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The records of the Boston picture frame company Foster Brothers measure 12.5 linear feet and date from 1875 to 1973 with the bulk of the material falling between 1893 and 1942. Correspondence, stock records, financial records, writings, miscellaneous business records, printed material, scrapbooks, and photographs document the history of the picture frame company that operated a factory, retail store, and wholesale and mail order businesses between 1893 and 1942. A small number of family papers are included, including items from periods when Foster Brothers was not in business. Scattered throughout the collection are small slips of papers with explanatory notes and background information supplied by the donor, Helen Foster Osborne.
Correspondence mostly concerns routine business with suppliers, distributors, and wholesale and retail customers and is relatively sparse for 1897-1941. Foster Brothers' last year in business, 1942, is well documented and includes letters from S. W. Osborne (Margaret Foster's husband) written while traveling to meet with wholesale clients in cities throughout the Northeast and Midwest.
Stock records include stock cards, inventory records and price lists. Also found are a large number of paper stencils that were used to transfer carving designs to frames, and extensive drawings of frames and moldings including finished, colored drawings by master craftsman C. F. Richter.
Financial records consist mainly of routine accounting records, but also include annual financial reports, orders, and sales records. Among the writings and lists are an unsigned article concerning Foster Brothers' craftsmen and their early use of machinery. Notes include material for a history of mirrors by Helen J. Foster, and "The Art of Framing" by John R. Foster.
The majority of printed material relates to advertising and consists of catalogs and brochures about frames, mirrors, and published reproductions. Eight volumes of scrapbooks also contain printed material consisting of advertising, brochures and catalogs, form letters, and reproductions of miniatures and silhouettes published by Foster Brothers.
Family papers consist of a small number of personal papers of the founders, John Roy and Stephen Bartlett Foster, and also of Helen Foster Osborne (John's daughter). They include Foster Oborne's 1973 reminiscence of having her portrait painted by William Paxton in 1923, John R. Foster's personal account book, and Foster Osborne's correspondence with Ernest Donnelley concerning the sale of printing plates and dies from the miniature reproduction business.
Photographs are of founders John Roy and Stephen Bartlett Foster, some of their employees, and early pictures of the first Foster Brothers frame factory on Cambridge Street.
Foster Brothers records, 1875-1973, bulk, 1893-1942. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Established by Stephen Bartlett Foster (1856-1932) and John Roy Foster (1863-1931), Foster Brothers opened in 1893 at 164 Boylston Street, Boston. Makers of picture frames, mirrors, etc. Also sold prints and reproductions.
Donated 1973-1976 by Helen Foster Osborne.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001