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Frank Edwin Elwell papers


Held at: Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department [Contact Us]Philadelphia, PA, 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Francis Edwin Elwell was born in Concord, Massachusetts on June 15, 1858, into a prominent intellectual family. Orphaned at a young age, Elwell was raised by his grandfather and grew very close to the nearby Alcott family, where he spent significant time with author Louisa May Alcott. His artistic education began early with lessons from Alcott’s sister, Abigail May Alcott, followed by training at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1880 he moved to Paris and attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts, studying under Alexandre Falguiere.

He returned to America in 1885 with his first wife, Molina (Hildreth) Elwell, and settled briefly in Massachusetts, where he lectured at Harvard University. His statue, “Dickens and Little Nell,” now located in Clark Park, Philadelphia, won a medal at the 1893 Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair). Another statue, “Awakening of Egypt,” was shown at the Salon de 1896 in Paris. From 1903-1905 he was Curator of Ancient and Modern Statuary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Between 1884 and 1915 he produced more than fifty sculptural works, primarily statues and busts. Elwell died in Darien, Connecticut on January 23, 1922.

Alcott Farrar Elwell (1887-1962) was the eldest son of Frank Edwin Elwell and Molina (Hildreth) Elwell. He spent 1908 with the United States Geological Survey in Wyoming, and served in the “Harvard Regiment” infantry in World War I, and as a Captain in World War II. His career was primarily devoted to Mowglis, a summer camp in New Hampshire, which he ran for 27 years. Alcott Elwell and his wife, Helen Chaffee Elwell (1888-1976), donated the Frank Edwin Elwell collection to the library.


Who Was Who in America, 1929-1940. Taft, Lorado. American Sculpture. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903.

This collection consists of material related to Frank Edwin Elwell’s life and work as a sculptor. It includes articles by and about Elwell, biographical material compiled by his daughter-in-law, Helen Chaffee Elwell, photographs of Elwell’s sculptures and studio, and a scrapbook of Elwell-related clippings. It also includes a copy of Lorado Taft’s book, American Sculpture (1903), in which additional photographs of Elwell’s works have been pasted. A short biographical sketch of Elwell’s son, Alcott Farrar Elwell, is included in the biographical material.

The collection is arranged alphabetically into six files. Lorado Taft's book, American Sculpture, is housed with the Rare Book Department's General Collection.

Gifts of Alcott Farrar Elwell and Helen Chaffee Elwell, 1953-1970.

Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Caitlin Goodman
Finding Aid Date
May 2014
Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Rare Book Department at 215-686-5416 for access.

Use Restrictions

The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints, or drawings must be obtained through application, stating the use to be made of the material. The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material. A reproduction fee may be charged depending upon the use of material.

Collection Inventory

Articles, 1898-1908.
Box 1 Folder 1-3
Scope and Contents note

Photostats and copies of three articles by or about Frank Edwin Elwell.

Biographical information, circa 1967.
Box 1 Folder 4
Scope and Contents note

Includes a CV and partial list of works for Frank Edwin Elwell and a brief biographical timeline for his son, Alcott Farrar Elwell.

Carte d'exposant from Salon de 1896, 1896.
Box 1 Folder 5

Scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1891-1953.
Box 2
Scope and Contents note

The great majority of the clippings date from 1891-1894. The scrapbook also includes 1922 obituaries for Elwell.

Scrapbook of photographs of Elwell sculptures, 1883-1970.
Box 3
Scope and Contents note

Includes an 1883 letter from Frank Edwin Elwell.

"Dickens and Little Nell", 1944-1972.
Box 1 Folder 6
"The Dispatch Rider of the American Revolution", 1966-1967.
Box 1 Folder 7
"Edwin Booth", 1959.
Box 1 Folder 8
Engraved copper plate of unidentified bust, undated.
Box 1 Folder 9
Photographs of Elwell sculptures, 38 items, 1898-1961.
Box 1 Folder 10-12
Taft, Lorado. American Sculpture. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903.
Call Number RBD GEN 1962-418
Scope and Contents note

This 1903 book has been annotated with additional information about Frank Edwin Elwell and has an additional five plates of photographs of Elwell sculptures pasted in.

Print, Suggest