Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason papers, circa 1920-1978

A Finding Aid to the Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason Papers, 1883-1985 , in the Archives of American Art, by Sarah Haug

Download PDF Version of this page [Download PDF Version]

Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

Wilna Hervey was born in 1894 and grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. She met Nan Mason (1896-1982), daughter of silent film actor Dan Mason, while on production of The Toonerville Trolley silent film comedies in 1920. They were lifelong companions until Hervey's death in 1979.

As a young woman in the late 1910s, Hervey took art lessons at the Art Students League in New York City, Winold Reiss' studio at 4 Christopher Street, New York City, and during the summer of 1918 in Woodstock, New York. In 1919, she joined the Betzwood Studios in Audubon, Pennsylvania to play the role of "The Powerful Katrinka" in The Toonerville Trolley, a series of silent films based on Fontaine Fox's comic strip. Co-star Dan Mason, who played the Skipper, took Hervey under his wing, and Hervey lived with the Masons while filming the series. After The Toonerville Trolley series ended in 1921, Dan and Nan Mason traveled to Hollywood to start a new company, and Wilna followed shortly after, taking the train across the country in early 1922. The new endeavor, Plum Street Comedies, began at the Paul Gerson Pictures Corporation in San Francisco and was based on The Toonerville Trolley series; the film crew included the young Frank Capra. The Plum Street Comedies were in production for only one year, 1922-1923.

Around 1919-1920, Hervey's father bought Wilna a small studio in Bearsville, New York. From 1922-1929 Hervey and Nan Mason split their time between painting and farming in Woodstock, New York, and pursuing acting while living with Dan Mason in California. In 1926-1927, the women traveled to Europe and North Africa together to see museums, art, and architecture.

After the death of Dan Mason in 1929, Hervey and Nan Mason made Bearsville their permanent home. Beginning in the late 1950s, Hervey and Mason began spending winters in Anna Maria, Florida and summers in New York. Hervey and Mason achieved success as artists in the 1960s - Hervey as an enamel painter, and Mason as a painter and photographer.

Wilna Hervey passed away in 1979, and Nan Mason died in 1982.

Sources consulted include "The Biggest Girl" by Joseph P. Eckhardt (http://faculty.mc3.edu/jeckhard/biggestgirlarticle/thebiggestgirl.html).

Return to top


Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of artist and silent film actress Wilna Hervey and her lifelong companion painter Nan Mason date from 1883 through 1985 and measure 4.9 linear feet. The collection is comprised mostly of letters to Hervey and Mason from friends, colleagues, and Mason's father, Dan Mason, also a silent film actor. Also found are personal photographs and snapshots, Hervey's handwritten memoirs, as well as twelve folders of Dan Mason's papers.

Biographical materials include a personal narrative, notes on family history, newspaper clippings related to family, legal and financial records, and Wilna Hervey's notes on artwork.

Hervey and Mason were friends with many artists and their correspondence includes letters from artists such as Albert Heckman, Georgina Klitgaard, Manuel Komroff, Leon Kroll, Doris Lee, Fred Dana Marsh, Henry Lee McFee, William Pachner, Caroline and Paul Rohland, Andrée Ruellan, Eugene Speicher, and Dorothy Varian. There are very few letters written by Hervey or Mason, and the correspondence is mostly personal in nature. There are over 250 letters from Elsie Speicher, wife of portrait artist Eugene Speicher. Correspondence to Dan Mason has been separated and is filed in a separate series.

Wilna Hervey wrote a a number of handwritten memoirs of her days in the The Toonerville Trolley film series. She had hopes of publishing these one day and worked with writer Karin Whiteley on the project. Although her memoirs were never published, Hervey and Whiteley wrote and compiled materials for the book. Included in the Memoir Book Production series are handwritten memoirs by Hervey chronicling her years prior to and during the 1920s (many of the handwritten memoirs have been typed by Karin Whiteley). It also includes research materials, such as two typed synopses of The Toonerville Trolley scripts from Fontaine Fox's files, newspaper clippings, and playbills, seemingly intended to provide background and verification of the memoirs.

This collection also includes a few pieces of artwork; three small watercolor sketches by an unidentified artist, and a print by Edward Chavez.

