The papers of Holger Cahill (1887-1960) date from 1910 to 1993, with the bulk of the material dating from 1910-1960, and measure 15.8 linear feet. The collection offers researchers fairly comprehensive documentation of Cahill's directorship of the Works Progress/Projects Administration's (WPA) Federal Art Project (FAP) in addition to series documenting his work as a writer and art critic. Material includes correspondence, reports, artist files, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of Holger Cahill (1887-1960) date from 1910 to 1993, bulk 1910-1960, and measure 15.8 linear feet. The collection offers researchers fairly comprehensive documentation of Cahill's directorship of the FAP in addition to series documenting his work as a writer and art critic. FAP records include national and state administrative reports, records of community art centers, photographic documentation of state activities, artist files, divisional records about teaching, crafts, murals, and poster work, files concerning the Index of American Design, scrapbooks, and printed material.
The collection is arranged into nine series:
Series 1: Biographical Material and Personal Papers, 1931-1988 (Box 1; 19 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence Files, 1922-1979, 1993 (Boxes 1-2; 1.5 linear ft.)
Series 3: Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, 1934-1970 (Boxes 2-14, 18, MMs009; 10.75 linear ft.)
Series 4: Writings, Lectures and Speeches, 1916-1960 (Boxes 14-15, 18; 1.0 linear ft.)
Series 5: Minutes of Meetings and Panel Discussions, Non-FAP, 1939-1947 (Box 15; 5 folders)
Series 6: Notes and Research Material, 1935-1970 (Boxes 15-16; 0.25 linear ft.)
Series 7: Artwork, undated (Boxes 16, 18; 2 folders)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1910-1985 (Boxes 16-17; 1.8 linear ft.)
Series 9: Photographs, circa 1917-1960 (Box 17; 6 folders)
Holger Cahill was born Sveinn Kristjan Bjarnarson in Iceland in a small valley near the Arctic Circle, on January 13, 1887. His parents, Bjorn Jonson and Vigdis Bjarnadottir, immigrated to the United States from Iceland sometime later in the 1880s. In 1904, his father deserted the family, forcing Sveinn to be separated from his mother and sister to work on a farm in North Dakota. He ran away and wandered from job to job until settling in an orphanage in western Canada, where he attended school and became a voracious reader.
As a young man, he worked at many different jobs and attended night school. While working on a freighter, he visited Hong Kong, beginning his life-long interest in the Orient. Returning to New York City, he eventually became a newspaper reporter, continued his studies at New York University, and changed his name to Edgar Holger Cahill. In 1919 he married Katherine Gridley of Detroit. Their daughter, Jane Ann, was born in 1922, but the couple divorced in 1927.
Cahill met John Sloan circa 1920, and they shared a residence. Cahill also wrote publicity (until 1928) for the Society of Independent Artists, through which he made many friends in the arts. From 1922 to 1931, he worked under John Cotton Dana at the Newark Museum, where he received his basic experience in museum work, organizing the first large exhibitions of folk art.
From 1932 to 1935, he was the director of exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art. In 1935, Cahill was appointed director of the Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project (FAP), until its end in June 1943. In 1938, Cahill organized a countrywide exhibition "American Art Today" for the New York World's Fair. He also married MoMa curator Dorothy Canning Miller in that year.
Profane Earth, Cahill's first novel, was published in 1927, followed by monographs on Pop Hart and Max Weber, miscellaneous short stories, and a biography of Frederick Townsend Ward, entitled A Yankee Adventurer: The Story of Ward and the Taiping Rebellion. Following the end of the Federal Art Project, Cahill wrote two novels, Look South to the Polar Star (1947) and The Shadow of My Hand (1956).
Holger Cahill died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in July 1960.
The Holger Cahill papers were donated to the Archives of American Art through a series of gifts by Cahill's widow, Dorothy C. Miller, between 1964 and 1995.
The microfilm of this collection has been digitized and is available online via the Archives of American Art website.
The Holger Cahill 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.
The Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection dates from circa 1920-1965, with the bulk of the records spanning the active years of the Federal Art Project (FAP), 1935-1942. The collection comprises 12.4 linear feet of mostly photographic prints and negatives that document primarily artwork produced by artists employed by the FAP. A smaller number of photographs also document other programs of the FAP, such as art classes and community centers, exhibitions by children and adults, artwork installed in public buildings, project divisions, and demonstrations of art processes by FAP artists.
