The Rex Madsen and Jimmy Daniels photograph collection documents the life of Jimmy Daniels and his career as a a nightclub host and entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance and into the 1950s and 1960s. The collection measures 1.75 linear feet and is comprised mainly of photographs from circa 1870s-1970s. Many of the photographs are from Daniels' years at the Bon Soir nightclub in Greenwich Village during the 1950s. Additional items include musical scores, invitations, postcards, and additional ephemera.
The majority of the photographs document Daniels' life as an entertainer, cabaret singer, and nightclub host. While a great many of the photographs picture Daniels either in portraits or in candid and posed shots with others, the collection also presents a "who's who" of African American and White entertainers, musicians, and society figures. Besides Daniels, other individuals represented in the collection include: Pearl Bailey, Josephine Baker, Tullula Bankhead, Richmond Barthe, Harry Belafonte, Tony Benson, Phil Black, Helen Broderick, Marian Bruce, John Butler, Cab Calloway, Karen Chandler, Aileen Cook, Katherine Cornell, Carmen De Lavallade, Phyllis Diller, Blanche Dunn, Annie Winifred Ellerman (Bryher), Alice Ghostley, Eddie Hodges, Geoffrey Holder, Langston Hughes, Alberta Hunter, Maria Eva Isadegna, Herbert Jacoby, Lotte Lenya, Joe Louis, Rex Madsen, Fania Marinoff, Paul Meeres, Mabel Mercer, Ona Munson, Rose Murphy, Cole Porter, Millicent Rogers, Diana Sands, Joan Shaw, Bobby Short, Ada "Bricktop" Smith, Norene Tate, Edna Thomas, Tom Tryon, Carl Van Vechten, Elisabeth Welch, Ethel Waters, Josh White, Roy Wilkins, Billie Dee Williams, Jimmy Wright, Olivia Wyndam, and Ted Yates. Nightclubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues in New York from the 1920s to the 1950s are represented in the collection. The collection also documents, to an extent, gay and lesbian circles in New York and England during the early 20th century. The nineteenth century photographs include a tintype and cabinet cards; little documentation accompanies these images, but they may be photographs of Daniels' family.
Of interest are over 50 photographs by Carl Van Vechten, as well as sixteen photographs depicting sculptures by Richmond Barthe. Additional materials within the collection include musical scores and printed ephemera for musical performances. Some descriptions of the photographs in this collection are derived from a transcription of an oral narrative provided by Rex Madsen, which is housed in the accession file for this collection.