The papers of art writer and editor Mary Fanton Roberts measure 3.8 linear feet and are dated 1880 to 1956. The bulk of this collection is Roberts' correspondence with numerous important artists, dancers, actors, writers, and musicians of the day. Also found are scattered biographical materials, family correspondence, writings, printed material, photographs and artwork.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of art writer and editor Mary Fanton Roberts measure 3.8 linear feet and are dated 1880 to 1956. The collection is comprised mainly of correspondence with family members, artists, dancers, actors, writers, musicians, and visual and performing arts organizations. Also found are scattered biographical materials, writings, printed material, photographs and artwork.
The collection contains a small amount of biographical material about Mary Fanton Roberts and her husband, William Carman Roberts, including his journal of a vacation with Ernest Thompson Seton and his wife. Personal Correspondence is with her husband and sister Belle Fanton, and with friends. Business and political correspondence documents her career as a magazine editor and writer, her participation in political organizations and events, her participation in radio talks, and her correspondence regarding war issues.
Art correspondence/subject files include correspondence with and collected materials on artists, photographers, art patrons, critics, and wives of artists, as well as arts organizations, museums, and schools. Correspondence of note is with George Gray Barnard, Gutzon Borglum, Ben Ali Haggin, Leon Kroll, Frederic Remington, W. Goodridge Roberts, Nicholas Roerich, Pierre Troubetzkoy, illustrator Oliver Herford, John Butler Yeats, and Ashcan school artists Robert Henri, John Sloan, and William Glackens, as well as many others. Dance and theatre correspondence/subject files include correspondence with actors, dancers, playwrights, patrons, organizations and theatres. Correspondence of note in this series is with Charles "Orlando" Coburn, Eva Le Gallienne, Angna Enters, and the "Duncan Dancers." Literary and music orrespondence/subject files include correspondence with authors, poets, critics, singers, publishers, and musicians, such as Bliss Carman, Yvette Guilbert, and Lloyd Osbourne. Additional material found in these subject files, other than letters, includes invitations, photographs, calling cards, artwork, news clippings, and printed material.
Writings by Roberts include an autobiographical essay about her youth and early career, guest lists and notes concerning hosted events, and typescripts of poems by her niece Dorothy Gostwick Roberts. Printed material is comprised of art exhibition catalogs, published articles and trade bulletins written by Roberts, and newsclippings. Photographs are of Roberts, her family, friends, and places she lived, and include autographed portraits given to her, primarily from actors and actresses. Also found are photographs taken by Nickolas Muray of art models. Scattered artwork in this collection includes several small drawings by unidentified artists, as well as a pencil portrait of Roberts by John Butler Yeats.
Series 2: Personal Correspondence, 1902-1951, undated (Box 1; 7 folders)
Series 3: Business and Political Correspondence, 1903-1959, undated (Box 1; 6 folders)
Series 4: Art Correspondence/Subject Files, 1898-1956, undated (Box 1-2; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 5: Dance and Theatre Correspondence/Subject Files, 1902-1953, undated (Box 2-3; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 6: Literary and Music Correspondence/Subject Files, 1900-1952, undated (Box 3; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 7: General Correspondence, 1898-1946, undated (Box 3-4; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 8: Writings, 1915-1926, 1952, undated (Box 4; 3 folders)
Series 9: Printed Material, 1899, 1909-1947, undated (Box 4-5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 10: Photographs, 1880-circa 1943, undated (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 11: Artwork, 1906, undated (Box 5; 3 folders)
Mary Fanton Roberts was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1864. When she was a young girl her family moved to Deadwood, in the Montana territory, where her father had mining prospects. When she was old enough, she and her sister were sent back to New York to attend the Albany Female Academy. After finishing school, Roberts pursued journalism and became a staff writer for four years for the Herald Tribune, the Journal, and the Sun in New York. During her long career she was editor of Demorest Magazine, editor-in-chief of New Idea Woman's Magazine, managing editor of The Craftsman, and creator and editor of The Touchstone Magazine and Decorative Arts magazine. Her longest period at one publication was seventeen years as editor of Arts and Decoration. She often wrote articles on the topic of decorative arts and home decorating, and published two books, Inside 100 Homes, and 101 Ideas for Successful Interiors.
In 1906 she married William Carman Roberts, writer and editor of Literary Digest for thirty years. They lived in Manhattan and Waterford, Connecticut.
Roberts was very involved in the artistic, theatrical, and literary circles in New York City, and met and became friends with many young avant garde American artists, including Robert Henri and John Sloan. Through her husband she met many writers and poets, including Theodore Dreiser and Bliss Carman. Roberts was active in organizations such as the Women's City Club, Pen and Brush, and the MacDowell Society and also attended countless art openings, theater performances, and other social events. As an avid supporter of modern dance, she became friends with many performers, including Isadora Duncan and Angna Enters. After her husband's death in 1941, Roberts moved to the Chelsea Hotel, where she lived for the rest of her life. She maintained lifelong relationships with a wide circle of friends and continued to correspond with them and attend social events until her death in 1956 at the age of 92.
The collection was donated in 1957 by Phoebe DuBois and Violet Organ.
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 Mary Fanton Roberts 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.