The papers of painter, photographer, lithographer and industrial designer Charles Sheeler measure 4.9 linear feet and date from circa 1840s to 1966, with the bulk of the material dating from 1923-1965. The collection documents Sheeler's family, personal life and career through financial and medical records, awards, correspondence, writings, an autobiography, journal and notebooks, scrapbooks, exhibition catalogs and announcements, printed materials, photographs, funeral records and artwork by Sheeler and others. The collection is particularly rich in Sheeler's writings, and also includes Sheeler's industrial designs and manufactured artwork. Notable photographs include Sheeler with Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and John Marin.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of painter, photographer, lithographer and industrial designer Charles Sheeler measure 4.9 linear feet and date from circa 1840s to 1966, with the bulk of the material dating from 1923-1965. The collection documents Sheeler's family, personal life and career through financial and medical records, awards, correspondence, writings, an autobiography, journal and notebooks, scrapbooks, exhibition catalogs and announcements, printed materials, photographs, funeral records and artwork by Sheeler and others. The collection is particularly rich in Sheeler's writings, and also includes Sheeler's industrial designs and manufactured artwork. There are photographs of Sheeler with Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and John Marin.
Biographical materials date from 1875, and 1928-1965, and include funeral records, medical records, insurance, tax, and scattered financial records. There is one folder of records relating to artwork and exhibitions, as well as Sheeler's numerous certificates, prizes and awards, and the condolence book used at his funeral.
Correspondence consists of Sheeler's personal and professional correspondence dating from 1937-1966 with friends, artists, dealers, collectors, photographers, and curators. Notable correspondents include Ansel Adams, Walter and Louise Arensberg, William Lane, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, George Waters, William Carlos Williams, and Edward Weston. The series also includes correspondence with the Archives of American Art, Sheeler's biographer Constance Rourke, and with publishers, editors, children, and the general public. Lastly, there are condolence letters written to Musya Sheeler following Sheeler's death in May 1965.
Writings include Sheeler's journal dating from the 1950s-1963 and two notebooks containing notes, addresses, recipes, etc. Also found are Sheeler's writings on artists, drafts for articles, and a manuscript and notes for an autobiography that Sheeler wrote for Harcourt Brace. The autobiography became the basis for Constance Rourke's biography Charles Sheeler: Artist in the American Tradition published in 1938. The writing series also includes a short story by Musya Sheeler, and an illustrated short story by friend Dorothy Eidlitz.
The scrapbook series contains two oversize scrapbooks dating from 1930s-1960s that include newspaper and magazine clippings about Sheeler and his artwork, exhibition announcements and brochures, a poem, and a thank you letter from Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.
Additional printed materials date from 1923-1966 and document Sheeler's numerous exhibitions, notably his partnership with Edith Halpert and the Downtown Gallery. Found here are clippings, copies of magazines, exhibition announcements and catalogs, museum bulletings, books, and miscellaneous items.
Photographs date from circa 1840s-1963 and include photographs of Sheeler's family, of Sheeler, and of Sheeler with friends and colleagues. There is one daguerreotype, two ambrotypes, and two tintypes of Sheeler's family and of Sheeler as a child. There are copyprints of these originals. Additional photographs are of Sheeler's mother and father (or possibly Sheeler's grandparent), of Sheeler, of Sheeler with his wife Musya, Sheeler with William Lane, Sheeler with Edward Weston, and Sheeler with Edward Steichen and John Marin. The series also includes photographs of Sheeler's collection of Shaker furniture, and photographs of exhibitions.
Artwork by Sheeler dates from circa 1930s-1960s and includes artifacts of manufactured pieces based on his industrial designs. Found are a glass tumbler, salt and pepper shakers, a tea spoon, fabrics designed by Sheeler, and sketches. The series also includes a drawing by Peggy Bacon and a photograph by Minor White.
The collection is arranged into seven series. Materials are arranged by material type and chronologically or alphabetically thereafter:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1875, 1928-1965 (Boxes 1, 5, OV10; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1937-1966 (Box 1; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1930s-1965 (Boxes 1-2 ; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1930s-1960s (Boxes 2, 6; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1923-1966 (Boxes 2-4, 7; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1840s-1963 (Box 4, OV11; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1930s-1960s (Boxes 4-5, 8-9, OV12-OV14; 1.1 linear feet)
Painter, photographer, lithographer and designer, Charles Rettew Sheeler Jr. was born on July 16, 1883 to Mary Cunningham Sheeler and Charles Rettew Sheeler in Philadelphia. He attended the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia from 1900-1903 and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. He found early success as a painter and exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908.