Photographs are mostly snapshots of friends and family, life in Woodstock, New York and Anna Maria, Florida. Negatives originally housed in an un-postmarked envelope with a return address labeled "Betzwood Film Co.," appear to be from the filming of The Toonerville Trolley. In several of the negatives Wilna Hervey is dressed as The Powerful Katrinka, and in one negative Dan Mason is The Skipper.

The personal files of Dan Mason include letters from Hervey and Nan Mason, the bulk from their trip to Europe and North Africa in 1926-1927. This series also includes Dan Mason's own handwritten and typed memoirs, newspaper clippings, and financial records.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into six series:

Subjects and Names

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

Subjects:

  • Mason, Dan, 1853-1929
  • Mason, Nan, 1896-1982

Subjects-Topical:

  • Motion picture actors and actresses
  • Women painters -- New York (State)

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs

Names:

  • Heckman, Albert
  • Klitgaard, Georgina, 1889-1977
  • Komroff, Manuel, 1890-
  • Kroll, Leon, 1884-1974
  • Lee, Doris, 1905-1983
  • Marsh, Fred Dana, 1872-1961
  • Mason, Dan, 1853-1929
  • Mason, Nan, 1896-1982
  • McFee, Henry Lee, 1886-1953
  • Pachner, William, 1915-
  • Rohland, Paul,$d1884-1953
  • Ruellan, Andrée, 1905-
  • Speicher, Elsie, d. 1959
  • Speicher, Eugene E. (Eugene Edward), 1883-1962
  • Rohland, Caroline
  • Varian, Dorothy, 1895-1987

Provenance

The Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Daniel Gelfand, a friend of Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason, in 2008.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by graduate intern Sarah Haug in March, 2009.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of the original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason 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

Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason papers, 1883-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Return to top

Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1916-1960
(Box 1; 5 folders)

This series includes a personal narrative, notes on family history, newspaper clippings related to family, legal and financial records, and Wilna Hervey's notes on artwork.

1 Personal Narrative, 1916 2 Notes on Family, after 1955 3 Legal and Financial Records, circa 1927-1960 4 Notes on Artwork, 1960 5 Clippings and Printed Material, circa 1931-1945

Series 2: Correspondence, 1890-1985
(Box 1-10, OV 13; 3.8 linear feet)

Correspondence is mostly personal letters and covers subjects such as personal matters, updates on the lives of Woodstock residents, and the careers of artist friends. Early correspondence highlights Wilna Hervey's film career and travels. Other than the letters written by Nan Mason to Wilna Hervey, there are very few letters in this series written by either Hervey or Mason.

Notable correspondents include artists and friends Albert Heckman, Georgina Klitgaard, Manuel Komroff, Leon Kroll, Doris Lee, Fred Dana Marsh, Henry Lee McFee, William Pachner, Caroline and Paul Rohland, Andrée Ruellan, Eugene Speicher, and Dorothy Varian. There are over 250 letters from Elsie Speicher, wife of portrait artist Eugene Speicher. The bulk of Elsie Speicher's correspondence is from the months of November - March; between April to October each year the Speichers were usually in Woodstock with Hervey and Mason. Speicher occasionally sends correspondence from friends in common, notably Louise Lindin, Daphne Mattson, Caroline Rohland, Jean Rosen, and Andrée Ruellan.

Early correspondence from Karin Whiteley concerns a project to publish Hervey's memoirs (which were never published). Whiteley's correspondence also includes numerous enclosed newspaper clippings regarding Dan Mason's acting career. Additional correspondence from Karin Whiteley regarding the memoirs is located in Series 3: Memoir Book Production, 1883-1959. Other items of interest in this series includes a letter from Robert Pollack (1918) that includes a Smileage Book (movie coupons from the Military Entertainment Service), a New York City subway ticket, and caricatures drawn by Wilna Hervey, illustrated letters by cartoonist John Striebel, and occasional snapshots of artists and friends. Correspondence to Dan Mason from Hervey and Nan Mason has been separated and is filed with the other personal files of Dan Mason in Series 6, 1919-1928.

This series also includes correspondence that was neither written by Hervey or Mason, nor sent to them. It may be that the letters were sent to Hervey and Mason as enclosures in other correspondence. Such correspondence is arranged at the end of this series as Miscellaneous Collected Correspondence.

See Index for list of correspondents.

