This extensive collection contains papers and multimedia documenting Phillip Bennett's life. Because Bennett was blind, this collection provides information about Oberlin College's efforts to help disabled students, services available to help the blind, and Bennett's ability to conduct everyday life in a very successful fashion and to excel as a musician.
Twelve folders of correspondence provide information about Bennett's admission to the Conservatory at Oberlin College in 1933, performances by Bennett and his orchestra, and his personal life. The letters concerning Oberlin indicate that Bennett received a warm welcome by the community, the school, and the students. The correspondence includes a letter of greeting from First Church of Oberlin and an invitation to one of the College's exclusive male dining halls, as well as evidence of the College's efforts to arrange suitable housing and acquire a reader for Bennett. Some of the letters also concern Bennett's own efforts to obtain Braille textbooks and other services in order to meet his needs. The correspondence files extend to the end of Bennett's life, encompassing his career and personal life. The many thank-you cards and appreciative letters indicate that people enjoyed the performances of Philip Bennett and his orchestra, and that his talent was in high demand.
Photographs featuring Bennett with President Ronald Reagan and other celebrities, in addition to Christmas cards from President Richard Nixon, show the extent of this demand. Bennett's musical ability is well represented in the collection in the form of sheet music and audio and video recordings. The sheet music is mostly composed by Bennett, though some of the pieces are arranged by others. The recordings consist of Bennett's performances in the studio, live, and on television. Additionally, there are audio recordings containing family stories and history recited by family members, in an attempt to provide Bennett with a simple way to become acquainted with his family's past. These are supplemented by photographs from his childhood, an extensive paper on the family history, and a genealogical chart. Facts about Bennett's own past can be gleaned from newspaper clippings, several biographical sketches, a catalogue from the family business, and Bennett's own one-of-a-kind Braille wristwatch.
Series 1. Biographical File, 1923-1987, n.d. (2 folders)
These files include a genealogical chart of the Bennett family, a biographical sketch of Philip O. Bennett, certificates awarded to Philip O. Bennett for his service to various organizations, and a family history.
Series 2. Correspondence, 1931-1989, n.d. (11 folders)
This extensive series includes correspondence concerning Philip O. Bennett’s student days at Oberlin College, his musical engagements, and his personal life. Highlights include Christmas cards from President Richard M. Nixon.
Series 3. Printed Matter, 1933-1998, n.d. (5 folders)
This material includes a 1953 catalogue from the “Bennett Brothers, Inc.” family business, newspaper clippings concerning Philip O. Bennett and his orchestra, and programs from high school, Oberlin College music groups, and the performances of Philip O. Bennett and his orchestra.
Series 4. Sheet Music, n.d. (13 pieces)
This sheet music consists of original compositions by Philip O. Bennett and assistants. For a full listing, see the Inventory.
Series 5. Sound Recordings and Videotapes, 1933-1986, n.d.
(24 audiocassette tapes, 7 phonographs, 12 reel-to-reel sound recordings, and
This series includes audiocassette tapes, phonographs, reel to reel sound recordings, and Beta and VHS video tapes. The audiocassettes document family life through personal narrations by Philip O. Bennett and his relatives, and contain recordings of Philip O. Bennett's music, including his jazz quartet and his society orchestra. Other musical recordings consist of phonographs and reel-to-reel sound recordings, the latter of which include some unedited master recordings of Philip O. Bennett and his orchestra. There are also a few videos documenting Philip O. Bennett’s various performances on stage and on television. A complete listing of the sound recordings and videotapes is located in the inventory.
Series 6. Photos, 1920-1979, n.d. (15 envelopes)
The photographs, ranging in size from 5" x 7” to 8" x 10” and in both black and white in color, feature Philip O. Bennett from childhood to adulthood, including pictures of his Oberlin College graduation, his orchestra and band, publicity shots, and meetings with celebrities like President Ronald Reagan and Bob Hope.
Series 7. Artifact, n.d.
This series consists of one artifact, a wristwatch with the numbers featured in Braille on its face.