Smillie family papers, 1825-1957

Smillie family

Collection size: 5.6 linear feet (on 16 partial microfilm reels)

Collection Summary: Papers of James Smillie and his sons James D. and George H., include writings, photographs, diaries (45 v.), a scrapbook, letters, art works, and printed material.

REEL D10: Checklist of artworks by members of the Smillie family, 1957.

REELS 983 and 1027: A diploma, 1883, certifying George H. Smillie as an academician of the National Academy of Design, and a photograph of George Smillie in his studio, 337 4th Ave., NYC., taken by F. L. Howe.

REELS 1710, 2849-2854, 3472, 3483 and 4386: James D. Smillie papers, including 45 v. of his diary, 1865-1909, with daily entries on his paintings, drawings, prints, and including references to over 200 artists whom he knew. Enclosed in the diaries are letters, notes a sketch, a silhouette, calling cards, receipts, printed material, and an 1864 photo of Smillie. Also included are 45 letters, among them: letters from his father, a lengthy letter to Charles F. Smillie, a letter from Eastman Johnson, 1886, correspondence of James D. with Albert Bierstadt and his brother Albert concerning engravings of Bierstadt's paintings Forest Glen and Rocky Mountains, l4 letters from Samuel Colman, 1871-1906; a letter from Frederick Stuart Church, 1878; and 3 letters from Daniel P. Huntington, 1850-1885. Also included are 2 circulars announcing the engraving of the Bierstadt painting; financial and legal documents; an etching "Up the Hill"; and printed material.

REEL 3766: 28 black and white photographs, 1860-1906, and one printed invitation to an event held at James D. Smillie's home in 1894. Photographs are of Smillie's home in Montrose, Pa., with 7 interior views and 3 exterior views. The remaining 18 photographs are of J. D. Smillie, and his family. [Captions that appear with photos (typed sheets) come from either the back or the front of the photos, in most cases. Additional information was provided by Brucie Witthoft.]

REELS 3829 and 1710: James Smillie's autobiography, 98 p., ca. 1882, titled "A Pilgrimage," recounting events of his life from 1807-1882. (Reel 1710 contains a typescript).

REEL 3999: James Smillie's autobiography, 1882, 35 p., describing an engraver's training in London and Edinburgh in the 1820's and 1830's; letters to his son George, George's wife Helen and to others; a scrapbook, 1828-1901, containing clippings, reproductions of engravings, James Smillie's writings as a newspaper "artist-correspondent" in 1871, and drawings and caricatures by James D. Smillie; and family photographs and a photograph album.

Biographical/Historical Note: James Smillie (1807-1885) was an engraver. His son James D. (1833-1909) was a painter, engraver, lithographer, and active in New York City art clubs and societies. Another son, George Henry (1840-1921) was a painter.

Diploma and photo of George Smillie was donated 1970 by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Gordon Smillie. Material of James and James D. Smillie on reels 1710, 3829, and 4386 was donated by his grandaughter Barbara Curtis, 1978-1990 (the journal on 3829 is a photocopy). Curtis and her brothers James and David Smillie donated the 45 v. of diaries December 1981. Photos and other material on reel 3766 lent for microfilming 1986 by James Smillie, grandson of James D. Smillie. Material on reel 3999 was received from Mary Smillie, 1987, wife of Charles V. V. Smillie, a descendant.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reels D10, 983, 1027, 1710, 2849-2854, 3472, 3483, 3766, 3829, 3999 and 4386 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.
  • For more information on using the Archives’ resources, see the FAQ or Ask Us.