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Edwin Atlee Barber Papers


Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. 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

Edwin Atlee Barber was Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1901 to 1916, and Honorary Curator of American Pottery and Porcelain from 1893 to 1916. His great interest was pottery, porcelain, and ceramics, primarily early American works. A scholar and prolific writer, Barber wrote numerous articles on his specialty, many of which were published. He remains today a pioneer scholar in his field.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1851, Barber's family included distinguished heroes of the Revolutionary War, as well as early captains of industry. When he was a child, Barber's family moved to Pennsylvania and then to Iowa, but Barber returned East for his schooling. He graduated from the Williston Seminary in East Hampton, Massachusetts, in 1869, and then attended Lafayette College where he studied English. In 1880, Lafayette College conferred upon Barber a Master of Arts degree, and in 1893, he received from the College a Doctorate of Philosophy.

In 1874, Barber went west with the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories. The following year his travels took him to sites of Indian ruins in Utah and Arizona where his pottery interests most likely were stimulated. At this time Barber also was reporting for the New York Herald as a special correspondent. In 1879 Barber returned to the Philadelphia area to become a Post Office Superintendant and later an Officer of the U.S. Civil Service Examining Board.

Barber became involved with museum interests in Philadelphia. In 1879 he was appointed Chief of the Department of Archaeology of the Permanent Exhibit in Fairmount Park, and in 1893, was appointed Honorary Curator of Pottery and Porcelain at the then Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art. In addition, he was the Secretary of the Corporation and Curator from 1901 to 1916. In a letter to Morris Carter of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Barber outlined his own tasks: "Secretary of the Corporation and various committees, Acting Curator of all the twelve departments of the Museum; arrange and install all of the collections, prepare all of the labels for printing; edit the Museum Bulletin and Annual Report, and prepare for publication all of the Guides, Handbooks, catalogues and Art Primers; conduct the Bureau of Identification of Art Objects; collect the annual Membership dues; act as Superintendent of the building and have direct charge of the guards and all other employees." Later in 1907, after Pepper's death, his title was changed from Curator to Director.

Barber's tenure at the Museum was during a critical period of growth and self-definition for the Museum. Through Barber's influence the Museum placed a great importance on the decorative arts, a focus which has remained through the years. An avid collector and a recognized authority, especially of Pennsylvania German pottery and early American glassware, Barber also is the author of the acclaimed text, Pottery and Porcelain of the United States.

Barber spelled his middle name with a capital L, as Edwin AtLee Barber, whenever the choice was left up to him; but others usually spelled it with a small l, including the Library of Congress. Barber married Nellie Louise Parker in 1880. On December 12, 1916, Barber died of pneumonia, and was survived by his wife and their daughter.

    Works Consulted
  1. Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Jan. 1917): 1-4. Memoriam.

The value of these papers is in their informational content - they are a fine research source regarding early American and other pottery. Also, the papers reveal the mindset of a turn-of-the-century scholar - not a representative scholar - but an interesting personality and a leader in his field. Also revealed is the process of scholarly writing and production. Valuable to researchers is Barber's collection of potters' marks.

In 1919, Nellie Louise Parker Barber, the widow of Edwin Atlee Barber, gave to the Philadelphia Museum of Art a number of unpublished works by Barber. Sixteen titles were recorded among the donations (see Committee on Museum: Minutes, December, 1919) and "other notes and unfinished monographs were found," presumably in Barber's desk when it was cleared after his death in 1916. After the Archives was established in 1976, one foot of these writings were discovered in bundles in a Museum closet. Another 1/2 foot of Barber's materials was transferred from the offices of the Department of American Art in June 1979.

These materials were arranged and described by Merle Chamberlain. Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Merle Chamberlain
Finding Aid Date
Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

The Edwin Atlee Barber Papers are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Content Note

The Papers consist of published and unpublished typescripts and manuscripts, notes, photographs, and sketches.


Alphabetical by title of article or subject.

