Thornton Oakley collection of Howard Pyle and his students
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
Thornton Oakley (1881-1943) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1901 and 1902 from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Architecture and a M.S. in Architecture, respectively.
Oakley first studied with Howard Pyle at Chadd’s Ford Mill during the summer of 1902. He later studied with him at Pyle’s Franklin Street School in Wilmington, Delaware. Altogether, Oakley studied under Pyle for three years. He became an illustrator and writer for periodicals such as: Scribner’s, Century, Collier’s, and Harper’s Monthly. Oakley also received commissions to paint industrial subjects from the Pennsylvania Railroad, Philadelphia Electric Company, Sun Oil Company, the Franklin Institute, and many others.
From 1914 to 1919 and 1921 to 1936, he served as the Head of the Department of Illustration at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art. During the 1914-1915 school year, Oakley also taught drawing at the University of Pennsylvania. During his career, he gave lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Curtis Institute.
Oakley served as a member of the jury of selection and advisory committee of the Department of Fine Arts at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco in 1915 and at the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition in 1926.
During World War I, lithographs of Oakley’s patriotic drawings of war work at Hog Island Shipyard in Philadelphia were distributed by the U.S. government. From 1938 to 1939, he completed six murals on the epochs of science at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Oakley also did three sets of war effort pictures for National Geographic in 1941, 1943, and 1945. In 1951, Oakley donated his collection of Howard Pyle material to the Free Library of Philadelphia. He died in 1953 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Howard Pyle (1853-1911) was a famous American illustrator and writer, known primarily for children’s books including The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and The Wonder Clock, and for his unique teaching style of art. Prevalent themes in his artwork were chivalry and adventure.
Pyle was born in Wilmington, Delaware. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Arts Students League in New York. Pyle became an associate of the Academy in 1905 and was elected an Academician in 1907.
In 1894, he taught his first class at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry. His students in his first class included artists Maxfield Parrish, Jessie Wilcox Smith, and Elizabeth Shippen Green. Pyle’s teaching and class popularity led to the creation of the School of Illustration within the Drexel Institute. In 1899, he resigned from Drexel because he felt he lacked sufficient time to devote to each of his pupils, due to the growth of the program. Pyle still wanted to teach however, and beginning in 1899, Pyle opened up his own school next to his studio on Franklin Street in Wilmington, Delaware. He maintained a relationship with Drexel however and continued to host intensive summer coursework in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.
As an art teacher, Pyle emphasized thought over technique, and offered nonstop assistance and critique to his students. At his school in Wilmington, each student’s education was free, aside from paying a small monthly fee that helped offset the expense of the studio. Another aspect of his teaching style was that there was no time restriction placed on his students’ education. Instead, Pyle informed students when he thought that his instruction was no longer needed.
Pyle married Anne Poole and had seven children. In 1910 Pyle moved to Italy and died in Florence in 1911.
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) was one of Howard Pyle’s first students at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry. He was born in 1870 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From 1884 to 1886, Parrish spent time in Europe with his parents and attended classes in the winter of 1884 at Dr. Kornemann’s school in Paris.
He graduated from Haverford College in 1892 and spent the summers of 1892 and 1893 studying art with his father in Massachusetts. From 1892 to 1894, Parrish took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Drexel Institute of Art Science and Industry, where he met his future wife, Lydia. They married in 1895.
In 1898 Parrish established his permanent home in Cornish, New Hampshire where he built his house and studio at “The Oaks.” He contracted tuberculosis in 1900 and spent the next two years convalescing between Saranac Lake, New York and Hot Springs, Arizona. Parrish continued to paint during this time.
A significant change in his artwork is seen in 1931. Prior, he painted romantic themes; but after 1931, Parrish only completed landscapes of rural scenes. He died in 1966.
Sydney Gross was born in 1897, and was an aspiring artist who corresponded with Maxfield Parrish.
Henry Clarence Pitz (1895-1965) was born in Philadelphia to parents Henry William and Anna Rosina Pitz. He studied art at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art from 1914 to 1918, as well as the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia in 1917 and 1920. A lifelong admirer of Howard Pyle, Pitz authored a book profiling the artist in The Brandywine Tradition, which was published in 1969. Pitz won a Philadelphia Athenaeum Literary Award for this work. Over the course of his career, Pitz authored and illustrated over 160 books on various topics, including children’s literature, history, and art technique.
Several of Pyle's students became influential women illustrators. They include Jessie Willcox Smith, Violet Oakley, and Elizabeth Shippen Green.
