14.46 Cubic feet (consisting of 30.5 boxes, 1 folder, 11 oversize folders, 1 map case folder, 1 flat box (partial).)
A New York bookseller, Warshaw assembled this collection over nearly fifty years. The Warshaw Collection of Business Americana: Food forms part of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Subseries 1.1: Subject Categories. The Subject Categories subseries is divided into 470 subject categories based on those created by Mr. Warshaw. These subject categories include topical subjects, types or forms of material, people, organizations, historical events, and other categories. An overview to the entire Warshaw collection is available here: Warshaw Collection of Business Americana
Scope and Contents:
This material consists primarily of advertising cards, bills/receipts, printed advertisements, catalogues, price lists, business cards, circulars, scattered correspondence on letterhead stationery, import/export documents, fruit crate and other types of labels, publications of various types and pamphlets and books from companies involved in the food industry. These businesses include manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers of food and food products, growers, commission merchants, importers and stores selling food either exclusively, as in grocery stores or food emporiums, or together with other products in general stores. The bulk of the material consists of bills and receipts and trade cards.
The large collection of fruit crate labels consists of three boxes, primarily from growers of apples and pears in the Pacific Northwest. The images on these labels range from caricatures, primarily of Indians, to lush images of the fruits being sold. There are numerous pictures depicting or related to the names of the growers or the brand name being used, such as Mountain Brand, Pyramid Brand, Eskimo Brand, a wren for F.O. Renn or a strongman for E.C. Sampson. Some of the more common images in addition to the Indians and fruit include cowboys, children, flowers, birds and river and mountain views. Several of the images and/or brand names appear on the labels of more than one company.
There are a number of publications included in the materials. There are magazines and journals, both for the trade and for the general public. There are books published about a particular type of food, often by a manufacturer or distributor of that food. There are also histories of some of the companies, usually written by or for the company. Also, in this category, are catalogs of large metropolitan food stores such as S.S. Pierce of Boston, the Joseph R. Peebles' Sons Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Park & Tilford and Francis H. Leggett, both of New York.
Materials in boxes one through eighteen are organized alphabetically by name of company. All materials relating to a particular company, with the exception of import/export documents, publications (if that is the only material) and fruit crate labels, are included with the company related materials.
Boxes eighteen through twenty-one contain the fruit crate labels. These are arranged alphabetically by company. The first folder of each letter contains labels of companies for which there is only one label. The last folder contains labels with no company name. Box twenty-two contains other food labels which are primarily from cans and jars. They are arranged alphabetically, first by type of product such as corn and corn products, ketchup, pasta and peaches, then alphabetically by company for companies with a large number of labels and lastly a folder containing labels with no company name. The labels in the product folders are arranged within the folder first alphabetically by company followed by labels with no company name.
Boxes twenty-three through twenty-seven contain import/export documents. These are also arranged alphabetically by company in the same manner as the fruit crate labels. The import/export documents are primarily from the Port of Philadelphia. The documents cover goods coming into the port on sailing ships and, starting in the 1870's, steam ships and leaving the port on rail and river conveyances. The products were imported from such places as Cuba, Antigua, Trinidad, England, Italy, Germany and Singapore and included cocoanuts, pineapples, dried fruit and nuts, macaroni, cheese, sausages, cooked meats, pickled fish, spices and coffee and tea.
Box twenty-eight contains magazines and periodicals. Some of the publications include What to Eat from 1896 and 1899, The Dietetic Gazette from 1889, Culinary Review from 1943 and Wholesale Grocer. This box also contains correspondence and order forms relating to magazines and periodicals.
Box twenty-nine contains miscellaneous food publications. These are such things as account books, articles from other publications, publications on diet and infants and children and newsletters. Box thirty contains food related publications that are published by or about specific companies for which there is no other material. Box thirty also contains material relating to food equipment and manufacturing. This is arranged initially by company and then contains folders on canning and preserving and patents. The equipment manufactured includes such things as evaporators, sorters and washers.
Box thirty-one consists of publications about specific types of food and general works. The food types include publications about such foods as asparagus, milk and rice. These folders are arranged alphabetically by food type. General works consists of material which is not, or cannot be, related to a specific company or do not fit into one of the major categories set forth above. These are: general images which are not labels, advertising cards, correspondence, food instructions, legislation, miscellaneous price lists, railroad receipts and claims, recipes, shipping and tax stamps.