Physical Description

1.5 linear feet

Publications material., 1909, 1912.
Box 1 Folder 1
Correspondence re Castleford, Brislington, and Bristol (Cream Ware")., 1905-1915.
Box 1 Folder 2
"Ceramic decoration in the United States. Ms.and illustrations., undated.
Box 1 Folder 3
"Chats on art and artisans." Unused Ts., paste-ups, illustrations (ready for publication)., undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
China marks., undated.
Box 1 Folder 5
Chinese sgraffito plate. Phots and notes., 1916.
Box 1 Folder 6
"Decorated tin - Pennsylvania German." Correspondence and photos., 1916.
Box 1 Folder 7
"Description of the manufacture of red earthen ware." Ms., undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
"Enamels - American, Russian, French." Photos., 1914.
Box 1 Folder 9
"Enamels on metal - European and American." Ts. and notes., 1911, 1914.
Box 1 Folder 10
"Forgeries of Eastern glass and pottery." ("Used")., 1911-1912.
Box 1 Folder 11
"Glass glazed pottery." (Unused, ready for publication, Art Primer series)., undated.
Box 1 Folder 12
Glossary of ceramic terms for Walpole Society. Illustrations., undated.
Box 1 Folder 13
"Hard paste porcelain." Correspondence, notes, Ms., Ts., photographs., 1895-1910.
Box 1 Folder 14
"Hard paste porcelain - China, Japan, Siam, Korea." Paste-up., undated.
Box 1 Folder 15
Ironwork - American. Photographs, correspondence, notes., 1908-1914.
Box 2 Folder 1
"Lead glazed pottery [white clays]." Ts. and notes., undated.
Box 2 Folder 2
"Lead glazed pottery [white clays]." Ts. and notes., undated.
Box 2 Folder 3
Mexican art. Paste-ups, correspondence with Scribner's., 1916.
Box 2 Folder 4
"The tile architecture and majolica of Mexico." Reprint, Ts., notes, and photographs., 1913.
Box 2 Folder 5
Mexican majolicirca Photos and printed plates., undated.
Box 2 Folder 6
Miscellaneous material on pottery., 1906-1913.
Box 2 Folder 7
"Notes on pottery and porcelain in European museums" and "Report to Directors and Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the museums visited during recent trip.", 1910.
Box 2 Folder 8
"Old American glass." Art in America (Apr. 1916)., 1916.
Box 2 Folder 9
"Old pewter." Correspondence and clipping, published House and Garden., 1911-1913.
Box 2 Folder 10
Pictures of slip-decorated and other ware; Pennsylvania potters. [1:2]., undated.
Box 3 Folder 1
Pictures of slip-decorated and other ware; Pennsylvania potters. [2:2]., undated.
Box 3 Folder 2
Potters marks (not American). Articles, correspondence, facsimiles., 1885-1914.
Box 3 Folder 3
Pottery and porcelain marks (American). [1:2]., undated.
Box 3 Folder 4
Pottery and porcelain marks (American). [2:2].
Box 3 Folder 5
Potters marks. Articles and clippings., 1900.
Box 3 Folder 6
Pottery marks - stamps. Notes., undated.
Box 3 Folder 7
"Raaren stoneware." Notes., 1909.
Box 3 Folder 8
"Salt-glazed stoneware: Germany, Flanders, England and the U.S." Paste-up and notes., undated.
Box 3 Folder 9
"Soft-paste porcelains, natural." Ts., Ms., and illustrations., undated.
Box 4 Folder 1
Artificial soft-paste porcelain - France, Italy, Spain, and England. Paste-ups with notes., undated.
Box 4 Folder 2
"Spanish glass in the collection of the Hispanic Society of Americirca" Ts., photographs, correspondence with de Osma., 1916.
Box 4 Folder 3
Sunderland glass - Mocha ware. Negatives., 1915.
Box 4 Folder 4
"Tin enamel-Hispano Mareso Majolicirca" Corrected Ts., 1915.
Box 4 Folder 5
"Tin enameled pottery - Majolica, Delft, and other stanniferous faience." Paste-up and notes., undated.
Box 4 Folder 6
Tucker ware. 1. "History of the Tucker and Hemphill Works, 1825-1839" (Ts. and notes); and 2. Ts. of letters of Benjamin Tucker, 1823-1829., undated.
Box 4 Folder 7
Tucker and Hemphill ware., undated.
Box 4 Folder 8
"Unglazed stoneware." (Art Primer series; unfinished)., undated.
Box 4 Folder 9

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