works of art. Sketches and drawings depict mostly cats and flowers.
Provenance
Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall donated the collection of Miné Okubo papers in 2001.
Related Archival Materials note
Riverside City College in Riverside, California also holds the Miné Okubo papers.
Processing Information note
The Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo papers were minimally arranged upon receipt. In 2017, Jayna Josefson fully processed and prepared a finding aid with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Roy Leeper and Gaylord Hall collection of Miné Okubo papers, circa 1940-2001. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available