Food is arranged in nine subseries:
Manufacturers and Distributors of Food and Food Products
Magazines and Periodicals
Law & Legislation
General Works and Miscellaneous
Partial List of Company and Proprietor Names, General Materials:
American Fruit Growers Incorporated Ana-Co
Apple Growers Association
Associated Fruit Company Barnhill Fruit Company Bear Creek
Blue Mountain Fruit Exchange
Boehmer Incorporated Bolinger Orchards
Brewster Distribution Unit
Brewster-Bridgeport Growers Incorporated
Butler Trading Company Incorporated Buck Fruit Company
Cascadian Fruit Shippers Incorporated
Cashmere Fruit Exchange Cashmere Fruit Growers Union Chelan Falls Orchards
Clark-Baker Company Columbia Basin Orchards Connell Brothers, Company D
Dahn, Floyd Fruits Incorporated
Davidson Fruit Company Del Rio Orchards
Denison, H.S. and Company
Denney and Company Dow Fruit Company
Duddy-Robinson Incorporated/ Thompson-Duddy-Robinson Company
Duthie and Company Earl Fruit Company
East Wenatchee Fruit Growers
Entiat Fruit Growers League
Fairview Ranch Company
Foster's, Myron Hesperian Orchards Fruitland Fruit Association
Fruit Sales Company Incorporated
Gellatly Fruit Company
Greig, W.M.-Bonanza Orchard
Growers Service Company
Hafener Fruit Company
Haskell Packing Company
Hood River Fruit Company
Hood River Produce Exchange
Independent Fruit Shippers
Jennings Fruit Company
Kelly Brothers Company Incorporated
Koon Tai and Company
Koop, The C.M. Company
Lake Chelan Fruit Growers
Lake Chelan Fruit Growers Union
Lake Entiat Growers, Incorporated
Lippmann, J & G
Mad River Orchard
Malott Growers Union
Manson, A. Fruit Growers
Marsh, A.E. Company
Methow-Pateros Growers Incorporated
Mojonner & Sons
Monitor Federated Growers
Mutual Sales Agency
Nellis, F.E. & Company
North Pacific Sales Company
Northern Fruit Company
Northwestern Fruit Exchange
Nuchief Sales, Incorporated
Okanogan Growers Union
Olive Apple Company
Omak Sookum Growers
Oneonta Trading Corporation
Onnail Fruit Growers
Orando Community Packing
Pacific Fruit & Produce company
Paddock, C.R. & Company
Paxton Rivers Company Incorporated
Perhann Fruit Growers
Peshastin Fruit Growers Association
Plummer & Edwins
Renn, F.O. Fruit Company
Richey & Gilbert Company
Rivers, Burnand & Rivers
Rock Island Unit
Ryan Fruit Company
Sellers, Ben F. /Spinner Fruit Corporation/Sellers & Spinner
Sgobel & Day
Smith & Holden
Spokane Fruit Growers Company
Stadelman Fruit Incorporated
Standfield Fruit Growers Union
Steinhardt & Kelly Incorporated
Sterlin-Slater Fruit Growers
Stratford Orchards Company
Stubbs Fruit & Storage Company
Sunnyslope Fruit Exchange
Tedford, R.A. & Company
Tonasket Federated Growers
Trunkey-Wolfe Company, Incorporated
Wade, J.M. Fruit Company
Wagner, E. & Son
Washington Fruit & Produce Company
Weaver, C.H. & Company
Wells & Wade Company
Wenatchee Apple Land Company
Wenatchee District Co-Op Association
Wenatchee Fruit & Storage Company
Wenatchee Fruit & Warehouse Company
Wenatchee North Central Fruit Distributers
Wenatchee Produce Company
Wenatchee Valley Fruit Exchange
Wenatchee-Beebe Orchard Company
Wenatchee-Northern Warehouse and Marketing Company
Wenatchee-Okanogan Warehouse Company
Western Fruit & Produce Company, Incorporated
White Brothers & Crum
Wright Fruit Company
Yakima County Horticultural Union
Yakima Fruit Growers Association
Yakima Fruit Growers Exchange
Partial List of Company and Proprietor Names, Oversize Materials:
An & Company, Shredded Coconut, Location unknown
Armour Packing Company, White Label Soups, Kansas City, MO
Price, Joseph J., Dealer in Family Groceries, Wines, Liquors, and Imported Cigars, Albany, NY
Procter & Gamble Company Crisco, Cincinnati, OH
Rowland, James and Company Fancy Groceries, Teas, and Coffees Location unknown
Royal Cocoanut Company, New York, NY
Schepp, L. and Company Schepp's Cocoanut, New York, NY
Snow, F.H. Canning Company
Stickney & Poor's, Premium Spices and Mustards Location unknown
Stone, Arthur and Company Wholesale Grocers, New Orleans, LA
Thurber, H.K. & F.B. and Company Grocer, New York, NY
United Fruit Company Bananas, Boston, MA
Washington Dehydrated Food Company Washington Brand Dehydrated Apples Yakima, WA
Washington Frosted Foods, Inc.
Wells, Miller & Provost Wholesaler Warehouse New York, NY
Wendell, Jacob L. Pickling and Preserving Philadelphia, PA
Wholesale Grocers and Commission Merchants Petersburg, VA
Worth, William E. and Company Wilmington , NC
Young & Lyon, Providence, RI
Materials in the Archives Center:
Archives Center Collection of Business Americana (AC0404)
Forms Part Of:
Forms part of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana.
