The papers of wildlife illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Paul Bransom measure 10.1 linear feet and date from 1862 to 1985. Almost half of the collection is comprised of Bransom's correspondence, which is particularly rich in documenting his early career as an illustrator, and his relationships with authors, art editors, and publishers from the 1900s to the 1940s. Correspondence also contains a wealth of cards, many of which bear reproductions or original artwork by his many artist friends. Also found in the papers are biographical essays, certificates and awards, memorabilia, writings and notes, business files, bibliographies, an artwork inventory, exhibition catalogs, clippings, printed illustrations, pamphlets, photographs, scrapbooks, and original artwork.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of wildlife illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Paul Bransom measure 10.1 linear feet and date from 1862 to 1985. Almost half of the collection is comprised of personal and professional correspondence. Also found in the papers are biographical essays, certificates and awards, memorabilia, writings and notes, business files, bibliographies, an artwork inventory, exhibition catalogs, clippings, printed illustrations, pamphlets, photographs, scrapbooks, and original artwork.
The correspondence is particularly rich in documenting Bransom's early career as an illustrator, and his relationships with authors, art editors, and publishers from the 1900s to the 1940s. Correspondence also contains a wealth of cards, many of which bear reproductions or original artwork by his many artist friends. Correspondence often bears notes made by Bransom about the correspondent. Further documentation of Bransom's career is found in Notes and Writings, including narrative writings and lists of artwork and contacts; and in Personal Business Records, which contain records of transactions with various clients and galleries, as well as bibliographies of works illustrated by Bransom, and an art inventory created posthumously by Mario Cesar Romero.
Printed materials include exhibition records, which are often annotated, and copies of Bransom's illustrations and cartoons as they appeared in print. Also found are clippings about Bransom and other artists he knew; newsletters, pamphlets, and other materials related to organizations with which he was involved; and a copy of his book on animal drawing technique. Photographs depict Bransom, his childhood and family, homes and studios, friends, travels, and other events. Many of the photographs bear identifications by Bransom. The collection has a voluminous Artwork series, which includes two sketchbooks and hundreds of original sketches, drawings, and designs by Bransom, as well as a series of prints and original artwork by others.
The collection is arranged into 8 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1862-1979 (Box 1, OV 12; 6 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1903-1984 (Box 1-5; 4.5 linear feet)
Series 3: Notes and Writings, circa 1927-1973 (Box 5, OV 12; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, circa 1912-1981 (Box 5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Materials, circa 1905-1985 (Boxes 6-7, OV 12; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1885-1976(Boxes 7-8, 10; 1.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Scrapbooks, circa 1880s-1970s(Boxes 8 and 11; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 8: Artwork, 1903-1976 (Boxes 8-9, OV 13-22; 1.7 linear feet)
Wildlife illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Paul Bransom was born in 1885 in Washington, D.C., and grew up sketching animals in his yard and at the National Zoo. He began work as a draftsman for the U.S. Patent Office at age 13, and went on to produce technical drawings for the Southern Railroad Co. and General Electric. He moved to New York City in 1903 and worked for the New York Evening Journal from 1904 to 1907, where he produced the comic "News from Bugville" and other cartoons. During this time, he befriended several New York artists in the cartoon trade, including James Swinnerton, Charles Sarka, T.S. Sullivant, Walt Kuhn, Rudy Dirks, and Gus Mager. He was a member of the Kit Kat Club and joined in their sketch classes and annual skelters. He sketched frequently at the New York Zoological Park, and was eventually invited by the director to use a room in the lion house as his studio. He married Grace Bond, an actress, in 1906.
Bransom's break as an illustrator came from art editor George Horace Lorimer of the Saturday Evening Post, who bought several of his drawings for Post covers around 1907. Bransom began illustrating animal stories regularly in magazines such as Delineator, Country Gentleman, An American Boy, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies Home Journal. In 1912, he illustrated a special edition Jack London's Call of the Wild, and soon after that, the first illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. During his career, Bransom illustrated 45 books and was a regular contributor to 35 magazines, illustrating works by popular writers such as Albert Payson Terhune, J. Frank Dobie, and Emma-Lindsay Squier. He also created animal scenes for advertisements.
In 1917, Bransom built a studio on Canada Lake, NY, in the Adirondacks and he and his wife split their time between the Canada Lake home and a winter apartment on 67th Street in New York City. In 1949, he bought a second summer home near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in what is now the Grand Teton National Forest. In Wyoming, Bransom hosted artist friends and taught outdoor classes for the Teton Artists Associated until 1962, when his health forced him from the high altitudes back to Canada Lake, NY.
Bransom held his first solo exhibition in 1925 at Arden Gallery in New York City, and had at least 18 solo exhibitions around the country throughout his life, including at the Warren E. Cox Gallery (1929), Charles Scribner's Gallery (1935), the New York Zoological Park (1942), the Society of Illustrators (1942), the Denver Museum (1950), and the Woodmere Gallery in Philadelphia (1963). He often exhibited in the annual group exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, a group he co-founded in 1960 and served as its second president, from 1968 until his death. Bransom was also a member of the American Watercolor Society, the American Artists' Professional League, the Salmagundi Club, the Dutch Treat Club, and the Boone and Crockett Club. In 1974 Bransom was granted an honorary Doctor of Art degree from Weber State College in Ogden, Utah. In 1975 he won the Benjamin West Clinedinst Memorial Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting.
Paul Bransom died in 1979 at the age of 94.
The Archives of American Art holds the Helen Ireland Hays papers related to Paul Bransom, which contains 36 audio cassette recordings of Hays interviewing Bransom, among other materials. The Special Collections Division of the Stewart Library at Weber State College in Ogden, Utah holds the Paul Bransom Collection, a collection containing artwork, books from Bransom's personal library, manuscript material and photographs donated by Bransom in 1972 and 1974.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of 17 items lent for microfilming (reel D254). Some of this material was later donated to the Archives, portions of which were then transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library and are available in their vertical file on Bransom. Loaned material is not described in this finding aid.
The material on reel D254 was lent for microfilming in 1966, portions of which were subsequently donated along with additional papers by Bransom between 1972 and 1975, and by his nephew's wife, Althea Bond, in 1980. Mario Cesar Romero, identified by an AAA collector as the "Curator of the Bransom collection" and creator of an inventory of Bransom's artwork, donated additional materials to the Archives in 1983 and 1986, including printed materials, photographs, correspondence, records from the artwork inventory project, and scrapbooks. In 1985, James Zayicek donated 11 sketches and eight greeting cards via Helen Ireland Hays, a writer and a noted friend of Bransom's.
The bulk of the collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment.
The Paul Bransom papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.