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Abbott Handerson Thayer and Thayer family papers, 1851-1999, bulk 1881-1950

view Abbott Handerson Thayer and Thayer family papers, 1851-1999, bulk 1881-1950 digital asset number 1
Thayer, Abbott Handerson, 1849-1921
Foster, Ben
White, Stanford
Roosevelt, Theodore
Gellatly, John
Plunket, Jean Reasoner
Thayer, Gladys
Meryman, Richard Sumner
Kent, Rockwell
Reasoner, David
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne
Taber, E. M.
Faulkner, Barry
Freer, Charles Lang
Fuertes, Louis Agassiz
Emerson, Ralph Waldo
Colman, Samuel
Emerson, Edward Waldo
French, Daniel Chester
Dow, Thomas Millie
Thayer, Kate Bloede
Sainsbury, Everton
Thayer, Gerald Handerson
Thayer, Emma B.
Cortissoz, Royal
Thayer, Mary
Place of publication, production, or execution:
United States
Physical Description:
4.9 linear feet
Access Note / Rights:
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The papers of painter and naturalist, Abbott Handerson Thayer, and the Thayer family date from 1851 to 1999, with the bulk of the material dating from 1881 to 1950, and measure 4.9 linear feet. Thayer's painting career, interest in concealing coloration in nature, and relationships with artists, patrons, family, and friends are documented through correspondence, writings, scattered legal and financial records, printed materials, a scrapbook, biographical material, and photographs. The collection also contains family papers created by his second wife, Emma Beach Thayer, his son Gerald, his daughters Mary and Gladys, and Gladys' husband David Reasoner, who managed Thayer's estate after his death.
Scattered Biographical Material includes a brief autobiographical statement and chronology by Abbott Thayer, lists of artworks by Abbott Thayer and Gladys Thayer Reasoner, and biographical information about Thayer's granddaughter, Jean Reasoner Plunket. Two linear feet of family correspondence includes Abott Thayer's correspondence with patrons Charles L. Freer and John Gellatly; with many artists, several of whom were close friends, including Samuel Colman, Thomas Millie Dow, Daniel Chester French, Richard Meryman, Everton Sainsbury, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and E. M. Taber; and former students, such as Ben Foster and Barry Faulkner; and with other friends, many of them prominent members of society, such as Samuel Clemens, Royal Cortissoz, Edward Waldo Emerson, and Stanford White. Also found is Thayer's correspondence with scientists and naturalists discussing his theories on protective coloration in nature. Correspondence of his second wife Emma Beach Thayer, his first wife, Kate Bloede Thayer, his daughter, Gladys Thayer Reasoner, her husband and executor of Thayer's estate, David Reasoner, and other family members are also included.
Writings and notes by Thayer record his thoughts on concealing coloration, nature, restoration of artwork, and other topics. Writings by others include those by Emma Beach Thayer, daughters Mary and Gladys, and Thayer scholars. The collection also contains correspondence of David Reasoner and other family members, as well as financial and legal documents regarding the estate of Abbott Handerson Thayer and Emma Beach Thayer. Additional financial and legal material includes ledgers, accounts statements, bills, a patent granted to Thayer and Gerome Brush, legal agreements, property deeds, and a map of Thayer's property.
Printed material includes books, including one written by Theodore Roosevelt in response to Thayer's book on concealing coloration; newspaper and magazine clippings, and exhibition announcements and catalogs. Photographs are of Abbott Thayer, his wife Emma; his studio and home in Dublin, New Hampshire; friends, including Rockwell Kent and Ralph Waldo Emerson; and of unidentified people. Artwork includes a few drawings by Thayer, drawings and paintings by his children, and sketchbooks belonging to David Reasoner and Jean Reasoner Plunket. The collection also includes one large scrapbook kept by David Reasoner documenting Abbott Thayer's artwork.
Abbott Handerson Thayer and Thayer family papers, 1851-1999, bulk 1881-1950. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Additional Forms:
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Types of materials that have not been digitized include certain printed materials and financial records, unidentifed photographs and photographs of artwork, and certain items related to others, as noted in the folder lists for each series.
Location of Originals:
Reel 48: Originals returned to Anne Whiting after microfilming.
Reel 3417: Originals returned to Jean Plunket after microfilming.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Use Note:
Reel 3417 (art works): Publication or reproduction must be obtained from: Jean Reasoner Plunket, 5301 41st Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015.
Related Materials:
Anne Whiting, a niece of Abbott Handerson Thayer, loaned a diary kept by Thayer, a "Family Record" written by William Henry Thayer, correspondence, printed material, and photographs for microfilming in 1971. These items were returned to Whiting after microfilming and are available to researchers on reel 48. In 1985 Jean Reasoner Plunket, Thayer's granddaughter, loaned original artwork by Thayer which was returned to her after microfilming on reel 3417. These materials are not included in the container listing of the finding aid.
The Archives of American Art holds several collections related to Abbott Handerson Thayer. These include research material on Abbott Handerson Thayer and other artists, 1895-1990, donated by Thomas B. Brumbaugh; the Abbott Handerson Thayer letter and drawings to Caroline Peddle Ball, circa 1890-1893; "The Drawings of Abbott Thayer", by Elizabeth Robins Pennell, circa 1921; and the Nelson and Henry C. White research material, 1898-1978, which includes many letters, photographs, and other material originally belonging to the Thayer family.
Biography Note:
Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) was a painter from Dublin, N.H. Thayer attended the Brooklyn Academy of Design and the École des Beaux-Arts; published the book "Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom" in 1909 with his son Gerald.
The Abbott Handerson Thayer and Thayer Family papers were donated in 1999 by Abbott Thayer's great-grandson, John Plunket, who received the papers from his mother Jean Reasoner Plunket. In 2005 Bruce Gimelson donated additional material purchased from relatives of Emma Beach Thayer.
Digitization Note:
The papers of Abbott Handerson Thayer and the Thayer family in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The the bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 10,075 images.
Location Note:
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Camouflage (Biology)
Art and camouflage
Record number:
Lives of American Artists
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
Additional Online Media:

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