Series 1: Business Ephemera
Series 2: Other Collection Divisions
Series 3: Isadore Warshaw Personal Papers
Series 4: Photographic Reference Material
Food is a portion of the Business Ephemera Series of the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Accession AC0060 purchased from Isadore Warshaw in 1967. Warshaw continued to accumulate similar material until his death, which was donated in 1971 by his widow, Augusta. For a period after acquisition, related materials from other sources (of mixed provenance) were added to the collection so there may be content produced or published after Warshaw's death in 1969. This practice has since ceased.
Collection is open for research. Some items may be restricted due to fragile condition.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The collection is divided into four series. Series 1: Oral History Transcripts, 1982-1991 are transcribed versions of the oral interviews. Correspondence and/or notes pertaining to the interviewed individual collected or written by the interviewer are filed in this series following the transcription. The majority of the oral histories were done by Lu Ann Jones between1985-1991. There are a few interviews done by Pete Daniel in the early 1980s and some reference copies of oral histories done elsewhere. This series is divided into eight sub-series: Sub-series 1a: Arkansas, Sub-series 1b: Georgia, Sub-series 1c: Louisiana, Sub-series 1d: Mississippi, Sub-series 1e: North Carolina (including transcripts of the Mexican Workers Project in English and Spanish), Sub-series 1f: South Carolina, Sub-series 1g: Tennessee, and Sub-series 1h: Virginia. Files are arranged alphabetically by state and there under by name; within the file materials are arranged chronologically. Interview files may contain transcribed copies of the oral history interviews and subsequent draft copies with corrections by the interviewer or subject. The file also may contain distillations or edited versions of the interview done by the researcher for possible publication. Correspondence and notes files may include Life History Forms, correspondence, newspaper articles, interviewer's notes, business cards, and paper copies of photographs. Signed releases are on file in the registrar's office, NMAH, with copies in the control file of the Archives Center.
Series 2: Project Files and Reference Materials, 1928-2004 contain notes and correspondence kept by Jones in support of the oral history project. This series is divided into four sub-series: Sub-series 2a: State Files, Sub-series 2b: Project and Reference Files, 1985-1991, Sub-series 2c: Reference Publications, Pamphlets and Articles, 1928-2004 and Sub-series 2d: Computer Floppy Disks, 1985 and n.d. This series include bills, receipts, photo orders, travel brochures, reference materials, articles, correspondence, fundraising proposals and materials, USDA Extension Service bulletins, product cookbooks, and ephemera. These materials are valuable in documenting the methodology of the oral history project. They are also valuable in detailing the funding and maintenance of the project over its five year lifespan. There is also a great deal of information on black farmers. This series is arranged alphabetically by state and county or by article/publication title and within the file chronologically.
Series 3: Photographic Prints and Slides, 1987-1991 documenting the individuals interviewed, their homes and businesses, and geographic locations that were studied as part of the oral history project. The series is arranged numerically then chronologically by year. This series is followed by detailed photographic descriptions arranged alphabetically by state then subject. Photograph files contain photographs taken by a Smithsonian photographer or Jones and any copies of photographs supplied by the subject. Most of the photographs are black and white. Series 4: Original Interview Tapes and Reference Compact Discs (CD), 1986-1991 are the original tapes of the individual interviews conducted by Jones. This series is divided into eight sub-series. Reference numbers for CDs matching the original tapes are noted after the tapes. CDs 495-497 are for the Smithsonian Photographer's Show: Sub-series 4a: Arkansas, Sub-series 4b: Georgia, Sub-series 4c: Louisiana, Sub-series 4d: Mississippi, Sub-series 4e: North Carolina (within this sub-series are the transcripts of the Mexican Workers Project there may be an English language transcription as well as one in Spanish), Sub-series 4f: South Carolina, Sub-series 4g: Tennessee and Sub-series 4h: Virginia and Sub-series 4i: Miscellaneous and Duplicates, within the sub-series tapes are arranged alphabetically by subject.
Series 4: Original Oral History Interview Tapes and Reference Compact Discs (CDs) are the original inteview tapes and the accompanying reference copy cds.
Divided into 4 series: Series 1, Oral History Transcripts; Series 2, Project Files; Series 3, Photographic Prints and Slides, and Series 4, Original Oral History Interview Tapes and Reference Compact Discs (CDs) are the original inteview tapes and the accompanying reference copy cds.
The history of the American South is intricately entwined with the history of agriculture in North America. Until very recently, post 1950, the South was predominately rural and agricultural in both its production and culture. By the 1980s American agriculture, and particularly agriculture in the south, was under attack on various fronts especially cultural, financial, and technological. This assault threatened the very existence of the small and family farm. Many small farming operations went bankrupt and the face of American agriculture was becoming more corporate. It was amidst these troubling times that the Agricultural Division of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History undertook a massive project to document southern agriculture through oral history.
Through the efforts of NMAH staff, Pete Daniel, curator and project director, LuAnn Jones, researcher, and with countless support from staff photographers and personnel, Jones conducted approximately 159 interviews of individual persons, couples and sometimes small groups, in eight southern states over a five year period, 1986-1991. The project was funded by a series of grants from various sources. Not only were oral histories taken but also substantial documentary photographs and slides of the many interviewees. The interviews ranged from individual farmers to individuals at companies and corporations involved with agriculture. The range of crops discussed included tobacco, cotton and rice. The project interviewed a wide range of subjects: male, female, black, white, and Mexican. The project has contributed to at least two books, Mama Learned Us to Work: Farm Women in the New South by LuAnn Jones and Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall and others of which Jones was a contributing author.