Scope and Content Note:
The Federal Art Project (FAP), Photographic Division collection dates from circa 1920-1965, with the bulk of the records spanning the active years of the FAP: 1935-1942. The collection comprises 12.4 linear feet of photographic prints and negatives, including photos of FAP artists and the artwork created by them, and other activities of the FAP in communities throughout New York City and other states. Photographers include Andrew Herman, Sol Horn, David Robbins, Leo Seltzer, and others.
Artist files comprise three-quarters of the collection and consist primarily of photographs of artwork, as well as scattered photos of artists at work, including: Charles Alston, Luis Arenal, Richmond Barthe, John Benson, Andrew Berger, Lucille Blanch, Lucienne Bloch, Ilya Bolotowsky, Luise Brann, Selma Burke, Letterio Calapai, Eugene Chodorow, Francis Criss, Stuart Davis, Adolf Dehn, Virginia Dehn, Jose de Rivera, George Pearse Ennis, Philip Evergood, Eugenie Gershoy, Bertram Goodman, Arshile Gorky, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Donal Hord, Joseph Hovell, William Karp, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Edward Laning, Julian Levi, Audrey McMahon, Elizabeth Olds, Anton Refregier, Will Shuster, William Zorach, and others.
The remainder of the collection consists of files documenting related activities and programs of the FAP, arranged by subject. The bulk of these files document the activities of the New York City FAP, including free art classes and art exhibitions for adults and children, exhibitions at the Harlem Art Center, and the work of FAP branches including the Easel Division, the Graphic Arts Division, and the Poster Division.
Other subjects documented include federal and community art centers in eleven states, most extensively Washington State; other WPA projects such as the Federal Theater Project, the Federal Music Project, and the Federal Writers' Project; buildings decorated with FAP artwork; art processes as demonstrated by FAP artists; special events; and people involved with the FAP, including director Holger Cahill.
One folder contains images that appear to have been taken by Berenice Abbott for the exhibition Changing New York (1935), for the Museum of the City of New York in collaboration with the WPA.
The collection is arranged as 2 series:
Series 1: Artist Files, circa 1920-1965 (Boxes 1-24; 9.6 linear feet)
Series 2: Subject Files, 1934-1956 (Boxes 25-32; 2.8 linear feet)
The Federal Art Project (FAP) was one of the Depression-era work-relief programs of the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). The program was founded in August 1935 to provide employment for artists and to implement visual arts programs in local communities across the country.
Together with the Federal Music Project, the Federal Theater Project, and the Federal Writers' Project, the FAP formed part of the WPA's Federal Project No. 1. The WPA became the Work Projects Administration in 1939 when it fell under the administrative hand of the newly created Federal Works Agency; concurrently the Federal Art Project was officially re-named the Federal Art Program.
Under the direction of Holger Cahill, the goals of the FAP fell into three main areas: production of artwork, art education through art classes and community centers, and art research through the Index of American Design. During the course of the program, artists created murals and other works of art for many non-Federal government buildings such as schools, hospitals, and libraries. Separate photographic divisions were set up in several states, most notably in New York City, to document the work of artists employed by the program, activities in art education such as classes for children and adults, community center outreach programs, and other "Federal 1" projects, including the Federal Theater and Music Projects. Employees of the photographic division were also involved in other assignments, such as creating exhibitions and photo murals.
The Federal Art Project ended in 1943.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are related collections, including the Federal Art Project of the Work Projects Administration records, 1935-1948. Additional FAP records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C.
The collection was anonymously donated to the Archives of American Art in the late 1950s.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The Federal Art Project, Photographic Division collection is 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.
African American artists -- New York (State) -- New York -- Photographs Search this
Children's art -- United States -- Photographs Search this
Material kept by Federal Music Project administrator Emily Mason Kahn, including printed and mimeographed booklets; brochures; programs and reports; carbon copies of memos; teaching material; and two photographs. [Microfilm title WPA-Federal Theater Project]
Biographical / Historical:
The Federal Music Project was formed in 1935 under Federal Project No. One of the Works Progress Administration to employ, train, and rehablitate unemployed musicians.
