Olin Levi Warner papers, 1857-1962

A Finding Aid to the Olin Levi Warner Papers, 1857-1962 (bulk 1857-1899), in the Archives of American Art, by Vanessa Catanzaro and Erin Corley

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

Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Olin Levi Warner was born in 1844 in Suffield, Connecticut and worked as an artisan and a telegraph operator before pursuing his art education and career. In 1869, Warner traveled to Paris to study under Francois Jouffroy at the École des Beaux-Arts. He was in Paris when the Republic was declared and served in the French Foreign Legion for a short while before resuming his studies. In 1872 he returned to the United States and set up a studio in New York. An early proponent of the French Beaux-Arts style, Warner was a founding member of the Society of American Artists in 1877 and joined the National Academy of Design in 1888. By the end of Warner's lifetime, he had become a well-known sculptor, helping to popularize bas-relief in the United States. A few of Warner's notable works include a series of medallions depicting Native American Indian Chiefs, an 1876 bust of President Rutherford B. Hayes, the 1883 nude Diana, a statue of judge and former U.S. Attorney General Charles Devens in Boston, and the design of the bronze doors of the Library of Congress. This last project was uncompleted at the time of Warner's death on August 14, 1896, as the result of a bicycle injury in Central Park.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of sculptor Olin Levi Warner date from 1857 to 1962 (bulk 1857-1899) and measure 1.7 linear feet. The collection documents Warner's art student days in Paris and his career as a sculptor primarily in New York City. Found are biographical materials, including a speech written by Warner about the Paris Commune of 1871, awards, and membership records for several art organizations, including the Fine Arts Federation of New York. Personal and business correspondence written by Warner, his wife, and his daughter is with family and friends. Warner's correspondents include artists Albert Pinkham Ryder, Clarence Cook, and Wyatt Eaton, among others. Of note are letters written from Warner to his family during the time he spent in Paris from 1869 to 1872 studying art and serving in the Foreign Legion.

Printed materials include clippings and exhibition catalogs for the Society of American Artists, National Sculpture Society, and the World's Columbian Exposition. Also found are scattered project files for a few of his notable sculptural projects, including his statue of Massachusetts governor Charles Devens, the Hodgkins Medal designed as the Smithsonian Institution's seal, work for the Chicago World's Fair, and bronze work produced by the Jno. Williams Foundry. Photographs in the papers are of Warner, his family, home, and studio, works of art, and a few notable sitters, including the artist J. Alden Weir.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into five series.

Subjects and Names

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


  • Jno. Williams, Inc
  • World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.)


  • Sculpture, American
  • Sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York -- Interviews


  • Paris (France) -- History -- Commune, 1871

Types of Materials:

  • Exhibition catalogs
  • Photographs


  • Ryder, Albert Pinkham, 1847-1917
  • Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944
  • Cook, Clarence, 1828-1900
  • Warner, Sylvia Martinach
  • Jones, Rosalie Warner, d. 1977


The Olin Levi Warner papers were donated in several accretions between 1972 and 1977 by his daughters Rosalie Warner Jones and Frances O. Warner, and Rosalie's daughter Frances Follin Jones. Additional materials were transferred to the Archives in 2005 from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Separated and Related Materials

A portion of the Olin Levi Warner papers were originally loaned for microfilming in 1972 by Rosalie Warner Jones. All of the material was later donated, except for one sketchbook which was returned to the lender, and can be viewed on microfilm reel 270.

How the Collection was Processed

The bulk of the collection was microfilmed as separate accretions and loans on reels 270, 414, and 3746-3747, except for the materials transferred from the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2005. All earlier accessions were merged and re-processed by Vanessa Catanzaro, Joan Lord, and Erin Corley in 2004 and 2005, and a finding aid prepared as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Project.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Olin Levi Warner 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

Portions of this collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 414 and 3746-3747 at the Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

How to Cite this Collection

Olin Levi Warner papers, 1857-1962 (bulk 1857-1899). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1863-1896
(Box 1, OV 4; 6 folders)

This series contains official documents for Warner's membership in several art organizations, including the Fine Arts Federation of New York and the Society of American Artists, and from Warner's time in France, including his admission form to the French Foreign Legion. Also found are death announcements and other memorial material, including a memorial paper read before the National Sculpture Society by W. C. Brownell. Additional items of note are drafts of a speech written by Warner about the Paris Commune of 1871. Oversized materials include Warner's Mason membership certificate and documentation from a U.S. diplomatic office in France, and two awards received for his artwork.

