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William H. Campbell papers


Held at: Woodmere Art Museum [Contact Us]9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19118

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Woodmere Art Museum. 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 H. Campbell (1915-2012) was an illustrator, painter, art director, and art teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a co-founder of the Main Point, a coffeehouse and intimate performing venue for folk artists established in 1964 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. An active participant in the Philadelphia arts community, Campbell had several group and solo exhibitions, and received awards from Philadelphia and New York art organizations. Campbell served on the exhibits committee at Woodmere Art Museum in the 1980s, and also exhibited his work there three times in the 2000s.

Campbell grew up in Frankford, a neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia, where he took art classes at nearby La France Art Institute at the age of nine. He received his first art commission for a garden products brochure while in his senior year at Frankford High School. After high school, Campbell took art courses at the University of Pennsylvania and attended what is now the University of the Arts from 1933 to 1937. Also in the 1930s, Campbell studied with Earl Horter, who some have called "the founding father of modern art in Philadelphia."

Campbell enjoyed abstract art, but worked for several years as a commercial illustrator, an art director for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and a teacher at what is now the University of the Arts, Moore College of Art and Design, and the Philadelphia Sketch Club in order to earn income. In 1964, Campbell and his wife, Jeanette Orndoff Campbell, and others co-founded the Main Point as a small venue to host folk-based musicians in Bryn Mawr, PA. Campbell designed the Main Point logo. After he and his wife divorced in 1970, Campbell ended his connection with the Main Point and moved to the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, where he served on the board of the Spring Garden Civic Association.

Beginning in the late 1980s, Campbell took on less commercial work in order to focus on his own art. His art work received awards from the Plastic Club (Philadelphia, PA), the Philadelphia Sketch Club, and the Acrylic Society (New York, NY). He exhibited shows in 2000, 2010, and 2011 at the Woodmere Museum of Art, where he also served for a time in the 1980s on the exhibits committee. Campbell passed away on October 31, 2012 at the age of 97.


Downey, Sally A. "W. H. Campbell, Artist Who Cofounded a Cabaret." Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), November 5, 2012. Accessed August 17, 2016.

Senior Artists Initiative. "William Campbell." 2010. Accessed August 17, 2016.

The William H. Campbell papers, circa 1930s-2012, consist of materials relating to Campbell's personal and professional life, including materials from Campbell's youth; materials relating to Campbell's art education, work as a commercial artist and teacher, and his own artwork and exhibitions; records and other materials from organizations in which Campbell was involved; artist files compiled by Campbell; photographs, slides, color transparencies, audiocassettes, VHS cassettes and a film reel; scrapbooks; records from the Main Point coffeehouse; original artworks from Campbell; and other materials. There are several art catalogs, exhibition catalogs, books, magazines, and other publications in the collection that have been annotated by Campbell. Some of these annotated materials relate to Campbell's work, but several do not.

Personal papers from Campbell include several materials from Campbell's childhood and high school years, such as yearbooks, school report cards, writings, clippings related to activities he did in school, awards from grade school, photographs of him in high school and his Frankford High class photo, and his high school diploma. There are also letters to Campbell and responses drafted by him, correspondence between Campbell and family in Dallas (Texas), an address book, brochures and booklets from travel to England and Scotland, and other personal materials from when he was older. His death certificate is also in the collection.

Materials relating to Campbell's education as an artist include lecture notes from a class given Thornton Oakley, circa 1930s; papers he wrote for classes at University of Pennsylvania, 1933-1934; snapshots and negatives, circa 1935, of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts scenery possibly used as reference material for his artwork while at Earl Horter's Summer School (most images were taken by him, some were taken by others); report cards, receipts for tuition payment, and roster cards from University of the Arts; his diploma; and other materials. Materials from Campbell's time as a commercial artist include papers related to his work for the Container Corporation of America and materials from other commercial work. Materials from Campbell's time as an art educator include his art education files, which contain teaching materials, sketches, articles, lecture notes, clippings, and other materials.

Materials related to Campbell's own artwork, his art collection, and exhibitions include deeds of gift, photographs, descriptions of artwork, and other papers relating to donations Campbell made to Woodmere from his own art collection (including work from other Philadelphia artists); his artist's bio; exhibit proposals; design and layout materials for exhibition spaces; exhibit catalogs and reviews from Woodmere and other Philadelphia (and other cities) spaces where Campbell's work was shown; several materials relating to the "Paths to Abstract Art" exhibit at Woodmere; guest book from exhibition; letters from galleries about works that have been sold; clippings and notes, as well as whole magazines about Campbell and his artwork, 1930s-1980s; photographs; RSVP cards from an event honoring Campbell; materials from "Bill Campbell at 90" exhibit and party at Hand Impressions Gallery; publicity materials from exhibitions, circa 1980s-1990s; clippings relating to Campbell and his work; slides of Campbell's artwork and binders containing inventory/catalog sheets with an image and description of his work; examples and mock ups of his work including color transparencies for use in magazines and catalogs; Campbell's records of artworks sold and donated; and awards he received.

Materials from organizations in which Campbell was involved include Philadelphia Sketch Club member lists, club history, newsletters, and other materials; gallery guides, letters, newsletters, constitution and bylaws, clippings, catalogs, and other materials from the National Academy of Design; and similar materials for the Plastic Club.

Artist files on local Philadelphia artists compiled by Campbell include clippings from newspapers and magazine articles featuring the artists, photocopies of articles about the artists, notes about artists, obituaries, materials from exhibitions, photographs, and other materials. There is a small portion of materials from a ceramics exhibition for Susan Campbell, William H. Campbell's daughter.

Photographs that are not already described in other parts of this collection include loose prints and several photograph albums, including several candids of Campbell. Campbell's chest x-rays, 1943, are also in the collection with a note about why he did not serve in World War II. There is one unidentified film reel in the collection, as well as VHS cassettes of an interview Campbell gave to the Senior Artists Initiative in May 2000 about his life, work, and accomplishments. There are several scrapbooks, at least one with clippings and photographs relating to Campbell.

Records from the Main Point, 1964-1970, consist of materials from the time when Campbell was involved with the coffeehouse, including administrative and financial records, publications, and photographs. There are also some oversized and audio materials in the Main Point records, including sketches and other artwork relating to Campbell's design for the Main Point logo, advertisements, booklets, and audiocassette recordings of Main Point radio spots from 1965 to 1968. In 1970, Campbell and his wife divorced and he ended his connection with the Main Point. The Main Point ceased operations in 1981.

Original artworks by Campbell in the collection include early drawings, sketches, and cards created during his childhood and adolescence, circa 1923-1932; Christmas cards he designed for friends and family; a sketch portrait of Dave Van Ronk made at the Main Point, 1966; a sketchbook with the name "Leon Karp," circa 1930s; and several abstract works.

Gift of William H. Campbell, 2009-2012

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 Woodmere Art Museum directly for more information.

Woodmere Art Museum
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
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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