Around 1910 Sheeler took up photography, and by 1912 financially supported himself photographing buildings for local Philadelphia architects. The following year, Sheeler exhibited six paintings at the 1913 Armory Show in New York. In the mid 1910s, Sheeler began to collect American antiques, and by the 1920s was actively acquiring Shaker crafts and furniture.
In 1916, Sheeler was hired by Marius de Zayas of the Modern Gallery in New York to photograph objects and artwork. From 1917-1924, he worked as the staff photographer for the Modern Gallery and moved to New York in 1918. In 1920, Sheeler was hired as a still photographer for The Arts Magazine.
In 1926, Sheeler was hired by Edward Steichen to work as a fashion and celebrity photographer for Conde Nast Publications. His photographs were regularly featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair, but Sheeler also worked as a still life photographer for numerous advertising agencies. The following year, he was commissioned by the advertising firm N.W. Ayer and Son to photograph Ford Motor Company's new plant at River Rouge.
While working as a photographer, Sheeler continued to paint and used the subjects and composition of his photographs as a basis for his painting. His paintings Skyscrapers, 1922; Upper Deck, 1929; and American Landscape, 1930 are examples of Sheeler's technique of merging photographic imagery with painting and his overall precisionist style.
In 1931, upon the advice and guidance of Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery, Sheeler began to paint more often and to photograph less. Halpert became Sheeler's primarily dealer, and from 1931-1966 regularly exhibited his paintings and drawings. With Halpert's support, Sheeler produced Classic Landscape, 1931; American Interior, 1934; Silo, 1938; Amoskeag Canal, 1948; and Convolutions, 1952. In addition to Sheeler's partnership with Halpert, his work was exhibited by other galleries and museums throughout the United States and abroad.
In 1939, Sheeler married his second wife, Musya Metas Sokolova (1908-1981) and, in 1942, the couple moved to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Sheeler continued to paint and photograph until he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1959. After 1959, Sheeler remained active exhibiting his artwork until his death on May 7, 1965 in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
The Archives of American Art holds several collections that are related to Charles Sheeler.
There are two oral history interviews with Sheeler conducted by Mary Bartlett Cowdrey in December 1958, and by Martin Friedman in June 1959. The Archives also has the records of the Macbeth Gallery, which include a substantial amount of correspondence with Sheeler from 1907-1921, and the Downtown Gallery records, which also include correspondence with Sheeler, photographs of Sheeler and his artwork, exhibition publications, clippings, press releases, and audio visual materials dating from 1904-1972.
Also found in the the Archives is a loan of Charles Sheeler letters filmed on reel NY/59-5 containing letters written by Sheeler to his psychologist and art collector, Dr. Helen Boigon, art student George Craven, and friend William Carlos Williams, all dating from 1939-1958. There is a collection of six letters of Sheeler letters addressed to Doris Royce, possibly an art critic, dating from 1949-1957. Miscellaneous manuscript collections include one letter written by Sheeler to E.P. Richardson in 1958, and another letter written to Frank Crowninshield in September, 1939.
Portions of Sheeler's papers that were originally loaned for microfilming were not included in the later gifts and are available only on microfilm reel NSH-1. A watercolor study microfilmed on reel 1811 was later transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. These materials are not described in the container list of this finding aid.
Charles Sheeler's wife Musya initially loaned the papers to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1958, 1965, and 1966. In June, 1966, she donated most of the earlier loaned materials. In 1964, Sheeler's friend Howard Lipman donated three photographs of Sheeler with Edward Steichen and John Marin. The third accrual was transferred to the Archives by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery Library in June 1979.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
The Macbeth Gallery records provide almost complete coverage of the gallery's operations from its inception in 1892 to its closing in 1953. Through extensive correspondence files, financial and inventory records, printed material, scrapbooks, reference and research material, and photographs of artists and works of art, the records document all aspects of the gallery's activities, charting William Macbeth's initial intention to lease his store "for the permanent exhibition and sale of American pictures" through over sixty years of success as a major New York firm devoted to American art. The collection measures 131.6 linear feet and dates from 1838 to 1968 with the bulk of the material dating from 1892 to 1953.