Box Folder
1 1 Awards, 1863, 1895
(See OV 4)
1 2 Membership Documents, 1868, 1870
(See also OV 4)
1 3 Organizational Charts and Bylaws, 1892-1896
1 4 Memorial Material, 1896
(See also OV 4)
1 5-6 Speech Drafts, circa 1871
OV 4 Oversized Awards, 1863, 1895
OV 4 Oversized Membership Documents, 1868-1870
OV 4 Oversized Memorial Material, 1896

Series 2: Correspondence, 1857-1962
(Box 1; 0.6 linear feet)

This series contains family and personal correspondence. Family correspondence is found for Olin Levi Warner, his wife Sylvia Martinache Warner, and their daughter Rosalie Warner Jones. Warner's family correspondence is primarily with his parents, wife Sylvia, and extended family. Warner's personal correspondence is with friends, including Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Albert Pinkham Ryder, W. C. Brownell, Clarence Cook, Wyatt Eaton, and his business correspondence is primarily with people interested in commissioning sculptures. Topics covered in this series include Olin Warner's studies, his life in Paris from 1869 to 1872, including the establishment of the French Third Republic; the artist's work up to the time of his death; sympathy notes to Mrs. Warner following her husband's death; various personal matters; and the management of the artist's work by his family.

Box Folder
1 7-25 Olin Levi Warner Correspondence, 1857-1897
(19 folders)
(Includes typescripts for correspondence from 1869-1872.)
1 26-31 Sylvia Martinache Warner and Rosalie Warner Jones Correspondence, 1896-1962
(6 folders)
1 32 Invitations and Calling Cards, circa 1890-1903

Series 3: Printed Material, 1862-1950
(Box 1, OV 4; 5 folders)

This series contains assorted printed materials including exhibition catalogs for the Society of American Artists and National Sculpture Society; a catalog for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair; information from clubs to which Warner belonged; newspaper and magazine clippings; promotional materials and a booklet highlighting Warner's doors for the Library of Congress; and miscellaneous materials such as programs and booklets.

Box Folder
1 33 Exhibition Catalogs, 1880-1899, 1907
1 34 Catalog of Exhibits, World's Columbian Exposition, 1893
1 35 Clippings, 1895-1950
(See also OV 4)
1 36 Library of Congress Doors, circa 1897-1898
1 37 Miscellaneous, 1862-1921
OV 4 Oversized Clippings, 1895-1950

Series 4: Project Files, 1871-1936
(Box 1-2, OV 4; 5 folders)

This series contains materials such as receipts, contracts, and correspondence documenting some of Warner's sculptural projects. Projects with a significant amount of material include a statue of Massachusetts governor Charles Devens; the Hodgkins Medal, designed as the Smithsonian Institution seal; sculptural work for the Chicago World's Fair; and works produced by the Jno. Williams Foundry.

Box Folder
1 38 Charles Devens Statue, 1892-1896
1 39 Smithsonian Seal, 1893-1894
(See also OV 4)
1 40 Jno. Williams Foundry, 1904-1936
Box Folder
2 (hol) 1 World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair), 1893
2 (hol) 2 Miscellaneous receipts and contracts, 1871-1905
OV 4 Oversized Smithsonian Seal Information, 1893-1894

Series 5: Photographs, 1870s-1890s
(Boxes 2-3, OV 4; 0.6 linear feet)

Photographs are of Warner, his family, sitters, and artwork. Included are photographs of Warner in his New York City studio and with his wife and two daughters. Two photographs of note are of Warner standing with an unfinished Caryatid for the Skidmore Fountain project. Also found are photographs of the exterior of Warner's New York home and studio, an unidentified exhibition, and photographs of some of the many people Warner sculpted, including the artist J. Alden Weir. Additional photographs are of Warner's completed sculptures, medals, or other works.

Box Folder
2 (hol) 3 Photographs of Artist and Family at Home and Studio, circa 1875-1895
2 (hol) 4 Photographs of Olin Levi Warner Standing with Caryatid for Skidmore Fountain, circa 1883
2 (hol) 5 Photographs of Exterior of Warner Home and Studio, circa 1890s
2 (hol) 6 Photograph of Exhibition, circa late 1890s
2 (hol) 7 Photographs of Sitters, circa 1870's-1890's
2 (hol) Photographs of Artwork
2 (hol) 8 Dancing Nymph, 1879
2 (hol) 9 Diana, 1883
2 (hol) 10 Skidmore Fountain, circa 1883
2 (hol) 11 Govenor Buckingham, 1884
2 (hol) 12 Native American Series, circa 1880's
2 (hol) 13 General Charles Devens, 1894
Box Folder
3 (pam) 1 W. C. Brownell, 1886
(See also OV 4)
3 (pam) 2 Library of Congress Doors, circa 1896
(See also OV 4)
3 (pam) 3-4 Various Sculptures, circa 1880's-1890's
(2 folders)
3 (pam) 5 Portraits of Olin Levi Warner, 1880s
OV 4 Oversized Photographs of Artwork, 1886-circa 1896