Jessie Willcox Smith, one of the best known American illustrators of the first half of the twentieth century, discovered her talent for art while teaching kindergarten. She studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design) and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she worked briefly with Thomas Eakins. By 1888, she had left the Academy to pursue work as an illustrator. Her first job was creating advertisements for Ladies Home Journal. In 1894, Smith began studying with Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. She credited Pyle with starting her in the field and wrote that his teaching was invaluable. Violet Oakley entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1896, having studied art in England and France. After only one semester at the Academy, she became a student of Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. Recognizing her sense of color and composition, Pyle encouraged Oakley to create stained glass windows and murals which she did throughout her life. Her most important commission was designing and executing murals for the new capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth Shippen Green studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with Thomas Anshutz, Thomas Eakins and Robert Vonnoh. After graduation, Green illustrated articles for several Philadelphia newspapers and for the Strawbridge and Clothier department store. She also illustrated stories, articles and children’s pages for many leading magazines. In 1897, Green began taking courses at Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry with Howard Pyle. Green’s career spanned forty-four years. She illustrated over twenty books. The public knew her best from the illustrations she created for Harper’s Magazine over a twenty year period.
This collection, assembled by Thornton Oakley, covers the artistic careers of Howard Pyle and several of his prominent students. Materials in this collection include correspondence, tear sheets of artwork published in magazines, original illustrations, photographs, the Pitz research notes, and manuscripts. Pyle’s students who are best represented in this collection include Elizabeth Shippen Green, Jessie Wilcox Smith, George Harding, Violet Oakley, N.C. Wyeth, and Maxfield Parrish. The collection’s main strength is the original artwork by Pyle and some of his students. The collection dates from 1841 to 1992. There are nine series in the collection: “Thornton Oakley,” “Howard Pyle,” “Art by Howard Pyle,” “Students of Howard Pyle subject files,” “Artwork by students of Howard Pyle,” “Maxfield Parrish family papers,” “Art by Maxfield Parrish,” “Sidney Gross,” and “Henry Clarence Pitz’s research for The Brandywine Tradition.”
The first series, “Thornton Oakley papers,” primarily documents Oakley’s efforts to preserve the legacy of Howard Pyle through writing brief biographies, holding events, and corresponding with Pyle's former students. It is divided into four subseries. The “Correspondence” subseries comprises the bulk of this series and contains letters from artists and other professional contacts from the 1920s to the 1960s. The correspondence is mostly about Howard Pyle, though there are numerous letters Oakley collected that were written by Pyle. Also included are autographs of prominent literary figures such as Jules Verne, Samuel Clemens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, which Oakley collected, and are not related to Pyle. The “Writings and Ephemera regarding Howard Pyle” subseries contains writings and ephemera compiled by Thornton Oakley on the career of Pyle. The subseries also contains the bookplates and program guides for the Howard Pyle material that Thornton Oakley gifted to the Free Library of Philadelphia in 1951. At the end of this series is the “Photographic Albums” subseries containing photographs of Oakley’s trips to the West Indies and France.
The “Howard Pyle” series documents Pyle’s career as an artist. The “Tear sheets” subseries contains pages ripped out of magazines that published works by Pyle during his career, including Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Scribner’s, St. Nicholas Magazine, and the Century. The “Subject and Research Files” subseries includes records of auction catalogs of Howard Pyle's works, a sale of estate catalog from 1912, and clippings related to Howard Pyle. The “Photographs” subseries contains photographs of Pyle, his estate in Chadd’s Ford Mill, and other photographs of artists found in the Pyle collection.
Next is the series “Art by Howard Pyle,” which contains both original and re-printed works of art. The artwork was previously cataloged by the library staff, and the finding aid arrangement reflects that system. The art is grouped into subseries based on its physical size: “Medium-Sized Prints,” “Proofs,” “Large Sized Prints,” and “Small-Sized Prints.” Also included is a sketchbook by Howard Pyle from 1898.
The next series, “Subject files on students of Howard Pyle,” contains clippings, illustrations, letters, and various course records of Howard Pyle’s students. These materials are arranged alphabetically by student name. A folder containing Maxfield Parrish material has been kept with this series to maintain original order; however researchers will find more material on Parrish in the series "Maxfield Parrish family papers," and “Art by Maxfield Parrish.”
The series, “Art by Students of Howard Pyle" contains illustrations by students of Howard Pyle. The art work is divided into subseries according to its physical size: “Medium-Sized Prints” and “Large-Sized Prints.” Subseries are arranged alphabetically by student name. Student artists include Jessie Wilcox Smith, Elizabeth Shippen Green, and Violet Oakley.
The series, “Maxfield Parrish family papers,” houses letters sent by and to Maxfield Parrish, his cousin Dillwyn Parrish, and son Stephen Parrish from 1914 to 1951, including a letter from Maxfield Parrish to Eleanor Wilson, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson.