#60 Warshaw Collection
#149 Kulp Collection of Account Books, 1755-1904
#475 Robinson and Via Family Papers
#481 William C. Kost Farm Records
#767 Timothy B. Bladen, Southern Maryland Photoprints
A transfer from the Division of History of Technology (Agriculture), NMAH, July 2001
Collection is open for research. Unprotected photographs must be handled with gloves.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The papers of Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) measure approximately 24.9 linear feet and date from 1804 to 1986 with the bulk of the material dating from 1939-1972. The collection documents the life, work, interests, and creative activities of the self-taught artist, who was best known for his shadow box constructions, assemblages, and collages. Papers include correspondence, diaries, source material, notes, writings, photographs, printed material, two- and three-dimensional ephemera, art works, and books, as well as a limited amount of legal and financial records, and some miscellaneous personal and family papers. The collection also includes the papers of his sister, Betty Cornell Benton, relating to the handling of Cornell's estate and the personal papers of his brother, Robert Cornell.
Scope and Content Note:
The Joseph Cornell papers measure approximately 24.9 linear feet and date from 1804 to 1986, with the bulk of the material dating from 1939-1972. The collection documents the life, work, interests, and creative activities of the self-taught artist, who was best known for his shadow box constructions, assemblages, and collages. Papers include correspondence, diaries, source material, notes, writings, photographs, printed material, two- and three-dimensional ephemera, art works, and books, as well as a limited amount of legal and financial records, and some miscellaneous personal and family papers (which comprise a series of biographical material). The collection also includes the papers of his sister, Betty Cornell Benton, relating to the handling of Cornell's estate and the personal papers of his brother, Robert Cornell.
Cornell's correspondence is typically with family, friends, artists, dealers, collectors, galleries, museums, admirers, individuals whom he admired, "helpers," and various charitable institutions. Correspondence generally concerns the creation, exhibition, sale, and reception of Cornell's art work; his "explorations" and other research and collecting activities; his preoccupations with certain individuals and motifs; his usual practices of giving gifts of art work to those he liked or admired and making donations to charities in aid of those less fortunate; and his relationships and shared interests with family, friends, and colleagues. Also found is correspondence between and amongst various other members of the Cornell family, including, most notably, Robert Cornell's letters to his sisters, Elizabeth (typically addressed as Nell) and Helen.
Dating from 1941 to 1972, Cornell's diaries span almost the entirety of his career as an artist, which began in earnest when he left his job at the Traphagen textile studio in 1940 to pursue art full-time and ended with his death in 1972. The diaries record his day-to-day experiences (usually comprising his thoughts, feelings, impressions, and ideas); and reflect on his various art projects (boxes, films, and collages) and creative activities ("explorations," and various other research, collecting, and publishing ventures). They also explore many of the themes and underlying concerns of his art work; and document his intense preoccupations with certain individuals, his wide-ranging interests, and the interconnectedness of his ideas and activities. Cornell's style of writing in the diaries tends to be stream-of-conscious with entries being composed of phrases, rather than complete sentences and with the progression of passages being more poetic and associative than either logical or narrative. He tended to compose by hand, occasionally typing up his notes into more formal entries, and also to use abbreviations for oft-repeated words and initials for individuals. At times, his handwriting can be difficult to read, and his references can be difficult to decipher. It was also common practice for him to review or revisit previous entries at various points in time, often making revisions or comments on them with dated annotations in the margins or on the reverse side of a page.
Cornell's source material is largely comprised of files of newspaper and magazine clippings, cutouts, notes, writings, book excerpts, photostats (or stats), prints, postcards, art reproductions, and other printed material. Some files are devoted to people (ballerinas, actresses, singers, artists, and writers) and topics (astronomy, romantic and modern ballet, birds, films, literature, music, plants, and science, among others). Other files relate to specific art works, "explorations," publishing projects, and exhibitions. Source material documents Cornell's preoccupation with certain individuals (past and present), events, subjects, and motifs; the development of some of his major "explorations" and their influence on his various artistic and commercial projects; and his work on certain box constructions and collages, publishing ventures, and exhibition catalogues. Source material also sheds light on Cornell's efforts to gain access to the past; his interest in the symbolism of images and objects; the linkages he found between seemingly unrelated things; and the connections between his many creative endeavors.
Ephemera and artifacts include various objects, mementos, and items of memorabilia, some of which were accumulated by Cornell (in much the same way that he collected his source material) and some of which are of uncertain origin. For Cornell, items such as these were not merely inanimate objects, but were instead evocative of past worlds and capable of bringing the past into the present (an idea which he often expressed in his diaries as the "metaphysique d'ephemera"). He seems to have used some of these items in a layout he designed for Good Housekeeping. Other items may have been used as source material for some of his box constructions.
