Gumby’s Book Studio

Spring 2021

“Gumby’s book studio”

kaila andino

Gumby’s Book Studio, open in the late 1920s to early 1930s, was operated by L.S. Alexander Gumby and was a workspace for Gumby and a gathering space for many figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Gumby had an “obsession” with creating scrapbooks which resulted in him collecting many pieces of African American ephemera to collect in his scrapbooks.

When Gumby’s apartment became too crowded, Charles W. Newman, a financier and Gumby’s occasional romantic partner helped him rent out the second floor office in his apartment building, which became Gumby’s Book Studio. Even though it was just meant to be a place for Gumby to curate his collections, over the five years that Gumby’s Book Studio was open, Gumby hosted parties that the likes of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen attended. Because Gumby was openly gay, his studio also became a gathering space for the LGBT community in Harlem. Gumby described his studio as “the first unpremeditated interracial movement in Harlem.” While many of the gatherings Gumby hosted were informal, he also hosted many formal gatherings like a welcoming reception for Countee Cullen after his return from Paris and one for the painter William H. Johnson for his return from Europe.

Some of the types of things that Gumby collected in his scrapbooks were ephemera related to certain people like Langston Hughes, a poet, and Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing world champion; and historical events like slavery and the Civil War. He also collected small things like newspaper clippings that related to African American events. Gumby gained the most attention for his scrapbooks about the African diaspora.

When the stock market crashed in 1929 and Gumby started facing health problems, Gumby and Newman could no longer afford to keep Gumby’s Book Studio open, so they were forced to close. Even though the studio was closed, Gumby continued to add to his scrapbooks, and in 1950, he donated his 300 scrapbook collection to Columbia University. He continued to add to his collection until he died in 1961.

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