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Carl E. Nelson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 2335

Scope and Contents

Contains records of Nelson's family from Denmark as well as Brigham City, Utah; Nelson's education in Box Elder County, Salt Lake Schools, Weber College (Ogden, Utah), BYU, and New York University. The collection also includes papers concerning his early career as an engineer, his work for Bell Laboratory (New Jersey), and his World War II records related to his work in the control of optical and precision instruments industries in Berlin. Also included are professional files related to the development of microfilm (this series includes professional documentation, newsletters, etc., all related to the microfilm industry's standards and publicity). There are also manuscript materials related to his wife Ernestine Nelson and his sister Portia Nelson. Regarding the latter person the collection includes personal records, photographs, and biographical information. Much of Portia Nelson's materials relate to her work as an actress, singer and writer. She was most active circa 1950's-1980's, starring in the movies "The Sound of Music" and "Dr. Doolittle" among others. On Broadway she acted in "The King and I" and "The Golden Apple." She also sang in cafes and dinner clubs throughout New York and California. Materials relating to Nelson's father and grandfather, both of whom were named Jacob Carl Nelson, include family farm papers, personal diaries, legal and personal papers, correspondence, photographs and genealogy. This collection includes the following record and genre types: personal and professional papers; correspondence; reel to reel and cassette tapes; plaques; certificates; photographs; 35mm. slides from his family, professional and recreational travel; mementos; diaries; published sheet music (Nelson wrote some published music); audio/visual and photographic equipment (this is completely unprocessed) that he used both for recreation and professional research. Also contains some selected military artifacts, including a window from Berchtesgaden, the personal retreat of Adolph Hitler in Obersalzberg, Germany.


  • 1890-2001


Conditions Governing Access

Preliminarily processed; access to the collection available only with permission from the Supervisor of Reference Services.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Carl E. Nelson papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Nelson worked for Bell Laboratory (N.J.), helped invent micrographics technology (microfilm, microfiche, etc.), served under General Eisenhower in World War II, worked on the NASA Apollo rocket project and was a contractor for University Microfilm Company, Xerox and IBM. Portia (Betty Mae) Nelson (Carl's sister) was an actress on Broadway and in Hollywood.


7 oversize box (14.5 linear ft.) miscellaneous unboxed artifacts (10 linear ft.)

57 cartons (85.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

Box-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

Carl E. Nelson kept these items at his home in St. George, Utah until the time of his death. They were donated by his sons and daughters (John Nelson primary donor) on October 10, 2001.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; John Nelson; 2001.


Utah and the American West and LDS cultural, social, and religious history (20th century Western & Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.VII, 2007).

Register of Carl E. Nelson papers
Garrett Schroath
2011 April 20
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States