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The Dorn-Severini Historic Photography Collection: The Dorn Family

Here, we share biographical sketches of some of the key players in inspiring, shooting, and preserving the Dorn-Severini Historic Photography Collection. 

‚ÄčA Brief Biography of Daniel du Bouchet Dorn (1883-1956)

By Jarret Bird

The first Dorn in our story is Daniel du Bouchet Dorn (also written as Daniel B. Dorn, also called "Jilly"). He worked as a projectionist at one of the first nickelodeons in the area, in Asbury Park. He moved to Red Bank in 1916, working for both the Strand Theater and Empire Theater, and helping to start a projectionist union. 

Dorn later moved into photojournalism, shooting film for Fox Movietone News. By the 1930s, he founded Supreme Productions Movie Company in Red Bank with his son, Daniel Whitfield Dorn. They made a series of 35 “infomercials” filming towns in the tri-state area, with titles like “A Romance of Red Bank” and “A Romance of Freehold.” These whimsical films were actually vehicles to promote local businesses, schools, and churches, which paid a minimum of $50 to be featured. The films were massively popular, breaking attendance records at local theaters. (You can see more about these films in the "Dorn Films" section of this libguide.) 

Daniel B. Dorn passed in 1956. 

Daniel Whitfield. Dorn, Sr. (1910-2005)

By Charles Cochran                                                                 

Daniel B. Dorn's son, Daniel W. Dorn (sometimes incorrectly written Daniel Dorn, Jr., as he and his father had different middle names; sometimes written Daniel W. Dorn, Sr., and often called "Bud"), was born on September 2nd, 1910. Daniel Dorn was one of three, as he had one brother and one sister. From a young age, Daniel W. would watch his dad Daniel B. while he would work. Daniel W. learned everything he knew about the world of photography and cinematography from his father. As he stated in an interview with Gloria Stravelli,  “I'd go in there and help him and just learn. I learned to be a projectionist - I always had a job, he always had a job for me." He started working with his father in earnest in high school, especially on the aforementioned community booster films. Their assignments included a lot of travel though, and, eventually, Daniel W. wanted to settle down.  In 1937, he opened Dorn's Photography Shop and its sister business, Dorn's Photography Unlimited, in Red Bank (you can read more about this in the "Dorn Businesses" section of this libguide). He met and married Hilda West. They went on to have four children of their own. The business survived even when Daniel W. served during WWII as an aerial pilot. 

Daniel W. Dorn died in 2005 after a long and full life. You can read a wonderful oral history with him here

Daniel Whitfield Dorn, Jr.

By Matthew Elmenshawy

Daniel Whitfield Dorn's son, Daniel Whitfield Dorn, Jr. is a lifelong Monmouth County resident, a Monmouth University alum, and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Daniel Jr. is in the third generation in the line of Dorn photographers. After graduating from Red Bank High School in 1964, Dorn Jr. enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. In the late 1960s, Dorn Jr. married Judith Hoyt at the First Presbyterian Church in Red Bank, New Jersey. They had three children: Cassandra, Nancy, and Sarah. After working with his father for several years, Dorn Jr. took over the family business in 1972. The business closed in 2004. Dan Jr. still lives locally.

Kathy Dorn Severini and George Severini

By Emilie Gray

Kathy Dorn Severini (daughter of Daniel W. Dorn, Sr. and sister of Daniel W. Dorn, Jr.) was raised in Shrewsbury, NJ. She attended Vermont College from 1969 to 1971, where she earned an Associates in Fine Arts, and also studied social psychology. Kathy worked for more than 30 years as a photographer and manager in the family business. 

After the shop closed, Kathy began work as a Film Librarian for Meridian Health, but she and her husband, George Severini, took ownership of the family's photo archive and started Dorn’s Classic Images to try to answer continued demands for access to the images

George Severini was born in Long Branch and raised in Eatontown.  With a father in the military, he also spent a lot of time at Fort Monmouth.  He graduated from Monmouth University in 1970. Today, he is a well-known local musician and artist. 

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