William Gropper papers, 1916-1983, bulk 1926-1977

A Finding Aid to the William Gropper Papers, 1916-1983 (bulk 1926-1977), in the Archives of American Art, by Jayna M. Hanson

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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

William Gropper was born on December 3rd, 1897 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His family was impoverished and his parents worked in the New York garment factories. To help his family, Gropper took odd jobs throughout New York City. When he was not busy working, Gropper nurtured his artistic talents by drawing cartoons on sidewalks and the sides of buildings.

In 1912, Gropper began formal art education at the Ferrer School in Greenwich Village where he was influenced by the Ashcan School of social realists, particularly artists Robert Henri and George Bellows. After the Ferrer School, Gropper studied at the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts on a scholarship granted by Frank Alvah Parsons. Following his education, Gropper worked simultaneously at the New York Tribune and Rebel Worker as a draftsman and cartoonist respectively. He continued a career as a cartoonist and illustrator for publications such as Vanity Fair, New Masses, The Nation, Freiheit, and various Jewish and Hebrew publications for more than thirty years. Gropper's cartoons typically portrayed the everyday worker and the injustices he suffered.

Gropper, who was also a painter, produced powerful imagery of social protest. His subjects included industrial strikes and the labor wars of the coal mining and steel industries. Additionally, William Gropper received several commissions from the Federal Arts Project, Works Progress Administration to create murals for various public buildings around the country, including one for the United States Department of the Interior building in Washington, D.C. Here, he created Construction of the Dam to represent the combination of labor and technology to construct various dams on the Colorado River. The Guggenheim Foundation awarded a fellowship to Gropper to travel to the impoverished Dust Bowl region. This trip inspired a series of illustrations that appeared in The Nation. Gropper's trips to Russia and Poland also served to inspire his art.

Later in his career, William Gropper exhibited his artwork throughout the United States and the world. Gropper was also one of the originial members of the Artists Equity Association founded in 1947. Gropper's artwork can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, The National Gallery of Art, The Butler Institute of American Art, Princeton University, The Phillips Collection, The William J. Clinton Presidential Library as well as many other museums and universities. William Gropper remained in New York City and the surrounding area with his wife, Sophie until his death in 1977.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of painter, illustrator, muralist, and political activist William Gropper measure 3.3 linear feet and date from 1916-1983.

Three folders of scattered Biographical Information are found for William Gropper, his wife Sophie and their children. Business Records consist of lists of artwork, price lists, contracts, receipts, and other financial records. Scattered Writings and Notes include mostly writings about Gropper by others, lists of works of art, and miscellaneous writings. Works of Art include three original drawings by Gropper and a sample of fabric designed by Gropper. Circa 600 letters within the papers were written to William Gropper between 1916 and 1977 (bulk, 1970s), although Sophie Gropper's correspondence is also included. Found here are letters from Frank Crowninshield, Robert Henri, Louis Lozowick, Frank Alva Parsons, Raphael Soyer, and others. There are also letters concerning Gropper's participation in the Federal Art Project and from Ben Horowitz of the Heritage Gallery who represented Gropper's artwork.

Almost one-half of the collection consists of Printed Materials, including full issues of New Masses, Liberator, and Der Hammer, all featuring illustrations by Gropper. Also found are auction and exhibition catalogs, clippings, press releases, and printed reproductions of Gropper's artwork.

Photographs are of Gropper, his family, colleagues, friends, family vacations, and works of art.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into seven series:

Subjects and Names

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


  • Federal Art Project


  • Art -- Political aspects
  • Painters -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Illustrators -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Muralists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Political activists

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Drawings


  • Soyer, Raphael, 1899-1987
  • Crowninshield, Frank, 1872-1947
  • Henri, Robert, 1865-1929
  • Lozowick, Louis, 1892-1973
  • Gropper, Sophie
  • Parsons, Frank Alvah, 1868-1930
  • Horowitz, Benjamin, 1912-
  • Heritage Gallery


The collection was donated by Sophie Gropper, Gropper's widow, in 1984.

Separated and Related Materials

Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview of William Gropper conducted by Bruce Hooton in 1965. The Louis Lozowick papers contain documentation of Lozowick's research and writings for a biography of Gropper.

The Special Collections Research Center at the Syracuse University Library also holds a collection of William Gropper's papers.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Jayna M. Hanson in 2007. The collection was microfilmed on reels 3501-3504 shortly after receipt, and was digitized in 2007 with funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The William Gropper 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 collection was digitized in 2007 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website.