The collection also houses photographs of Cornell, his family, art work, other artists, and friends, as well as photographs taken by various individuals and publicity photographs from the New York City Ballet. Also found are scattered works of art, including collage fragments and Rorschachs (or ink blot drawings) by Cornell, collages by Cornell's sister, Betty Cornell Benton, on which he collaborated, and a box by Christine Kaufman, which was a gift to Cornell. The books in the collection most likely comprise the remainder of Cornell's library, which was transferred to the Joseph Cornell Study Center, and include some that seem to have belonged to his sister, Betty. Printed material includes various publications and clippings collected by Cornell apart from that which he collected as source material. Writings about Cornell include an article by the poet, Mina Loy, and copies of various theses, presentations, and articles by graduate students in art history received by Benton (who assisted them in their research).
The Joseph Cornell Estate Papers consist of correspondence relating to Betty Cornell Benton's administration of the part of Cornell's estate for which she was responsible and legal documents relating to her various legal disputes with the executors of the estate, as well as a limited amount of printed material, some of which was originally accumulated by Cornell and subsequently shared with Benton, and miscellaneous papers belonging to Benton and their mother, Helen S. Cornell. Estate Papers provide insight on the exhibition and sale of Cornell art works after his death; the disposition of his belongings (including art work, papers, books, records, and source material); and Benton's efforts to foster and safeguard the memory and legacy of Cornell. The Robert Cornell Papers include correspondence, writings, art works, photographs, printed material, and scattered financial and personal records, documenting the full and creative life Robert led despite being confined to a wheelchair. Their inclusion in the collection suggests the family's effort to foster Robert's memory.
The collection is arranged into eleven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1918-1972, 1975 (Box 1; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1909-1982 (Boxes 1-5, OV 31; 4.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Diaries, 1941-1973 (Boxes 6-10; 5 linear feet)
Series 4: Source Material, 1804-1972 (Boxes 11-18, 25-28, OV 29; 8.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Ephemera and Artifacts, 1858-1946 (Boxes 18, 23; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1905-1972 (Boxes 18, 28, OV 30; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Art Works, circa 1966-1971 (Boxes 19, 23; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 8: Books and Printed Material, 1806-1968 (Boxes 19, 23; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 9: Writings about Cornell, 1950, circa 1975-1980 (Box 19; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 10: Joseph Cornell Estate Papers, circa 1911, 1944-1986 (Boxes 19-22; 3.5 linear feet)
Series 11: Robert Cornell Papers, 1924-1965 (Boxes 24, 28; 0.4 linear feet)
Joseph Cornell, assemblagist, collagist, and filmmaker, was born on December 24, 1903 in Nyack, New York. He was the oldest son of Joseph I. Cornell, a textile salesman and designer, and Helen Storms Cornell, and had two younger sisters, Elizabeth (b. 1905), nicknamed Nell and later Betty, and Helen (b. 1906), and a younger brother, Robert (b. 1910), who suffered from cerebral palsy. Cornell shared close relationships with his siblings, and was especially attached to his brother whom he took care of as an adult. His fondest childhood memories included family Christmas celebrations, outings to Manhattan where he saw vaudeville shows and strolled around Times Square, and trips to Coney Island where he encountered penny arcade machines. These childhood memories, among others, inspired some of the themes later explored in his art work.
After his father's death in 1917, Cornell was sent to study at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He remained there for four years, but left without receiving a diploma. During this time, the family moved from Nyack to Bayside, Queens, where they lived in a series of rented houses. Cornell rejoined his family in 1921, at which time he went to work as a salesman in the Manhattan office of a textile wholesaler, the William Whitman Company. He joined the Christian Science church in the mid-1920s, and in 1929, the family bought a house at 37-08 Utopia Parkway in Flushing, where he resided for the rest of his life, living there with his mother and brother after both his sisters married and moved away.
During the 1920s, Cornell developed his passion for walking the city streets and taking in their sights, sounds, and impressions; browsing in the secondhand bookshops along Fourth Avenue; and collecting material such as books, prints, postcards, and printed and three-dimensional ephemera. He cultivated his growing interest in culture and the arts by attending opera and ballet performances, seeing plays (the 1922 play Rain, which starred Jeanne Eagels, was among his favorites), visiting galleries and museums, reading, and going to the movies.
In 1931, Cornell began to frequent the Julien Levy Gallery, where he encountered Surrealist art for perhaps the first time. Around this time, he created his first works of art - a series of black-and-white collages composed from cutouts of nineteenth-century engravings - inspired by Max Ernst's collages, in particular his collage-novel, La Femme 100 tetes (1929). Cornell went on to create three-dimensional works of art such as pill boxes and a glass bell series (consisting of objects arranged under a bell jar). His work, including several collages and a glass bell, was first exhibited as part of the groundbreaking "Surrealisme" show at the Levy Gallery in January 1932. He also designed the cover of the show announcement. His first one-man show at the gallery, "The Objects of Joseph Cornell," followed in the fall of 1932. (It was seven years before his next solo show.) By this time, Cornell had been laid off from his job at Whitman's. He was out of work for several years before getting a job as a textile designer at the Traphagen Commercial Textile Studio in 1934. During the next several years, he continued to work on his art at night.
