Collection ACC-MSS 015 - Carl L. Tarnstrom Joke Collection

Identity elements

Reference code


Name and location of repository

Level of description



Carl L. Tarnstrom Joke Collection


  • Mid-1940s to early-1980s (Creation)


2 linear feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

Father, teacher, and connoisseur of one-liners and zingers are just a few of the hats known to have been worn by Carl Leverne Tarnstrom. He was born October 17, 1910 in Lindsborg, Kansas where he completed his undergraduate education at Bethany College. Carl spent most of the remainder of his life in California working on graduate studies at the University of Southern California and teaching. The majority of his time as an educator was spent at Palo Verde High School in Blythe, California. He died in Riverside, California on June 2, 1987. Today he is survived by his son Guy Tarnstrom, his daughter-in-law Dianne Tarnstrom, and his three grandchildren: Annelise (Tarnstrom) Osborne, Kari Tarnstrom, and Kristin Tarnstrom. Along with his friends and loved ones, Carl left behind his "Gag File" filled with thousands upon thousands of jokes and gags he collected in hopes that professional entertainers and people in all walks of life will, as he writes, "find mirth and relaxation from tension in seeing the funny side of the too often tragic realities which we face day-in and day-out."

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Carl L. Tarnstrom Joke Collection is made up of a series of jokes, gags, and “odds and ends” collected and typed up by Tarnstrom himself for a period of over thirty years between the mid-1940s to the early-1980s. He gathered these jokes from television, radio, newspapers, professional comedians, and personal friends. The topics covered by his plethora of collected jokes include: politics, family, athletics, money and financing, sex, marriage, children, gambling, drinking, and many more. In some of the folders, Tarnstrom made several comments and edits to the jokes. In his introductory statement Tarnstrom states that he claims no originality for the content of his collection. This statement is located in the “Miscellaneous - Not placed yet” folder that, unlike the others, contains several pages of “unplaced” jokes and a few humorous anecdotes and skits. The “Notes” folder contains many pages of notes written by Tarnstrom as he formed and edited his collection’s table of contents and introductory statement, and also contains a few original drawings.

System of arrangement

The original arrangement of the collection was in binders. The binders were numerically ordered, each with one or more topics for jokes. However, as the binders were deteriorating, the contents were transferred into folders with one binder’s contents per folder along with the cover picture that had been glued to the front of the binder. The numerical designation made by Tarnstrom on each binder is noted on each folder. In the instances where a binder covered more than one topic, Tarnstrom separated them with dividers. These dividers have been removed and replaced with sheets of acid-free paper with the original divider designations written on them. Two of the thirty folders in this collection are not numerically designated and have been place after the twenty-eighth folder.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

The collection is open to researchers. No materials may be checked out or borrowed from the Emerson College Archives & Special Collections.

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Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Some materials may be subject to copyright. No part of the materials protected by copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the copyright holder. Researchers are required to seek permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and/or publish materials under copyright.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

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No further materials are expected.

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Sources used

Some information on the life of Carl L. Tarnstrom was provided by the collection donor, Dianne Tarnstrom.

"California Death Records." California Death Records. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
"Christopher Tarnstrom's Obituary on The Concord Journal." The Concord Journal., 23 July 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
"Travel Back 99 Years of Palo Verde High." Latest News - Palo Verde Valley Blythe/Quartzsite Times - Blythe, California and Quartzsite, Arizona. 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

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