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John Frazee papers, 1810-1964

Creator:
Frazee, John, 1790-1852  Search this
Subject:
Audubon, John James  Search this
Frazee, Noah  Search this
Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Type:
Notes
Poems
Illustrated letters
Sketches
Photographs
Topic:
Sculpture, American  Search this
Architects  Search this
Sculptors  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)8913
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)211098
AAA_collcode_frazejoh
Theme:
Lives of American Artists
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_211098
Online Media:

John Frazee papers

Creator:
Frazee, John, 1790-1852  Search this
Names:
Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Audubon, John James, 1785-1851  Search this
Frazee, Noah  Search this
Extent:
0.6 Linear Feet
Type:
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Notes
Photographs
Illustrated letters
Sketches
Poems
Date:
1819-1966
bulk 1819-1893
Summary:
The papers of sculptor and architect John Frazee measure 0.6 linear feet, and date from 1819-1966, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1819-1893. These scattered papers contain documentation of Frazee's early career as a gravestone carver, his commission to design the New York Customs House, and his busts of John Jay, the Marquis De Lafayette, and other famous figures. There is also correspondence with family members, genealogical materials, sketches of Frazee monuments and stone engravings, poems and notes by Frazee, printed materials, a few financial documents, photographs of works of art, and a plaster cast of a medal.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of sculptor and architect John Frazee measure 0.6 linear feet, and date from 1819-1966, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1819-1893. These scattered papers contain documentation of Frazee's early career as a gravestone carver, his commission to design the New York Customs House, and his busts of John Jay, the Marquis De Lafayette, and other famous figures. There is also correspondence with family members, genealogical materials, sketches of Frazee monuments and stone engravings, poems and notes by Frazee, printed materials, a few financial documents, photographs of works of art, and a plaster cast of a medal.

Biographical information consists primarily of family history and genealogical materials.

Correspondence is mostly with family members, although there are a few letters from others regarding his work. The majority of letters written by John Frazee are to his first and second wives, Jane and Lydia respectively. Other letters are addressed to his brother Noah and reflect his sorrow at the premature deaths of his first wife and some of his young children. In these letters, he talks about the grave markers he designed for his family members, and includes sketches of the markers and lettering. In another illustrated letter written to Lydia Frazee, John describes and sketches his experience on a railroad train in 1834. General correspondence includes letters of praise by the sons of John Jay and the Marquis de Lafayette for Frazee's busts of their fathers. There is also one letter from John J. Audubon. The majority of letters concerning busts for the Boston Athenaeum are photocopies.

There is one file documenting documenting John Frazee's congressional commission as the designer of the New York Customs House. The file contains a draft of the petition by Frazee for the position, the subsequent grant of the petition by President Tyler, and a detailed report written by Frazee to Congress of the work completed on the building.

Artwork consists of scattered unsigned sketches of grave markers designed by Frazee. It is not clear whether Frazee completed the sketches, or if they were done at a later date by someone else.

Writings and notes include poems written by Frazee and scattered notes referencing Frazee's works. There is also one small ledger of Frazee's purchases and scattered receipts. Printed materials consist of a clipping and two catalogs. One catalog is about Frazee's design of the Washington Monument in the New York Customs House, and the other is of the New York Historical Society's art collection, which includes pieces by Frazee.

Photographs are of Frazee's busts including Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster and Nathaniel Bowditch as well as an image of a bust of John Frazee by another sculptor. There is one plaster cast of a medal commemorating Napoleon Bonaparte.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into 9 series:

Series 1: Biographical Information, circa 1825-1966 (Box 1-2; 4 folders)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1819 - circa 1880s, circa 1960s (Box 1; 6 folders)

Series 3: New York Customs House Commission File, circa 1837-1841 (Box 1; 1 folder)

Series 4: Artwork, 1830 - circa 1840s (Box 1; 1 folder)

Series 5: Writings and Notes, 1824 - circa 1890s (Box 1; 4 folders)

Series 6: Financial Materials, 1838-1853 (Box 1; 2 folders)

Series 7: Printed Material, 1848-1889, 1942 (Box 1; 4 folders)

Series 8: Photographs, circa 1910s, circa 1930s (Box 1; 1 folder)

Series 9: Plaster Cast, circa 1800s (Box 1; 1 folder)
Biographical Note:
John Stark Frazee (1790-1854) worked as an sculptor and architect primarily in New York City. He is best known for his design of the New York Customs House and his busts of notable American public figures, including John Wells, John Jay, John Marshall, and Daniel Webster.

Born in Rahway, New Jersey in 1790, Frazee began his career as a bricklayer. He lost a young son in 1815 and carved a memorial sculpture to commemorate his son's life. In 1818 he started a marble workshop in New York City specializing in memorials and grave markers. Sadly, many of Frazee's monuments were completed for deceased family members including his first wife Jane and several children. His reputation grew and he was well known for tasteful, simple, and well-executed memorials. Frazee began to receive private commissions for monuments and cenotaphs throughout New York. Frazee did not have formal training and developed a realistic style of carving that was heavily influenced by the neoclassical style.

By the mid 1820s, Frazee began to receive public commissions to carve busts of famous Americans. His bust of John Wells is considered to be the first carved marble bust made by an American born sculptor. In 1831, he received a Congressional commission to sculpt a bust of John Jay. Later, Frazee sculpted busts of Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster and others for the Boston Athenaeum.

After achieving considerable recognition for his sculpting abilities, President John Tyler appointed Frazee as the designer of the New York Customs House. He oversaw construction from 1834-1840. It is likely that Frazee created many of the decorative sculptural elements within the building as well. John Frazee died in 1854 in Rhode Island.
Separated Material:
A few exhibition catalogs and printed materials microfilmed on reel 1103 were later transfered to The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library.
Provenance:
The John Frazee papers were donated by the sculptor's great granddaughter Marguerite Heath and grand niece Theresa Eliot in several increments between 1973-1978.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Rights:
The John Frazee 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.
Topic:
Architects -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Sculpture, American  Search this
Sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Genre/Form:
Notes
Photographs
Illustrated letters
Sketches
Poems
Citation:
John Frazee papers, 1819-1966, bulk 1819-1966. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.frazejoh
See more items in:
John Frazee papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-frazejoh
Online Media:

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