WPA-Federal Theater Project [microfilm title]
Donated 1965 by Emily Mason Kahn.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Selected records from the United States National Archives and Records Administration of the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Work Projects Administration. Records cover a broad range of topics. The bulk are from the Central Files, "States" and "General Subject" series, 1935-1944. Also microfilmed are materials from series Federal Art Project, Federal Project #1, WPA, among them records related to the Index of American Design; and records of the Chicago Field Finance office relating to allocations of works of art.
General Subject Files is comprised of correspondence, memoranda, receipts, reports, and business files. Found on reels DC44-DC49 are correspondence and memoranda of the the FAP; materials relating to Art for the Millions published during the WPA; receipts for loans of works of art.and other correspondence, memoranda, business records, reports, and lists of artists. Found on reels. DC45, and DC49-DC50 are materials relating to the two National Art Weeks of 1940 and 1941; regional correspondence, 1939; reports, 1939; and papers relating to exhibitions held for WPA artists.
Central Files, "States", on reels DC62-DC111, is comprised of general correspondence, memoranda, telegrams, reports, and records of FAP activities at the state level. Much of the material is between state administrators and national directors. There are occasional occurrences of letters from individual citizens seeking assistance. Topics covered include FAP, Federal Writers' Project, Federal Theater Project, Federal Music Project, Index of American Design, and other projects under Federal Project # 1 of the WPA. New York City has its own separate file.
Federal Art Project, Federal Art Project #1, series appears on reels DC51-DC61 are broken down into "General Correspondence File", reels DC51-DC59, consisting of ca. 80 files with a variety of titles, for example Artist's oil paints, Congressional correspondence, Index of American Design (mostly reel DC53), Museum of Modern Art, News releases, Salary increases, etc.; and "Regional Correspondence Files," reels DC60-DC61, for Ohio, Washington state, and California; publicity and exhibition material; and "Regional and State Correspondence Files," Alabama to Michigan. Among the persons represented are Holger Cahill, Lawrence Morris, Thomas C. Parker, Russell C. Parr, and Constance Rourke.
Chicago Field Finance office records relating to allocations of works of art are found on reels DC129-DC130 and include requests for allocations of funds, requests for loans, receipts for allocations of works of art, shipping receipts, miscellaneous forms and correspondence.
Microfilm reels DC44-50: General Subject Files. Reels DC51-61: Federal Art Project, Federal Project #1, WPA. Reels DC62-DC111: Central Files: "States" (reel DC53 is exclusively related to the Index of American Design). DC129-DC130: Chicago Field Finance office records relating to allocations of works of art. Most series are arranged alphabetically by subject, artist, state, territory, and district. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the records on microfilm reflects the order and arrangement as existed during the microfilming project, 1964-1966, and may not correspond to the original order of the records currently maintained by the National Archives in Record group 69,
Biographical / Historical:
The Federal Art Project (FAP) fell under the jurisdiction of Federal Project No. 1 of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to aid unemployed artists, following the precedent set by the Public Works of Art Project and other Treasury department art relief projects. Holger Cahill was appointed director of the FAP and remained in that position throughout its existence. The WPA was established in May 1935 specifically as a work relief program for the millions of individuals left unemployed during the Depression. Its name changed to the Work Projects Administration in 1939 when it fell under the administrative hand of the newly created Federal Works Agency.
The FAP projects included a broad range of events and activities which generated the various publications and materials found in the central files of the general subject series. ART FOR THE MILLIONS was a publication project about the accomplishments of the FAP consisting of a series of articles by Project workers. In addition to creating work for artists, the FAP sought to increase art appreciation as well as art sales among the general public. In doing so it devised a plan which created National Art Week. National Art Week was observed in both 1940 and 1941, and although the scale was grand and participation by the public impressive, the financial return on both occasions was minute, putting an end to plans for future National Art Weeks.
Series and files microfilmed by AAA were selected from the National Archives record group 69, records of the Work Projects Administration. Additional records of the WPA are preserved at the National Archives. FAP series and files not microfilmed by AAA include: additional records of the Federal Art Project (FAP), National Archives boxes, 27-58 and records of the FAP in Ohio, ca. 1937-1940; Division of Information, "Primary File" of the FAP and National Art Week; and photographic prints and negatives in the Still Picture Division, National Archives Building.
The Archives does not own the original records. Use is limited to microfilm copy.