A Finding Aid to the Berta N. Briggs Papers,
1908-1976, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald
Table of Contents:
- Biographical Information
- Overview of the Collection
- How to Use the Collection
- Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Berta N. Briggs (née Nabersberg) was born June 5, 1884 in St. Paul, Minnesota, daughter of John William and Rosina (Reinfrank) Nabersberg. After her graduation from Central High School, she moved to New York to study art at the Art Students League under Kenyon Cox, at the Pratt Institute under Ralph Johannot, and at the Teachers College of Columbia University under Arthur W. Dow.
Upon her return to St. Paul in 1905, Briggs was appointed the first Supervisor of Handicrafts in the public schools, a position she held for three years. From 1908-1911, she organized and directed the Department of Crafts at the St. Paul Institute School of Art and taught woodblock printing, leather work, metal work, and pottery. During these years, she attended the summer school of the Minneapolis Handicraft Guild, working under Ernest Batchelder and Bertha Lum.
In 1911, Briggs moved to New York to become the head of the art department in the Charlton School, a private school for girls, where she taught art and lectured on the history of art and architecture for two years. On June 18, 1913, she married William Harlowe Briggs, an editorial executive for Harper Brothers publishers.
From 1918 to 1928, Berta Briggs lectured on the history of art at Miss Chandor’s School for girls in New York. With nine other craft workers, she founded an outlet for craftwork, the Noank Studio Guild.
In 1928, Briggs began to paint landscapes and specialized in paintings birds. From 1930 to 1932, she was President of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She was Vice-President of the Society of Woman Geographers from 1939 to 1942, and was a member of the National Association of Women Artists.
Briggs’s book Charles Willson Peale, Artist and Patriot was published in 1952, followed by To the Shores of Tripoli, published in 1955.
Berta N. Briggs died November 12, 1976 in New York City.
Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
The papers of painter, writer and educator Berta N. Briggs measure 1.3 linear feet and date from 1908-1976. Found in the collection are biographical material such as curriculum vitae and awards, and scattered letters primarily discussing Briggs's activities with various arts organizations. Notes and writings include notebooks for Briggs's two books Charles Willson Peale: Artist and Patriot (1952) and To the Shores of Tripoli (1955). The papers also contain artwork by Briggs including sketchbooks and drawings of birds, scrapbooks and printed material including exhibition catalogs and announcements, and photographs of Briggs's artwork.
Arrangement and Series Description
The collection has been arranged as 7 series. Documents within each series are arranged chronologically.
- Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1932-1975 (Box 1; 3 folders)
- Series 2: Letters, 1932-1961 (Box 1; 2 folders)
- Series 3: Notes and Writings, 1950-1954 (Box 1; 19 folders)
- Series 4: Artwork, 1931-1942 (Boxes 1-2; 6 folders)
- Series 5: Scrapbooks, 1908-1968 (Boxes 1-2; 7 folders)
- Series 6: Printed Material, 1932-1976 (Box 1; 12 folders)
- Series 7: Photographs, 1929-1943 (Boxes 1-2; 4 folders)
Subjects and Names
This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms:
- Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827
- Women painters -- New York (State) -- New York
- Women educators -- New York (State) -- New York
Types of Materials:
The Berta N. Briggs papers were donated in 1977 by Mrs. Malcolm Fooshee, Briggs’s niece.
How the Collection was Processed
The papers were processed to an intermediate level in February 2006 by Jean Fitzgerald.
How to Use the Collection
Restrictions on Use
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
Ownership & Literary Rights
The Berta N. Briggs papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
How to Cite this Collection
Berta N. Briggs papers, 1908-1976. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Biographical Material, circa 1932-1975
(Box 1; 3 folders)
Biographical material consists of curriculum vitae and awards.
|1||1||Curriculum Vitae, circa 1932-1943|
|1||2||National Association of Women Artists Award Medal, 1954|
|1||3||National Association of Women Artists Award Certificate, 1975|
(Box 1; 2 folders)
Letters primarily discuss Briggs’s activities with various arts organizations, and include one letter signed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mabel Conkling, Gail Sherman Corbett, Elisabeth Sturtevant Theobald, and other artists.
Notes and Writings, 1950-1954
(Box 1; 19 folders)
This series includes two notebooks concerning Briggs’s book Charles Willson Peale: Artist and Patriot (1952) and one notebook concerning her other book To the Shores of Tripoli (1955). Additional writings describe Briggs’s artwork and consist of typescripts by Briggs and others.
Notebooks Concerning Book Charles Willson Peale: Artist and Patriot, 1950-1954
Notebooks Concerning Book To the Shores of Tripoli, 1954
|1||23||Writings by Briggs, undated|
|1||24||Writings by Others, 1953, undated|
(Boxes 1-2; 6 folders)
Artwork by Briggs includes three sketchbooks of birds drawn at the Bronx Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Also included are miscellaneous undated drawings, and a block print.
|1||25||Sketchbook of Birds in Bronx Zoo, 1931-1936|
|1||26||Sketchbook of Birds in San Diego Zoo, 1940|
|1||27||Sketchbook of Birds in Washington Zoo and Bronx Zoo, 1941-1942|
Miscellaneous Drawings, undated
(see also Box 2)
|1||29||Block Print of the Crucifiction, undated|
Oversized Drawing of a Cat, undated
(see also Box 1)
(Boxes 1-2; 7 folders)
Scrapbook 1 contains letters, clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs and miscellaneous programs. Scrapbook 2 consists of only a few pages containing clippings. Scrapbook 3 concerns Briggs’s books Charles Willson Peale: Artist and Patriot and To the Shores of Tripoli and contains letters, clippings, a press release, and an exhibition announcement.
Scrapbook 1, 1908-1963
(2 folders; see also Box 2)
|1||33||Scrapbook 2, 1931-1939|
Scrapbook 3, 1950-1968
|2 (sol)||Oversized Scrapbook 1, 1908-1963|
Printed Material, 1932-1976
(Box 1; 12 folders)
This series contains clippings including Briggs’s obituary, press releases, and exhibition announcements and catalogs that document Briggs's career.
|1||45||Press Releases, 1932-1943, undated|
Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1932-1963
|1||48||Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1939-1956, undated|
(Boxes 1-2; 4 folders)
All photographs are of artwork.
|1||49||Photographs of Landscape Paintings, undated|
Photographs of Paintings of Birds, undated
|2 (sol)||Photograph Album of Artwork, 1929-1943|