Scope and Content Note:
The Macbeth Gallery records provide almost complete coverage of the gallery's operations from its inception in 1892 to its closing in 1953. The records document all aspects of the gallery's activities, charting William Macbeth's initial intention to lease his store "for the permanent exhibition and sale of American pictures" through over sixty years of success as a major New York firm devoted to American art. The collection measures 131.6 linear feet and dates from 1838 to 1968 with the bulk of the material dating from 1892 to 1953.
The gallery's correspondence files form the core of the collection and illuminate most aspects of American art history: the creation and sale of works of art, the development of reputations, the rise of museums and art societies, change and resistance to change in the art market, and the evolution of taste. Ninety-five feet of correspondence house substantial and informative letters from dozens of important American painters and sculptors, including older artists and younger contemporaries of the gallery in its later years. There are also letters from collectors, curators, other galleries, and critics.
The financial files found in the collection offer insight into the changing economic climate in which the gallery operated. They include information ranging from the details of individual sales and the market for individual artists, to consignment activities and artist commissions, to overviews of annual sales. This information is augmented by the firm's inventory records and the photographs of artwork with their accompanying records of paintings sold. The inventory records provide details of all works of art handled by the gallery, both sold and unsold, and the buyers who purchased them; the photographs of artwork include images of artwork sold with accompanying sales information.
The highlight of the gallery's printed material is the publication Art Notes. Although published only until 1930, Art Notes provides an excellent and detailed view of the gallery's exhibition schedule and the relationship of the gallery owners with many of the artists whose work they handled. It was a house organ that also provided a running commentary on events in the art world. The gallery's 19 fragile scrapbooks, maintained throughout the firm's history, provide further coverage of activities through exhibition catalogs and related news clippings. Printed material from other sources provides a frame of reference for activities in the art world from the mid-19th to the mid-20th-centuries and includes an almost complete run of the rare and important pre-Civil War art publication The Crayon.
Reference files record the interest which the gallery owners took in the work of early portrait painters and in later artists such as George Inness and Winslow Homer. Together with the immense volume of correspondence with buyers and sellers of paintings by the great portraitists and the Hudson River School found in the gallery's correspondence files, these records are still useful sources of information today and underscore the deep interest that the Macbeths and Robert McIntyre took in 18th and 19th-century American art.
The photographs of artists found here are a treasure trove of images of some of the major figures of the 19th and 20th-centuries. There are photographs of artists such as Chester Beach, Emil Carlsen, Charles Melville Dewey, Frederick Carl Frieseke, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, George Inness, Maurice Prendergast, and Julian Alden Weir, many of them original prints and the majority of them autographed.
With the exception of the "The Eight" and a few of their contemporaries, an important aspect of art history, the modernist movement, is generally represented in the Macbeth Gallery records only in a negative form as the three successive proprietors of the gallery showed very little interest in this area. Nevertheless, the collection is a highly significant source of information on many of the major and minor figures in American art in the period after 1890.
The collection is arranged into eight series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1838-1968 (Box 1-95, 163-164, OV 165; 96.2 linear feet)
Series 2: Financial and Shipping Records, 1892-1956 (Box 96-110; 11.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Inventory Records, 1892-circa 1957 (Box 111-113; 3.0 linear feet)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1838-1963 (Box 114-119, 162; 5.0 linear feet)
Series 5: Scrapbooks, 1892-1952 (Box 120-130; 3.3 linear feet)
Series 6: Reference Files, 1839-1959 (Box 131-132; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 7: Miscellaneous Files, 1912-1956 (Box 133-134; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographs, circa 1880-circa 1968 (Box 135-161; 12.1 linear feet)
The Macbeth Gallery was established in 1892 by William Macbeth, a Scotch-Irish immigrant who had spent ten years with the print dealer Frederick Keppel before he opened his doors to the art-buying public at 237 Fifth Avenue in New York. Despite the prevailing interest in foreign art at that time, particularly in that of the Barbizon and Dutch schools, Macbeth was determined to dedicate his gallery to "the permanent exhibition and sale of American pictures, both in oil and water colors."
Although some of the gallery's earliest exhibitions were of work by European artists, the business soon became the only gallery in continuous operation that kept American art permanently on display. In the January 1917 issue of Art Notes, Macbeth recounts those early days remembering that "The opening of my gallery......was a rash venture under the existing conditions, and disaster was freely predicted." Nevertheless, he struggled through the financial crisis of 1893 and persisted with his devotion to American art; slowly the market for his pictures grew more amenable.
