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William L. Lathrop papers


Held at: James A. Michener Art Museum Archives [Contact Us]138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA, 18901

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the James A. Michener Art Museum 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

William Langson Lathrop (1859-1938) was an artist, teacher, and sailor. He helped establish the artists colony in New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When he was not working on his own art or teaching others, he would sail on his boat The Widge.

Born in Painesville, Ohio, Lathrop began his artistic career as an illustrator and etcher in New York, NY. He traveled to Europe in the 1880s, where he met and married his wife, Annie Burt. After returning to the United States, Lathrop found it difficult to make a living as an artist and almost gave it up permanently. However, he won the top prize in a prestigious New York art show and received a favorable review in The New York Times, which helped launch his career. In 1899, Lathrop and his family moved to the community of Phillips Mill in New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

"Often called the dean of the New Hope art colony, William Langson Lathrop helped to establish this community of artists soon after he moved into Phillips Mill in 1899. His home and studio quickly emerged as the intellectual and spiritual center of the art colony, as he ferried students to his studio and, with his wife Annie, hosted weekly teas for his colleagues. A dedicated teacher, Lathrop mentored several members of the New Hope school's first and second generations. Primarily a tonalist, Lathrop created poetic and evocative paintings in muted shades, often of earth browns and blue-grays. Most often he painted simplified rustic landscapes, in oils or occasionally in watercolors. Although Lathrop often worked "en plein air," in the manner of many Pennsylvania impressionists, he deemed it important to complete his paintings in the studio, drawing also upon memory. In his later years, Lathrop developed a more impressionistic style, expanding the colors in his palette."

In the late 1920s, Lathrop and his longtime friend, Henry Snell, built a boat called The Widge. Lathrop and his friends launched it into the Delaware River in 1930. An able sailor, he would often sail the boat into the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean and paint views of the shoreline. Albert Einstein was a guest on the boat, during his time teaching at Princeton University. In 1938, Lathrop perished in a hurricane after he anchored in a bay off of Montauk, Long Island to wait out the storm.


Quoted text from: James A. Michener Art Museum. "William Langson Lathrop." Accessed September 13, 2016.

William L. Lathrop papers, 1741-2000s, consist of both original Lathrop papers and materials about him that were created or collected by his descendants. Materials include personal and professional/exhibition-related correspondence, exhibition materials, diaries, photographs, slides, scrapbooks, newspaper and magazine clippings, genealogical research on the Lathrop family, artworks, and other materials. There are some 18th century documents from the Langson family. Several items relate to Lathrop's boat, The Widge.

Materials from Lathrop include lots of personal correspondence with family and friends, including a letter from Albert Einstein; professional correspondence with artists and organizations about his art work; exhibition catalogs and other materials from Lathrop shows (while he was alive); items relating to Lathrop's work, including publications featuring his work, sales records, and an "Index of Paintings" binder with notes for each painting including title, date, media, size, owner and exhibition history; journals and outlines of Lathrop's travels, including his trip to Europe in the 1880s; an 1890 diary and an 1891 sketchbook; scrapbooks; several photographs of Lathrop, his work, and friends, including a hand-colored tintype of Lathrop and Henry B. Snell; checkbooks; materials relating to The Widge, including a typed copy of a log book, Lathrop's drawing and sketches for the design of the hull, a scrapbook of clippings about the boat, and Lathrop's 1936 journal from his time on the boat; and other materials.

Materials collected or compiled by Lathrop's descendants include scrapbooks with clippings about Lathrop; correspondence, exhibition catalogs, and other documents related to Lathrop exhibitions (post-mortem); documents related to loans and sales of Lathrop works; photographs, slides, and photograph albums with images of Lathrop's work; photocopies of Lathrop sketches; personal correspondence; and other materials.

Additional materials in the collection include Lathrop family photographs, including some from Lathrop's hometown, Painesville, Ohio; genealogical research and notes, related correspondence, and 18th century documents from the Langson family, including a marriage certificate (1741), letters (1770), and a will; artist biographical files; a painting of Lathrop by George Clements; artifacts; and other materials.

A more detailed finding aid, biographical note, or inventory for this collection may be available on-site or on the Michener Archives finding aid page:

This collection consists of multiple accessions. Accession ARC2007.4 was gifted to the James A. Michener Art Museum Archives by David B. Long on December 12, 2007. Accession ARC2008.5 was gifted to the James A. Michener Art Museum Archives by Patrick and Sarah Bauhan in 2008.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact James A. Michener Art Museum Archives directly for more information.

James A. Michener Art Museum Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories using information provided by the James A. Michener Art Museum Archives
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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