Around this time, Cornell began collecting movies and movie stills, and embarked upon various film-related projects. In 1933, he wrote a scenario for a silent movie, Monsieur Phot. A few years later, he made his first film, Rose Hobart (1936), comprised of re-edited footage from the B-movie, East of Borneo (1931), which starred the actress, Rose Hobart. And he began work on a trilogy of collage-films - The Children's Party, Cotillion, and The Midnight Party (circa 1937). He then took a break from making films until the mid-1950s, but continued to collect film-related material, which he began to incorporate into his other art work.
In 1936, Cornell constructed his first glass-fronted shadow box, Untitled (Soap Bubble Set), which was included that same year in the "Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, along with a cabinet box and several glass bells. In creating some of his other early boxes, he began the practice of using photo reproductions of images which he located in books and magazines, or in the Picture Collection at the New York Public Library, among other places. In his tribute boxes to actresses (1930s), he made use of publicity shots, and in the box, Dressing Room for Gilles (1939), he employed a photostat (or stat) of a reproduction of Jean-Antoine Watteau's painting, Gilles (1718).
Over the years, Cornell came into contact with various figures of the art, dance, and literary worlds. In the 1930s and 1940s, he met the artists, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and Salvador Dali, and befriended the artists, Lee Miller and Dorothea Tanning. His formative friendships during 1940s were with the artist, Pavel Tchelitchew, the writers, Charles Henri Ford (founder of the avant-garde periodical, View), Parker Tyler, and Donald Windham, and the balletomane, Lincoln Kirstein (founder of Dance Index). His other friends included the artists, Roberto Matta Echaurren and Robert Motherwell, the dancer and actress, Tilly Losch, and the poets, Mina Loy and Marianne Moore. In the 1950s, he associated with artists from the Abstract Expressionist movement, including Willem de Kooning, Jack Tworkov, and Mark Rothko. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he befriended many young artists, including Lee Bontecou and Carolee Schneeman, and young actresses, including Lois Smith, Gwen Van Dam, and Suzanne Miller, whom he sought to appear in his films. And in the early 1960s, he met the Pop artists, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol.
Beginning in 1940, Cornell developed a keen interest in dance, particularly ballet. Ballerinas from the Romantic era, such as Marie Taglioni and Fanny Cerrito, especially captured his imagination, inspiring such works as the box, Taglioni's Jewel Casket (1940), and the Portrait of Ondine "exploration," which comprised a portfolio of material relating to Cerrito and her famous role in the ballet, Ondine. Cornell was also fascinated with the modern counterparts of the Romantic ballerinas. In 1940, he befriended the Russian ballet dancer, Tamara Toumanova, and over the years produced many works in homage to her, including swan boxes (inspired by her role in Swan Lake), boxes made with scraps from her costumes, and scrapbooks of clippings, stats, and memorabilia. In 1949, he became enamored of the French dancer, Renee "Zizi" Jeanmarie, after seeing her perform in Carmen and meeting her backstage, and he created several dance-related boxes in her honor. In 1957, he met the ballerina, Allegra Kent. After meeting again in 1964, they became friends, and she served as the subject of several works based on images reproduced from a Parmigianino painting.
In December 1940, Cornell left his job at the Traphagen textile studio to pursue art full-time. He set up a workshop in the basement of the house on Utopia Parkway, which served as a combination studio and storage space. While he spent most days at home, he continued to make regular trips into Manhattan to wander around the city, visit with friends, and hunt for material. Around this time, he began to keep a diary, recording his day-to-day experiences (usually comprising his thoughts, feelings, impressions, ideas) on scraps of paper (including used envelopes, paper bags, napkins, and ticket stubs, among other fragments). He would then type up some of these notes into more formal diary entries, but most of them remained, in his word, "scribblings." Diary keeping eventually became one of his primary activities, along with box construction, collage, research, and collecting.
By this time, his art work was beginning to sell, yet he was not able to live from these sales alone. During the 1940s, he primarily supported himself by doing freelance work for magazines such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Good Housekeeping, supplying illustrations from his picture collection and designing covers and layouts. He also regularly contributed pieces to View and Dance Index. His notable contributions to View included "Enchanted Wanderer: Excerpt from a Journey Album for Hedy Lamarr" (December 1941), "Story Without a Name - for Max Ernst" (April 1942), and "The Crystal Cage [portrait of Berenice]" (January 1943). His projects for Dance Index included various collage-covers, essays, and thematic issues, such as the Summer 1944 issue, which comprised a 22-page tribute to the Romantic ballerinas, Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi, Cerrito, and Fanny Elssler. To supplement his income, Cornell also held brief positions at an electronics plant, the Allied Control Company, Inc. (in 1943), and at a nursery, the Garden Centre (in 1944).