“Art by Maxfield Parrish,” contains prints and published clippings of Maxfield Parrish’s art. The “Medium-Sized Prints” and “Large-Sized Prints” subseries contain dozens of reproduced prints by Parrish from 1902 to 1961. The “Tear sheets” subseries contain published clippings of Parrish’s art in Scribner's and Collier's. Also in this subseries are plates from various calendars and books and a box of negatives of several illustrations.
The series, “Sydney Gross,” contains the records of Sydney Gross’s personal exchanges with Maxfield Parrish, as well as some published material and photographs taken by Gross of the artist’s work. Gross’s correspondence with Parrish spans from 1933 to 1939, and 1955 to 1967. As an aspiring artist himself, Gross also kept notes on art theory which is represented in the subseries “Notes on art techniques.”
The series, “Henry Clarence Pitz research for The Brandywine Tradition,” contains the correspondence, notes, and writings of art historian Henry Clarence Pitz. There are two subseries. The first, “Correspondence,” is divided into personal and corporate correspondence, arranged alphabetically by the sender’s name. The next subseries, “Research for The Brandywine Tradition,” includes the manuscript, typescript, and proofs for this book, which was published in the late 1960s.
There are nine series in the collection: I. Thornton Oakley; II. Howard Pyle; III. Art by Howard Pyle; IV. Students of Howard Pyle subject files V. Artwork by students of Howard Pyle; VI. Maxfield Parrish family papers; VII. Art by Maxfield Parrish; VIII. Sidney Gross; IX. Henry Clarence Pitz’s research for The Brandywine Tradition.
Series I. Thornton Oakley is arranged in three subseries: i. Correspondence; ii. Writings and ephemera regarding Howard Pyle; iii. Photographic albums. The correspondence subseries is arranged alphabetically by sender.
Series II. Howard Pyle is arranged in three subseries: i. Tear sheets; ii. Subject and research files; iii. Photographs.
Series III. Art by Howard Pyle is grouped into subseries according to physical size.
Series IV. Students of Howard Pyle subject files is arranged alphabetically by student.
Series V. Artwork by students of Howard Pyle is grouped into subseries according to physical size.
Series VI. Maxfield Parrish Family Papers is arranged in two subseries: i. Correspondence; ii. Notebook of displayed artwork by Stephen Parrish.
Series VII. Art by Maxfield Parrish is grouped into subseries according to physical size.
Series VIII. Sydney Gross is arranged in two subseries: i. Material related to Maxfield Parrish; ii. Notes on art techniques.
Series IX. Henry Clarence Pitz's research for The Brandywine Tradition is arranged in two subseries: i. Correspondence; ii. Research for The Brandywine Tradition.
Gift of Thornton Oakley, 1952.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- Elliott, Elizabeth Shippen Green
- Gross, Sydney
- Harding, George Matthews, 1882-1959
- McAdoo, Eleanor Wilson, 1889-1967
- Oakley, Thornton, 1881-1953
- Oakley, Violet , 1874-1961
- Parrish, Maxfield, 1870-1966
- Pitz, Henry Clarence, 1895-1976
- Pyle, Howard, 1853-1911
- Smith, Jessie Willcox, 1863-1935
- Wyeth, N.C., (Newell Convers), 1882-1945
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Megan Good and Forrest Wright
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- 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 written 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 will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.
This box contains tear sheets from Scribner's, Harper's, and The Literary Digest.Location note
This box is located in the Bible Room.
This series includes both graphic materials and text. The graphic materials are housed separately from the text, accounting for the different locations of materials. Researchers will find graphic materials in boxes 2 and 3, and text in boxes 19 to 21.
Due to housing issues, the art housed in this series is grouped into subseries according to physical size. The organization and identification of the art was established by a previous cataloging effort completed by the Free Library staff. Researchers interested in learning more about the content of this series should contact the Free Library special collections department.Location note
Additional original artwork by Howard Pyle can be found in Study Room A: drawer C9 and C11 and also located in Edna's Closet.
Due to housing issues, the art housed in this series was grouped into subseries according its physical size.Location note
Original art by students of Howard Pyle can be found in Study Room A: drawer C9 and C11 and also located in Edna's Closet. All oversize boxes are located in the Bible Room.
Due to housing issues, the art housed in this series is grouped into subseries according to physical size. The organization and identification of the art was established by a previous cataloging effort completed by the Free Library staff. Researchers interested in learning more about the content of this series should contact the Free Library special collections departmentLocation note
Original art by Maxfield Parrish can be found in Study Room A: drawers C9 and C11 and also located in Edna's Closet. All oversize boxes are located in the Bible Room.
This subseries contains tear sheets from Scribner's, Collier's, and various calendars and book illustrations.
This proof sheet is located in the Bible Room.