Macbeth moved to more spacious quarters at 450 Fifth Avenue in 1906 and two years later undertook what was to become the major event in the gallery's early history: the 1908 exhibition of "The Eight," featuring work by Arthur B. Davies, Willam J. Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan. "The Eight" were an unlikely combination of social realists, visionaries and impressionists eager to challenge the dominating influence of the National Academy. The exhibition received an immense amount of publicity and instantly entered into art history as a successful assault on tradition.
Despite the splash that the exhibition made and its implications for the future of American art, nothing that the gallery did subsequently indicated that Macbeth intended to capitalize on its significance. It is true that Macbeth supported many artists later considered leaders in American art when the public would pay no attention to them because of their modernist tendencies; Arthur B. Davies, Paul Dougherty, Maurice Prendergast, Theodore Robinson, and F. Ballard Williams all held their first exhibitions at his gallery. Nevertheless, neither Macbeth nor the gallery's two successive proprietors, Robert G. McIntyre (William's nephew) and Robert Macbeth (William's son), who joined the gallery in 1903 and 1906 respectively, ever developed a true interest in modern art. The November 1930 issue of Art Notes summarizes their collective disdain for modernism, stating: "We believe that, by and large, modern art is amusing. We are heretical enough to believe that much of it was started for the amusement of its creators and that no one was more surprised than they when it was taken seriously by a certain audience to whom the bizarre and the unintelligible always makes an appeal." So while the Macbeths and McIntyre cetainly championed American artists and insisted they deserved as much recognition as the Europeans, their deepest and most abiding interest was undoubtedly the established artists of the 18th and 19th-centuries and those of the early 20th-century who continued in a more conservative style. Artists such as Emil Carlsen, Charles Harold Davis, Frederick C. Frieseke, Robert Henri, Winslow Homer, Chauncey F. Ryder, Abbot Handerson Thayer, J. Francis Murphy, A. H. Wyant were the gallery's bread and butter.
When William Macbeth died in 1917 Robert Macbeth took up the reins with the assistance of Robert G. McIntyre . Although they incorporated the business as William Macbeth, Inc., in 1918 the gallery continued to be known, as it always would be, simply as Macbeth Gallery. Macbeth and McIntyre continued to show work in the same vein as the elder Macbeth. They concentrated primarily on oil paintings at this time, having found by the 1920s that "oils are all that our gallery owners will buy," though they also exhibited an occasional group of watercolors and pastels in addition to bronzes and other sculpture by contemporary American artists such as Chester Beach and Janet Scudder.
Of the early American painters the Macbeths and McIntyre were particularly interested in colonial portraits and miniatures, especially those painted by prominent artists in the latter part of the eighteenth century such as John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully and John Trumbull. In its early years the gallery also handled the work of a few prominent American etchers including Frank W. Benson, Emil Fuchs, Daniel Garber, Childe Hassam and Chauncey F. Ryder. The print department was generally discontinued, however, in the late 1930s although the gallery continued to show prints by contemporaries such as Stow Wengenroth.
In 1924 relative prosperity allowed the gallery to move uptown to 15 East Fifty-seventh Street. When the 1930s brought new financial hardship for the gallery Macbeth and McIntyre took a variety of approaches to boosting sales. In 1930 they decided to hold only group exhibitions throughout the season to the exclusion of one-man shows, and also held some special exhibitions of paintings priced at a hundred dollars each in the hope that they could tempt those "willing to take advantage of a rare chance to secure representative examples of good art at a most attractive price." A move to smaller quarters at 15 East Fifty-seventh Street in 1935 was made with the intention of concentrating their efforts on the work of fewer contemporary artists, while continuing to handle the work of the older Americans they had long supported.
When Macbeth died suddenly and unexpectedly in August 1940 following an operation for appendicitis, McIntyre continued to run the gallery with the assistance of Hazel Lewis. During the 1940s McIntyre and Lewis showed primarily contemporary art in a wide range of media including oil, watercolor, pastel, drawing and sculpture, while continuing, as always, to show the occasional group of 19th-century Americans. The great success of the gallery's later years was undeniably Andrew Wyeth whose first exhibition, held at Macbeth Gallery in 1937, resulted in the sale of all twenty-two paintings cataloged.