In 1942, Cornell created one of his more memorable works, Medici Slot Machine, embarking upon a large series of Medici boxes in which he utilized reproductions of portraits by Italian Renaissance artists, such as Sofonisba Anguissola and Pinturicchio. His other boxes from this time period explored themes ranging from ballet, as in A Pantry Ballet (for Jacques Offenbach) (1942), to doomed love, as in Paolo and Francesca (1943-48), to nature, as in the Sand Boxes (1940s) and Sand Fountains (1950s). Cornell often created boxes in series, producing variations on a theme with variants that differed significantly or only slightly. Over the years, series included: Pink Palaces, Pharmacies, Habitats, Aviaries, Dovecotes, Hotels, Observatories, and Night Skies, among others.
In late 1945, Cornell joined the Hugo Gallery, which was run by Alexander Iolas, and a year later mounted the show, "Romantic Museum at the Hugo Gallery: Portraits of Women by Joseph Cornell" (December 1946). He designed the exhibition catalog for this show, which consisted of portraits - box constructions, objects, and "dossiers" - of the opera singers, Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran, the ballerinas, Taglioni and Cerrito, and the actresses, Eleanora Duse, Jeanne Eagels, Greta Garbo, and Jennifer Jones, and which also featured one of his most famous boxes, Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) (1945-46).
In 1949, Cornell joined the Egan Gallery, which was run by Charles Egan. Around this time, he began creating his series of Aviary boxes, which explored the symbolism of birds and birdcages. He showed twenty-six of these box constructions in his first exhibition at the Egan Gallery, "Aviary by Joseph Cornell" (December 1949-January 1950). He created other series of whitewashed boxes, including the Dovecote series and a small group relating to the poet, Emily Dickinson. He then went on to explore the themes of astronomy and celestial navigation in the Observatory, Night Skies, and Hotel series. Works from these series were featured in his two remaining shows at the Egan Gallery, "Night Songs and Other Work" (December 1950-January 1951) and "Night Voyage" (February-March 1953). In the fall of 1953, sparked by seeing the painting, Figure Seated in a Cafe (1914), Cornell embarked upon a major series of bird constructions dedicated to the Cubist artist, Juan Gris. Notably, these were the only boxes he explicitly dedicated to another artist.
Over the next couple of years, Cornell's work was exhibited across the country. In 1955, he joined the Stable Gallery, which was run by Eleanor Ward. His first one-man show there, in the winter of 1955-56, was "Winter Night Skies," which featured various box constructions based on constellations. During the mid-1950s, he embarked upon a series of Sand Fountains (vertical standing boxes featuring a broken glass and sand that flowed through it when turned upside down), elaborating upon his earlier Sand Boxes (1940s). These boxes along with some of his other latest works, including the Bleriot boxes and the Space Object boxes (which comprised his final box series), were exhibited in his second and last show at the Stable Gallery, "Selected Works" (December 1957).
After leaving the Stable Gallery, Cornell had several dealers handle his work rather than allowing any one to assume too much control. Dealers included Richard Feigen (in Chicago and then in New York) and Irving Blum (in California), among others. Throughout his career, Cornell never liked selling his boxes. He was always reluctant to let his work go and became increasingly uneasy about the growing status of his work as a commodity. He preferred instead to make gifts of his art work to friends and individuals he admired (especially female ones).
In the mid-1950s, Cornell returned to making films. Rather than just splicing together found images as he had in his films of the 1930s, he began to collaborate with others to shoot original footage. He worked with the experimental filmmaker, Stan Brakhage, on two films, one about the Third Ave El which was about to be torn down ( Wonder Ring or Gnir Rednow) and the other about an old house in Cornell's neighborhood that was slated for demolition ( Centuries of June). Cornell then went on to make nine films with the filmmaker, Rudy Burckhardt, including Aviary, A Legend for Fountains, and Nymphlight, among others. In the late 1960s, he enlisted the help of Larry Jordan, who was also a filmmaker, in completing the trilogy of collage-films that he had begun in the 1930s.
Along with creating works of art and making films, Cornell was involved in a host of other creative endeavors throughout his career as an artist. These included: keeping a diary, which was for him another medium for exploring and expressing the themes, ideas, and concerns recurrent in his art work; carrying out "explorations," which typically involved conducting research, collecting material, and compiling files on persons or topics of interest to him; and other projects, such as publishing pamphlets (or brochures) dedicated to the nineteenth-century opera singers, Malibran and Giulia Grisi. Cornell's "explorations" clearly informed his artwork, but they were also works of art in and of themselves. He continually sought to share this work with an audience and twice had the opportunity to do so, when he exhibited versions of his Portrait of Ondine "exploration" at the Museum of Modern Art in 1945 and at the Wittenborn Bookstore in 1956.
Around the mid-1950s, Cornell returned to making collages as independent works of art. Unlike his earlier ones, which were composed from cutouts of black-and-white engravings, his latest collages were made with color images cut out of contemporary magazines and books. In these collages, he explored many of the same themes and preoccupations of his box constructions, including birds, as in Couleur de Peche (1967) and Untitled (Vierge Vivace) (1970), children's games, as in the Penny Arcade series (1960s), and actresses, as in The Sister Shades (1956). Towards the end of his career, collage became his principal medium.