How to Cite this Collection

William Gropper papers, 1916-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Information, circa 1942-1982
(Box 1; 3 folders)

This series consists of scattered biographical information, including fingerprint records, resumes, an estate appraisal, Gropper's funeral arrangement information, and immunization records. Information pertaining to Sophie Gropper includes a photograph, diet information and permit. Also included is information concerning the Gropper Family such as estate information, bank records, receipts, and report cards.

This series is arranged by family name to which the biographical information pertains.

Box Folder
1 1 William Gropper, 1942-1977, undated
1 2 Sophie Gropper, 1972, 1981-1982
1 3 Gropper Family, 1973, 1974, 1982
(partially scanned)

Series 2: Business Records, circa 1936-1983
(Box 1; 8 folders)

William Gropper's scattered Business Records include lists of works of art, purchase orders for artwork, bills, royalty information, contracts with museums and publishing companies, bank records and receipts.

Box Folder
1 4 Price Lists, 1968-1983, undated
1 5-6 Art Purchase Orders, 1967-1980, undated
(2 folders)
1 7 Bills, 1970-1979
(not scanned)
1 8 Book Royalties, 1969-1970
1 9 Contracts, 1936, 1939, 1955, 1968
1 10 Financial and Bank Records, 1974-1977, undated
(not scanned)
1 11 Receipts, 1963-1969, 1980-1983, undated

Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-1978
(Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)

This series includes descriptions of Gropper's works of art, lists of works of art, writings by and about Gropper, including a dissertation about the artist by Joseph Anthony Gahn. There is also one folder of scattered minutes of the Committee on Progess of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It is unclear what role Gropper played on the Committee.

Box Folder
1 12 Descriptions of Works of Art, undated
1 13 Dissertation on Gropper, 1966
1 14 Lists of Works of Art, 1947, undated
1 15 Minutes, Committee on Progress, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1974
1 16 Notes, undated
1 17 Writings about Gropper, 1978, undated
1 18 Writings by Gropper, undated
1 19 Miscellaneous Writings, 1953,1974, undated

Series 4: Works of Art, circa 1949, 1952, after 1958
(Box 1, OV 4; 2 folders)

This series includes three original pen and pencil drawings by William Gropper. One drawing is of three unidentified men which Gropper signs with hebrew characters. A second drawing is a profile of a seated, unidentified man. The last sketch is of an unidentified group of people. A Gropper designed fabric sample is included as well.

Box Folder
1 20 Drawings, circa 1949, after 1958, undated
1 21 Fabric Sample, 1952
(See Box 4)
Box Folder
4 (sol) 1 Oversized Fabric Sample, 1952

Series 5: Correspondence, circa 1916-1983
(Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)

This series includes letters written to William Gropper from 1916 until 1977, including some photocopies. Very few of William Gropper's responses are in this collection, which are mostly undated. There is also correspondence written by and to Sophie Gropper from 1980 to 1983. Notable correspondents include Louis Lozowick, Frank Crowninshield, Raphael Soyer, Robert Henri, and Frank Alvah Parsons. There are many letters from Ben Horowitz with the Heritage Gallery, which sold Gropper's art. Additionally, there are letters concerning William Gropper's participation in the Works Progress Administration. Correspondence from 1935 documents Gropper's contributions to Vanity Fair magazine before it ceased publication in 1936. Correspondence after Gropper's death is between his widow, Sophie Gropper and various museums, galleries, and publishers.

See Index for List of Selected Correspondents from Series 5

Correspondence is arranged chronogically.

Box Folder
1 22 Correspondence, 1916-1923
1 23 Correspondence, 1931-1935
1 24 Correspondence, 1936-1939
1 25 Correspondence, 1940-1949
1 26 Correspondence, 1952-1955
1 27 Correspondence, 1961-1966
1 28 Correspondence, 1967
1 29 Correspondence, 1968-1969
1 30 Correspondence, 1970
1 31 Correspondence, 1971
1 32 Correspondence, 1972
1 33 Correspondence, 1973
1 34 Correspondence, 1974
1 35 Correspondence, 1975
1 36 Correspondence, 1976
1 37 Correspondence, 1980-1981
1 38 Correspondence, 1982-1983
1 39 Correspondence, undated

Series 6: Printed Material, circa 1919-1983
(Box 1-3, OV 4; 1.4 linear feet)

This series includes full issues of magazines illustrated by William Gropper including New Masses, Liberator and Der Hammer. There are also clippings from newspapers and magazines about William Gropper or featuring his illustrations. Gropper's illustrations appear in Hound Dog Moses and the Promised Land by Walter D. Edmonds and "In Gold We Trust (J.P. Morgan, Al. Capone and CO.)" by Larry Harr. There is one folder of Gropper's collection of first issue United Nations' postage stamps, one of which was illustrated by Gropper. Also included are auction catalogs, stationary, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Gropper's artwork, blank greeting cards, press releases and bulletins, and order forms.