Although subsequent Wyeth exhibitions were also successful, McIntyre struggled financially throughout the 1940s and periodically considered liquidating the company. Although "vitally interested" in contemporary art by people such as Robert Brackman, Jay Connaway, Carl Gaertner, James Lechay, Herbert Meyer and Ogden M. Pleissner he found that, for the most part, it did not pay. McIntyre continued operations until 1953 when he decided that doing so for profit was not only a financial burden but also ran contrary to his desire to spend more time devoted to his first love, early American art. When the lease expired on 11 East Fifty-seventh Street in April 1953 McIntyre did not renew it. After closing the gallery's doors he sold art from his New York apartment and from his home in Dorset, Vermont. He officially dissolved William Macbeth, Inc., in 1957.
The history of the Macbeth Gallery is a long and distinguished one with each successive proprietor making a significant contribution to art in America. William Macbeth helped establish an audience and a market for American art when few were willing to give it serious consideration. Robert Macbeth continued to cement the gallery's reputation as one of the leading firms in New York and was instrumental in organizing the American Art Dealers Association. Robert G. McIntyre claimed in a letter to Lloyd Goodrich, dated 22 June 1945, that the thing of which he was most proud was "the share I have had in the formation of the collection of the Addison Gallery of American Art, at Andover, Massacusetts." McIntyre was widely respected in the art community as a dealer, as an adviser to curators, and as a scholar whose research and book on Martin Johnson Heade helped "rediscover" an important American artist. One of his most significant and lasting contributions to the history of art in America, however, was undoubtedly his gift of the gallery's historical records to the Archives of American Art.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American are a small collection of scattered Robert McIntyre's papers and 9 items of William Macbeth's papers. Macbeth Gallery exhibition catalogs are also available in the American Art Exhibition Catalog collection and the Brooklyn Museum Records, both loaned and microfilmed collections.
An extensive collection of Macbeth Gallery exhibition catalogs are also held by the Frick Art Reference Library and the Watson Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The bulk of the Macbeth Gallery records were donated and microfilmed in several installments between 1955 and 1966 by Robert G. McIntyre and Estate. Additional Macbeth Gallery printed material was donated by Phoebe C. and William Macbeth II, grandchildren of William Macbeth, in 1974.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Fragile original scrapbooks are closed to researchers.
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Macbeth Gallery records, 1838-1968, bulk 1892 to 1953. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Getty Grant Program. Digitization of the scrapbooks was supported by a grant from the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee. Correspondence, financial and shipping records, inventory records, and printed material were digitized with funding provided by the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Walton Family Foundation.
43 Linear feet (35 document boxes and 39 oversize boxes)
The Charlene Hodges Byrd collection measures 43 linear feet, and dates from circa 1750-2009, with the bulk of the material dating from 1880-1960. The collection documents the personal life and professional career of Charlene Hodges Byrd, an African American teacher from Washington, D.C., along with material for several related families from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Family members prominently represented include Sarah A. Shimm, teacher and essayist under the name Faith Lichen; her daughters Erminie F. Shimm and Grace E. Shimm Cummings, both teachers; and Byrd's mother, Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges, also a teacher. Correspondence and writings chiefly discuss family life, religion, race, education, and the relationship with Frederick Douglass and his family. The collection is arranged in 10 series: Biographical Material, Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, Financial and Legal Records, Printed Material, Volumes, Memorabilia, Textiles, and Photographs.
Scope and Contents:
Series 1. Papers related to biographical and family histories of the Byrd, Cummings, Davage, Dews, Hodges, Shimm, Spruill, and Thomas families. Material includes family trees; school diplomas and certificates; programs; awards; marriage and divorce papers; funeral documents; and obituaries.
Series 2: Chiefly letters from family and friends regarding family news, financial matters, school, work, neighborhood affairs, church events, travel and the weather. The majority of the letters are addressed to Charlene Hodges Byrd, Grace E. Shimm Cummings, Ida R. Cummings, Elizabeth Dews Hodges, Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges, Erminie F. Shimm, Sarah A. Shimm, and Elizabeth N. Thomas. Other correspondence includes letters from Booker T. Washington, Bessye Beardon, Charlotte Davage, Amelia Douglass, and Harrell S. Spruill. There are also a number of greeting cards, postcards, and empty envelopes.
