Peter F. Murphy, Jr. (1905-1993) was actively involved with Milwaukee athletics throughout his life. Growing up in Milwaukee, he attended both Marquette University High School and Marquette University, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1927. As a high school student, Murphy played an important role in founding a track program, and while a student at Marquette University, he was a member of the track and cross-country teams, placing in a number of intercollegiate meets and relays and specializing in the 880 and 1-mile distances. After his college graduation, he returned to Marquette University High School, where he taught and coached football, basketball, and track. For over half a century, he served as the timer for both Marquette University and Marquette University High School basketball games.

Murphy's involvement in athletics, however, extended beyond the walls of his two alma maters.  For forty years, he was employed by the Milwaukee Catholic Youth Organization, retiring as its executive director in 1973. A member of the Wisconsin Amateur Athletic Union from 1934 to 1978, at the time of his retirement, Murphy was serving the organization as its president.

At some point in the late 1920s, Murphy began to visually document people, places, and activities in which he participated. His ongoing involvement afforded him opportunity to interact with a wide variety of high school and collegiate athletes. While Murphy was not a professional photographer, the images are generally well-composed and attractive.

The Collection
The Peter F. Murphy, Jr. Photograph Collection consists entirely of photographic images taken during the late 1920s and the 1930s, primarily in the Milwaukee area. The majority of the images are portraits featuring Marquette University and Marquette University High School activities and athletes, although there are some notable exceptions with broader scope. Peter Murphy appears to have traveled throughout the Midwest to a variety intercollegiate track and field conference meets, where he took images documenting many prominent athletes of the 1930s, including Ralph Metcalfe, Jesse Owens, and Eddie Tolan. Also worth noting are images documenting 1930s-era Havana, Cuba, the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, and the 1932 Olympic Trials, held in Chicago.

While the images are still arranged numerically in boxes (by and large a chronological arrangement scheme), the finding aid has been constructed to divide the images along three topical lines - University, High School, and Miscellaneous - to facilitate discovery.

  • The University Athletics section of the finding aid describes images related to Marquette University events and people, particularly intercollegiate track events held throughout the early 1930s. Included are portraits of individuals, as well as action shots.

  • The High School section of the finding aid describes images related primarily to students and events at Marquette University High School in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as well as a limited number of other Milwaukee-area high schools. Many of the images are formal portraits of individual students in their athletic uniforms or street clothes.

  • The Miscellaneous section of the finding aid describes images of a scope beyond that of Marquette University and Marquette University High School as well as images of individuals who could not easily be placed into the university or high school section (many students attended both institutions). This portion of the finding aid includes descriptions of images from the 1932 Olympic Trials in Chicago, the National Tennis Championships of 1931 and 1932, and 1933 World's Fair, and 1930s-era Havana.

All of the images in the collection are currently in negative form: - the preponderance are glass plates (1,315) with a limited number of acetate and Ilford negatives in the collection, as indicated on the finding aids. Print versions are not currently available for research use.

Limited descriptive information was provided for the images by Mr. Murphy. A paper inventory running from negative 1 through 1659 was included at the time of transfer but provided no descriptive information for negatives with higher numbers. Presumably some descriptive information was provided on the envelope in which the glass plates were housed and this information was transferred to new envelopes at a period after their transfer to Marquette and prior to their 2008 processing.  This descriptive information from the envelope was used as the basis for all descriptive information for negatives numbering 1660 and higher. Research conducted using reference and online sources allowed archivists to provide additional information about some of the images, including various track meets and the images documenting Havana. It is the hope that as we prepare reproductions in response to patron requests, we will be able to provide improved descriptive information over time.

Processing Note
The collection was processed in early 2008. While the majority of the images in the collection were in good condition, some images had to be discarded due to severe degradation of the plate or the emulsion. It is important to note that while plate numbers assigned by Murphy reach 2571, the run was incomplete and many images were not included in the transfer to Marquette.

A small grant from the M Club and funding from the Library Dean's Office allowed for the conversion of 64 nitrate negatives, ten glass plates with intact emulsions that had almost entirely separated from the glass plate, and for the conversion of a fair number of acetate negatives. Images from this collection featuring Ralph Metcalfe have been digitized and are available through our digital projects website.