Charles Henry Caffin papers, circa 1883-1973, bulk 1883-1918

A Finding Aid to the Charles Henry Caffin Papers, circa 1883-1973, bulk circa 1883-1918 , in the Archives of American Art, by Catherine S. Gaines

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Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art

Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

Charles Henry Caffin was born in 1854 in England. After graduating from Oxford University, Caffin served as stage manager for outdoor productions with Ben Greet and His Shakespearean Players. During this time, he met actress Caroline Scurfield, whom he later married and had two daughters, Freda and Donna. Caffin moved to United States in 1892 where he began to write about art, drama, and dance. He was an early supporter of the Photo-Secessionists and American modern art.

Initially, Caffin worked for several years executing murals from designs prepared by other artists for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the new Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Shortly thereafter, however, he began writing for Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Notes and later Camera Work. He moved to the New York City area and worked as a critic for the New York Evening Post, New York Sun, and later for the New York American. Caffin wrote many books about art, drama, and dance, including Photography as Fine Art (1901), American Masters of Painting (1902), How to Study Pictures (1905), and Art for Life's Sake (1913).

Charles Caffin died in 1918.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The scattered papers of art critic and writer Charles Henry Caffin measure 1.2 linear feet and date from circa 1883-1973. Found within the papers are an interview transcript, two letters, printed materials, one scrapbook, and family photographs dating from circa 1883 to circa 1911, many by noted photographers Arnold Genthe, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. The scrapbook contains Caffin's columns for the New York American, 1913-1915.

Biographical information includes an autograph book, and a transcript and written summary of a 1973 interview with Caffin's daughter, Donna Layton, conducted by Wanda Corn and Deborah Loft concerning Charles Henry Caffin. The two letters found within the papers are written to Caroline Caffin. Printed material consists of play announcements, a play written by Charles Rann Kennedy, and excerpts from a 1974 published book on photography mentioning Caffin.

Photographs are of the Caffin family, including Charles Henry, Caroline, Donna, Freda and Charles's mother Harlet. Also found are photographs of Ben Greet. Notable photographers include Arnold Genthe, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. There is one scrapbook containing Charles Henry Caffin's articles written for the New York American magazine from 1913-1915.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into 5 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Kennedy, Charles Rann, 1871- Servant in the house
  • Andreyev, Leonid, 1871-1919. Sorrows of Belgium
  • Greet, Ben, Sir, 1857-1936

Subjects-Topical:

  • Photography, Artistic
  • Theater -- History -- 20th century
  • Art, Modern -- 20th century
  • Photographers
  • Art critics -- New York (State) -- New York

Types of Materials:

  • Scrapbooks
  • Interviews
  • Photographs

Names:

  • Genthe, Arnold, 1869-1942 photographer
  • Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952 photographer
  • Käsebier, Gertrude, 1852-1934 photographer
  • Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946 photographer
  • Steichen, Edward, 1879-1973 photographer
  • Layton, Donna Caffin
  • Corn, Wanda M.

Provenance

Donna Caffin Layton, daughter of Charles Caffin, donated most of the papers in 1974. Stephen D. Rockstroh, Caffin's son-in-law, donated additional material in 1985.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Catherine S. Gaines in 2003, merging the two accessions. The collection was digitized in 2009, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Charles Henry Caffin 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.

Available Formats

The bulk of this collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.. Materials not scanned include duplicates, negatives, and some printed and published works that are not annotated.

How to Cite this Collection

Charles Henry Caffin papers, circa 1883-1973, bulk circa 1883-1918. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Information, 1915, 1973
(Box 1; 2 folders)

This series consists of an oral history transcript and summary conducted in 1973 with Donna Layton by Wanda Corn and Deborah Loft concerning Charles Henry Caffin. Also found is an autograph book given to Caffin as thanks for a speaking engagement, written on a copy of Leonid Andreyev's The Sorrows of Belgium. Pages that do not have autographs, drawings, notes, and poems have not been scanned.

Box Folder
1 (hol) 1 Autograph Book on Leonid Andreyev's The Sorrows of Belgium, 1915
(partially scanned)
1 (hol) 2 Interview Transcript with Donna Layton, 1973 February 27

Series 2: Letters, 1920
(Box 1; 1 folder)

This series consists two letters written to Mrs. Caroline Scurfield Caffin in 1920 from one her daughters and Gilbert Cannan. The letters were found folded inside Leonid Andreyev's The Sorrows of Belgium.

Box Folder
1 (hol) 3 Letters, 1920

Series 3: Printed Material, 1908, circa 1920s, 1972
(Box 1; 3 folders)

Found here is an announcement of a Ben Greet performance in the United States, and a copy of the play Servant in the House by Charles Rann Kennedy given to Freda Caffin with signatures of cast members. Also found are photocopied excepts taken from Beaumont Newhall's History of Photography that discuss Charles Henry Caffin. Only pages with signatures have been scanned from the Rann play.

Box Folder
1 (hol) 4 Ben Greet Play Announcement, circa 1920s
1 (hol) 5 Excerpts from History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall, 1972 June 19
1 (hol) 6 Servant in the House by Charles Rann Kennedy, 1908
(partially scanned)

Series 4: Photographs, circa 1883-circa 1910s
(Box 1, 3-4; 0.6 linear feet)

Photographs are of the Caffin family including Charles Henry, Caroline, Donna, Freda and Charles's mother Harlet. Also found are photographs of Ben Greet and of Greet with Caroline Caffin during a performance of As You Like It circa 1883. Notable photographers include Arnold Genthe, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Folders include copy prints and negatives of the photographs. The originals have been conserved and are housed in Box 3 and OV 4. Only original photographs have been scanned.

Box Folder
1 (hol) 7 Caroline Caffin, 1901, circa 1905
(Original housed in Box 3)
1 (hol) 8 Caroline, Donna, and Freda Caffin, 1905
(Originals housed in Box 3)
1 (hol) 9 Charlies Henry Caffin, 1905, circa 1900
(Originals housed in Box 3, OV4)
1 (hol) 10 Donna and Freda Caffin, 1901, 1905
(Originals housed in Box 3)
1 (hol) 11 Harlet C. Caffin, circa 1900s
(Originals housed in Box 3)
1 (hol) 12 Ben Greet, circa 1910s
(Originals housed in Box 3)
1 (hol) 13 Ben Greet and Caroline Scurfield Caffin, circa 1883
(Originals housed in Box 3)
Box
3 (sol) Conserved Photographs, circa 1883-1905
(Scanned with Box 1, F7-13)
Box
4 (OV) Oversized Conserved Photograph of Charles Henry Caffin, circa 1883
(Scanned with Box 1)

Series 5: Scrapbooks, 1913-1915
(Box 2; 0.4 linear feet)

This series consists of one scrapbook containing Charles Henry Caffin's articles written for the New York American magazine from 1913-1915. This scrapbook has been scanned in its entirety.

Box Folder
2 (hol) 1 Scrapbook, 1913-1915