Series 3. Writings include essays, speeches, papers written for school, teacher's notebooks, and a diary of Erminie F. Shimm, 1903. Topics include education, Frederick Douglass, religion, race, Africa, and the temperance movement.
Series 4. Subject files on Charlene Hodges Byrd's involvement with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Book Lovers of Charleston, West Virginia, a women's book club organized in 1923; Church Women United radio program; and The Links, Inc., a volunteer service organization. The papers on Liberia relate to missionary work, and were probably gathered by Erminie F. Shimm; and the Shimm-Thomas Collection are papers related to the deposit and later return of family items housed as a collection at Morgan State College.
Series 5. The financial and legal records include invoices and receipts, bank books, real estate tax assessments, deeds, and wills. There is also material related to the estate of Erminie F. Shimm.
Series 6. Printed materials includes books, pamphlets, newspapers, newsletters, clippings, invitations and programs. The books and pamphlets are chiefly school yearbooks and newspapers and other texts related to religion, politics, music, and poetry. Also included is a copy of Frederick Douglass's autobiography and a printed copy of his speech "The Race Problem." The clippings include obituaries, articles about Charlene Hodges Byrd and her husband Charles R. Byrd, essays by Sarah A. Shimm under the name Faith Lichen, and articles on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The invitations and programs are primarily for school graduations, weddings, social events, and funerals. Other printed material includes newsletters; business cards; calling cards; postage stamps, chiefly from Liberia; and blank postcards. The binder on Frederick Douglass was prepared by Byrd and her goddaughter for the West Virginia School Studies Fair, and includes copies of Byrd family artifacts.
Series 7. Autograph books, guest books, and scrapbooks. The autograph book of Grace E. Shimm Cummings includes autographs from Amelia Douglass, Lewis B. Douglass, Charles R. Douglass, W. H. Clair, and Francis J. Grimke. The scrapbook of Grace E. Shimm Cummings and Erminie F. Shimm consists primarily of clippings, and was assembled from an old teacher's book with a student registration and punishment pages still intact at the back.
Series 8. Miscellaneous items in the collection including artwork, a coin purse, a piece of handwoven cloth belonging to Catherine Nelson's great grandmother, and leather hair curlers.
Series 9: The textiles are chiefly christening gowns, children's garments, and an apron. Several garments belonged to Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges, Charlene Hodges Byrd, and Elizabeth N. Thomas. There is also a doll that belonged to Amelia Douglass's niece, Kitty Cromwell.
Series 10. Photographs include pictures of Charlene Hodges Byrd, Joyce Ethel Hodges Cummings, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Dews Hodges, Charles Gilmor Cummings, Grace E. Shimm Cummings, Erminie F. Shimm, and other friends and relatives of the Byrd, Hodges, Cummings, Douglass, and Shimm families. Subjects are primarily portraits and candids, along with some wedding, baby, and school pictures. While some of the photographs are annotated, many of the individuals are unidentified. Included are vintage photographs, cabinet cards, cartes-de-visites, tintypes, daguerreotypes, and negatives.
Biographical / Historical:
The Shimm, Thomas, Cummings, Hodges, Davage, and related African American families chiefly lived in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Numerous family members worked as teachers, barbers, or in the service industry. They were active in local churches and service organizations, and had established friendships with local church leaders as well as with Frederick Douglass and his family.
The Shimm and Thomas families were located in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. The Thomas family can be traced back to Philip Nelson, who owned property in Leesburg, Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Family genealogical papers list Nelson as a descendent of British Admiral Horatio Nelson. This lineage, however, is not supported in publically available family histories of Horatio Nelson. Philip Nelson and his wife Araminta had five children: Catherine (b. 1805?), William, Levi (b. 1820?), Henrietta, and Grayson.
Catherine Nelson married Elias E. Thomas (b. 1816?) of Virginia in 1840. They wed in Philadelphia and had five children: Levi Nelson (b. 1841), Sarah (1843-1885), Edward (b. 1844), Elizabeth (1848-1932), and Charles (b. 1851).
Sarah Thomas married William Y. Shimm (b. 1841), a barber in Reading, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1863. They had 2 daughters, Erminie (1867-1936) and Grace (1865-1910). The Shimms lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but had moved to Washington, D.C., around 1871. Sarah was a teacher and a writer who published under the name "Faith Lichen." Her writings, primarily essays and commentaries about race and politics, were printed in several newspapers including The National Republican, The Celtic Weekly, The People's Advocate, and The Sunday Morning Gazette.