By this time, Cornell was taking fewer trips into Manhattan. Instead, he spent more time at home or traveled only so far as downtown Flushing, where he frequented the public library, hunted for material in stores, such as Woolworth's, and passed time in the coffee-shops on Main Street. From this time on, he kept his diary with increasing regularity, taking down notations with more frequency and creating entries of greater length.
In 1961, fourteen of Cornell's boxes, including Medici Slot Machine, were exhibited as part of the "The Art of Assemblage" show at the Museum of Modern Art. As his biographer notes, Cornell came to view this show "as a turning point in his creative life," marking the "[fall] off in his work" that took place in the sixties (Solomon 271-2). He continued to work on boxes that he had begun long before, but, after this time, rarely if ever constructed new ones. Instead, he focused on making collages and became increasingly concerned with other projects, such as organizing his basement workshop, for which he hired various "helpers" or assistants (mostly young women) over the years. He also became more and more prone to obsessions (or preoccupations, as he called them) with various young women that he encountered both in fantasy (actresses on stage or in films) and in real life (working girls in the city, "teeners" on Main Street, or his female visitors and "helpers" at home). These preoccupations infused his diary writings, and inspired the keeping of "dossiers" on particular individuals and the creation of various collages dedicated to others, including most notably the Penny Arcade series dedicated to Joyce Hunter (or "Tina," as he referred to her in his writings).
After Robert's death in February 1965, Cornell created a series of collages in his memory, many of which incorporated his brother's drawings of animal characters. In January 1966, he exhibited some of these collages, alongside a selection of Robert's drawings, in a show at the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, "Robert Cornell: Memorial Exhibition." In 1967, there were two retrospective exhibitions of Cornell's work, "An Exhibition of Works by Joseph Cornell" at the Pasadena Art Museum and "Joseph Cornell" at the Guggenheim Museum. By now, Cornell was receiving considerable public recognition for his work. He had received his first profile (by Howard Griffin) in the December 1957 issue of Art News and, ten years later, was treated to a 12-page spread (by David Bourdon) in the December 1967 issue of Life magazine. He was also the recipient of various prizes for his art work, including the M.V Kohnstamm Prize at the Art Institute of Chicago's "62nd American Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture" in 1957 and the winning prize in India's first Triennale of Contemporary World Art in 1968.
In the last years of his life (especially from the time of his mother's death in the fall of 1966), Cornell suffered from severe depression and loneliness, and withdrew even further from the outside world. However, he still maintained relationships with various young friends and artists, who frequently visited Utopia Parkway and/or served as one of his assistants. He became more and more interested in sharing his work with a younger audience and his last two exhibitions in 1972 were expressly for children, "A Joseph Cornell Exhibition for Children" at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture and "Joseph Cornell - Collages and Boxes" at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
Cornell continued to work until the end of his life, "refurbishing" earlier boxes and creating memorial collages. Following prostate surgery in June 1972, he spent several months recuperating with family in Westhampton before returning to Utopia Parkway in November. He died of heart failure at home on December 29, 1972.
The biographical note draws heavily from Deborah Solomon's biography, Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1997), and Diane Waldman's book, Joseph Cornell: Master of Dreams (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002).
The Archives holds several collections of different provenance that relate to Joseph Cornell, including the small collections of Allison Delarue (comprised of two letters from Cornell, available on reel 2803), Muriel Streeter Schwartz (comprised of two letters from Cornell, available on reel 4283), Wayne Andrews (comprised of letters from Cornell and printed material), and Marion Netter (comprised of items received from Cornell). In addition, photographs of Cornell can be found amongst the Hans Namuth photographs and papers. Also found within the Archives is a transcribed interview of Cornell's sister, Elizabeth Cornell Benton, conducted on April 21, 1976 as part of the oral history program.
The bulk of Cornell's source material resides in the Joseph Cornell Study Center, Smithsonian American Art Museum, along with his library and record collection. Cornell's sister, Betty Cornell Benton, donated a portion of this material directly to SAAM (then known as the National Museum of American Art), occasioning the creation of the Study Center circa 1978. The bulk of the source material and library that she donated to AAA, including approximately 66 linear feet of three-dimensional and non-textual source material and 50 linear feet of books, was transferred to the Study Center in 1994 and 1995.
Originals of loaned material returned to the donor after microfilming include: some unidentified and miscellaneous correspondence; significant correspondence between Joseph Cornell and Helen S. Cornell; significant correspondence between Helen S. Cornell, family members and others; and some of Joseph Cornell's family correspondence and general correspondence from the Robert Cornell papers. The loaned material is available on microfilm reels 1055-1058 but is not described further in the Series Descriptions/Container Listing of this finding aid.
The Joseph Cornell papers were donated and microfilmed in several installments from 1974 to 1989 by Joseph Cornell's sister, Betty Cornell Benton. Most, but not all, of the correspondence, which was loaned for microfilming in 1974, was subsequently donated in 1989. Additional material was donated in 2004 by the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.
Use of the original papers requires an appointment.
The Joseph Cornell 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.