This series is arranged by type of materials. Clippings from magazines illustrated by Gropper have been filed before folders containing full issues of New Masses magazines that feature Gropper's illustrations. All dated material is arranged chronologically with undated material following.

Box Folder
1 40-41 Auction Catalogs, 1982-1983
(2 folders)
1 42 Stationary and Enclosures, 1971, undated
1 43-49 Clippings, 1922-1964, undated
(See also Box 4; 7 folders)
Box Folder
2 1-6 Clippings, 1960-1983, undated
(See also Box 4; 6 folders)
2 7-19 Exibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1935-1983, undated
(See also Box 4; 13 folders)
2 20 Blank Greeting Cards, undated
2 21 Miscellaneous, Art Related, 1974-1975, undated
(partially scanned)
2 22 Miscellaneous, Not Art Related, undated
(not scanned)
2 23 Order Forms, 1972, undated
2 24 Collection of United Nations Postage Stamps, 1964-1971
2 25 Press Releases and Bulletins, 1935, 1945, 1971-1972, 1977
2 26-40 Illustrations by Gropper, 1919-1943
(See also Box 4; 15 folders)
Box Folder
3 1-10 Illustrations by Gropper, 1945-1960, 1967-1974, undated
(10 folders)
3 11-15 New Masses, 1926-1928, 1934, 1936
(See also Box 4; 5 folders)
4 (sol) Oversized Clippings
(See Box 1, F45, F47 and Box 2, F1, F6)
4 (sol) Oversized Exhibition Announcements
(See Box 2, F14)
4 (sol) Oversized Illustrated by Gropper
(See Box 2, F26 and Box 3, F10)
4 (sol) Oversized New Masses
(See Box 3, F11)

Series 7: Photographs, after 1937-circa 1980s
(Box 3; 0.8 linear feet)

This series includes photographs of William Gropper, his family, colleagues and friends. Additionally, there are photographs of works of art, slides from family vacations, negatives and duplicates.

Box Folder
3 16-18 William Gropper, undated
(3 folders)
3 19 William Gropper with Family, undated
3 20-21 Gropper Family, 1938, 1961-1970, undated
(2 folders)
3 22 Gropper Family Vacations, 1963, 1972, undated
3 23 Slides, Gropper Family, 1975
(not scanned)
3 24 Social Functions, 1972, undated
3 25 Colleagues and Friends, 1961, undated
3 26-27 Works of Art, Automobile Industry, Detroit, Michigan, after 1940
(2 folders; not scanned)
3 28 Works of Art, Construction of the Dam, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., after 1937
(not scanned)
3 29 Works of Art, Suburban Post in Winter, Freeport, New York, after 1938
(partially scanned)
3 30 Works of Art, Murals, undated
(partially scanned)
3 31 Works of Art, Sculpture and Ceramics, 1980s(?), undated
(not scanned)
3 32 Works of Art, Stained Glass, 1967
3 33-50 Works of Art, 1968, undated
(18 folders; not scanned)
3 51-52 Works of Art, Miscellaneous, undated
(2 folders; not scanned)
3 53-56 Duplicate Photographs, undated
(4 folders; not scanned)
3 57 Miscellaneous, undated
3 58-59 Negatives, undated
(2 folders; not scanned)

Index: List of Selected Correspondents from Series 5

Although this index is not comprehensive, an effort has been made to highlight the major artists, museums and galleries with which William and Sophie Gropper corresponded.