Sarah's sister Elizabeth was also a teacher in Maryland. Her brother Charles was a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of the first class at Howard University's law school.
Erminie and Grace Shimm became teachers in the Washington, D.C., public school system. Erminie was active in her church and supportive of missionary work in Liberia. Grace married Charles Gilmor Cummings, a pastor in Alexandria, Virginia, on July 9, 1902. They had one daughter, Joyce Ethel (1903-1971), and second child in 1905 who died in infancy. Grace died in 1910 of heart failure. After her death, Grace's sister Erminie and Charles's family helped raise Joyce Ethel in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.
Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges graduated from Morgan College in 1924, and received her master's degree from Howard University in 1931. She taught at Douglass High School in Baltimore from 1924-1964. Joyce Ethel married Charles E. Hodges (1900--975) in 1927 and they divorced in 1953. The couple had one daughter, Charlene (1929-2009).
Charlene Hodges Byrd grew up in Washington, D.C., but attended the Northfield School for Girls in East Northfield, Massachusetts, for high school, graduating in 1946. She received her bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in 1950, and her master's degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago in 1951. She married Charles R. Byrd (1919-2004) in 1952. They had one son in 1954, but he died four days after birth. Byrd soon began a career as a teacher and education administrator, eventually working for Kanawha County Schools in Charleston, West Virginia. She was also active in her local community as a member of the Book Lovers of Charleston, West Virginia; Church Women United; and The Links, Inc.
Charles E. Hodges was born Bridgewater, Virginia, where his father was a minister. He graduated from Morgan College in 1923 and received his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. He was a teacher and served as principal of the North Street School in Hagerstown, Maryland. After he and Joyce Ethel divorced in 1953, he married Elizabeth Dews (1913-1999) in 1955.
Elizabeth Dews Hodges, born Elizabeth Virginia Waumbeeka, was adopted by James Edward (1889-1954) and Sarah Virginia Dews (1888?-1964) in Washington, D.C., in 1920. She graduated from Miner Teachers College in 1939, and worked as a teacher in Annapolis, Maryland, at Wiley H. Bates High School for 34 years. She was awarded a medal for her work there by the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge in 1959. Elizabeth was active in local organizations in Maryland and Washington, D.C., including the SE/NE Friends of the Capitol View Branch Library; Eastern Star Chapter 4; Mount Ephraim Baptist Church; National Museum of Women in the Arts; National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples; and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind.
The Davage family is descended from Sidney Hall (b. 1818?) and Charles Davage (b. 1815?). Sidney was a former slave at the Perry Hall mansion in Baltimore, and was manumitted by 1840. She married Charles, a coachman, on April 12, 1842. They had five children: Eliza Jane (1843-1913), Sophia (b. 1847), Charlotte (b. 1849), Charles (b. 1854), and Hester (b. 1845).
Their daughter Eliza Jane married Henry Cummings (b. 1830?). They had seven children: Harry Sythe (1866-1917), Charles Gilmor (1870-1924), William (b. 1882), Ida R. (1868-1958), Estelle (1874-1944), Carroll (b. 1875), Francis (b. 1872), and Aaron (1864?-1932).
Harry Sythe Cummings, a lawyer in Baltimore, became the city's first African American City Council member. He was first elected in 1890 and served intermittently until his death in 1917, often working on issues related to education. Cummings also delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention in 1904 seconding the presidential nomination of Theodore Roosevelt. He married Blanche Conklin in 1899, and they had three children: Harry S. Jr. (b. 1905), Lucille (d. 1906), and Louise.
Charles Gilmor Cummings graduated from Drew Theological Seminary in 1898, and was a pastor in Alexandria, Virginia and elsewhere. After the death of his wife Grace in 1910, he married Rosa Catherine Bearden, grandmother of artist Romare Bearden, in 1912.
Ida R. Cummings graduated from Morgan College in 1922, and was the first African American kindergarten teacher in Baltimore. She was also active in local organizations, and was president of the Colored Fresh Air and Empty Stocking Circle; chairman of the Woman's Section Council of Defense in Baltimore during the World War, 1914-1918; and president of the Woman's Campaign Bureau of the Colored Republican Voters' League of Maryland.
The Charlene Hodges Byrd collection was donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture by Herbert S. Garten, co-personal representative of the Estate of Charlene H. Byrd, in 2010.