  • Angelo, Emidio (artist): 1971; 1972
  • Ballot, Adele (Vanity Fair magazine): 1935
  • Barr, Alfred H. Jr. (The Museum of Modern Art): 1936
  • Bliven, Bruce (The New Republic): 1936
  • Broadley, Hugh (Phoenix Art Museum): 1968
  • Bromfield, Innes (Vanity Fair magazine): 1935
  • Butler, Joseph G. (Butler Institute of American Art): 1969
  • Cody, Bruce (Wisconsin State University): 1970
  • Conacher, Don (Galerie de Tours; Conacher Galleries): 1964; 1966; 1968
  • Constable, W. G. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston): 1941
  • Crowninshield, Frank (Vanity Fair magazine): 1935; 1936
  • Dewitt, John (Department of the Interior): 1971
  • Doty, Robert M. (Whitney Museum of American Art): 1969
  • Dows, Olin (United States Treasury Department): 1936
  • Dreiser, Theodore (artist): 1934
  • Ealand, Maria (Federal Works Agency- Public Buildings Administration): 1939; 1940
  • Eastman, Crystal (The Liberator): 1919
  • Foley, Martha (Story magazine): 1936
  • Force, Juliana (The Whitney Museum of American Art): 1939
  • Garson, Inez (Cornell University): 1964
  • Gibbs, Wolcott (The New Yorker): 1936
  • Gillette, Guy M. (United States Senator, Iowa): 1949
  • Gorney, Jay (ACA Galleries): 1975
  • Gould, Beatrice Blackman (Ladies' Home Journal): 1937
  • Gropper, Lance (grandson): 1969
  • Gross, Hilda (ACA Galleries): 1979
  • Harkavy, Susan (ACA Galleries): 1981
  • Hayes, Bartlett H. Jr. (Addison Gallery): 1964
  • Heintzelman, Arthur W. (Boston Public Library): 1953
  • Henri, Robert (artist): 1921
  • Hinchman, R. L. (Lord and Thomas Advertising): 1935
  • Hirsch, Joseph (National Academy of Design): 1972; 1973
  • Horowitz, Ben (Heritage Gallery): 1968-1976; 1982; undated
  • Hyman, Linda (ACA Galleries): 1981
  • Kainen, Jacob (National Collection of Fine Arts): 1969
  • Korn, Gail (Whitney Museum of American Art): 1967
  • Lamson, James Q. (Ohio University): 1973
  • Lerner, Abram (Hirshhorn Museum, New York): 1972
  • Lewis, John L. (United Mine Workers of America): 1936
  • Lozowick, Louis (artist): 1970-1973; undated
  • Malawer, Lisa (ACA Galleries): 1982
  • Mannes, Marya (Vogue magazine): 1936
  • Meador, Philip L. (Galerie de Tours): 1964
  • McCabe, Cynthia (Hirshhorn Museum, New York): 1972
  • McGuire, Harry (Ringmaster magazine): 1936
  • McLouth, Mildred (Berkeley Art Museum): 1931
  • Minnigerode, C. Powell (Corcoran Gallery of Art): 1943
  • Newman, Dorothy (M. H. DeYoung Memorial Museum)
  • O'Conner, Francis V. (NCFA, Smithsonian Institution): 1970
  • Owen, William B. (United States Treasury Department): 1937
  • Palmer, William C. (Mural Painters Society): 1936
  • Parsons, Frank Alvah (New York School of Fine and Applied Art): 1916
  • Rhodes, Reilly P. (Canton Art Institute): 1971; 1972
  • Rogerson, Ann S. (Montclair Art Museum): 1969
  • Rowan, Edward B. (United States Treasury Department): 1935; 1937; 1939; 1941
  • Saint-Gaudens, Homer (Carnegie Institute): 1947
  • Schmeckebler, Laurence (Syracuse University): 1964
  • Schoener, Allon (Jewish Museum, New York): 1966
  • Sharkey, Alice (United States Treasury Department): 1936
  • Singer, Clyde (Butler Institute of American Art): 1973
  • Soby, James Thrall (The Museum of Modern Art): 1964
  • SoRelle, Jane (ACA Gallery, Rome): 1964
  • Soyer, Raphael (artist): 1947; 1970
  • Taylor, Francis Henry (The Museum of Modern Art): 1942
  • Tolley, William P. (Syracuse University): 1968
  • United States Treasury Department: 1935
  • Vanity Fair magazine: 1935
  • Valeska, S. (Valeska Art Studios): 1966
  • Watson, Forbes (United States Treasury Department): 1936; 1942
  • Winser, Beatrice (Newark Museum): 1935
  • Yasko, Karel (Public Buildings Service): 1969; 1971; 1977; undated
  • Young, Art (artist): 1934