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the correspondent's last name and then chronologically within folders; undated letters are located at the end of the folder. Correspondents with fewer than five letters are filed by last name in folders labeled alphabetically. Letters from unidentified correspondents are filed at the end of the series.

Box Folder
1 6 A-B, 1922-1976
1 7 Booth, Jean Bellows, 1945-1978
1 8-9 C, 1928-1975
(2 folders)
1 10 Cannon, Eleanor Rixson, 1950-1954
1 11 Cator, Bruce, 1948-1959
1 12 Cator, Eleanor, circa 1924
1 13 Clark, Susan, 1960-1966
Box Folder
2 1 D-F, 1939-1975
2 2 Eddy, Ruth, 1934-1959
2 3 G, 1933-1968
2 4 H, 1926-1975
2 5 Heckman, Albert and Florence, 1949-1964
2 6-8 Hervey, Anna, 1908-1922
(3 folders)
2 9 Hervey, W.R., 1913-1925
2 10 Hervey, Wilna, circa 1919-1961
(includes draft letters)
Box Folder
3 1 Hitzig, William M., 1940-1972
3 2 Holt, Percy W., 1923-1930, 1953
3 3 I-K, 1921-1974
3 4 Komroff, Odette and Manuel, 1945-1978
3 5 L, 1923-1970
3 6-7 Lindin, Louise (Mrs. Carl Lindin), 1936-1968
(2 folders)
3 8 M, circa 1924-circa 1972
3 9 Marsh, Fred Dana, 1948-1952
(includes pen sketches)
3 10 Mason, Dan, 1921, 1923
3 11 Mason, Dan, 1924
Box Folder
4 1 Mason, Dan, 1925
(includes newspaper clippings; oversized material housed in OV 13)
4 2 Mason, Dan, 1926
4 3 Mason, Dan, 1927
4 4 Mason, Dan, 1928-1929
4 5-6 Mason, Nan, 1919-1921
(2 folders; includes pen sketches)
4 7 Mattson, Henry and Daphne, 1931-1959
(includes color pencil drawing)
4 8 McFee, Aileen (Mrs. Henry Lee McFee), circa 1928-1936
4 9 Mearns, Hughes and Fagley, 1942, circa 1952-1960
4 10 N-P, 1918-1934
4 11 Pachner, Lorraine "Zombie" (Mrs. William Pachner), 1949-1978
Box Folder
5 1 Pachner, William, circa 1950-1975
5 2 Petersham, Maud and Miska, circa 1930s-1959
5 3-4 Pollock, Muriel "Mollie" (Donaldson), circa 1916-1959
(2 folders)
5 5 R, 1920-before 1959
5 6 Rheinish, Arthur, 1920-1921
5 7 Rohland, Caroline Speare, 1926-1933
(includes pencil sketch)
5 8 Rohland, Caroline Speare, 1934-1940
(includes two negatives)
5 9 Rohland, Caroline Speare, 1942-1951
(includes two photographs of Paul Rohland)
5 10 Rohland, Caroline Speare, 1952-1960, undated
Box Folder
6 1 Rosen, Jean (Mrs. Charles Rosen), 1936-circa 1961
6 2-3 Ruellan, Andrée (Mrs. John Taylor), 1943-1977
(2 folders)
6 4-5 S, 1922-1970
(2 folders; includes illustrated letter by John Streibel)
6 6 Smith, Georgine Wetherell, 1951-1953
6 7 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1926-1935
6 8 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1936
6 9 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1938-1940
6 10 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1941
Box Folder
7 1-2 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1942
(2 folders)
7 3-6 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1943
(4 folders)
7 7-9 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1944
(3 folders)
Box Folder
8 1-4 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1945
(4 folders)
8 5 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1946
8 6 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1947-1948
8 7 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1949
8 8 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1950
Box Folder
9 1 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1951
9 2 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1952
9 3 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1953-1954
9 4 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), 1955-1959
9 5 Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher), circa 1926-1959
9 6 Speicher, Eugene, 1935-1961
9 7-8 Striebel, Fritzi (Mrs. John Striebel), 1946-1978
(2 folders)
Box Folder
10 1 T-Z, 1924-1978
10 2 Varian, Dorothy, 1954-1977
10 3-4 Whiteley, Karin, 1945-1981
(2 folders)
10 5 Identified by First Name, A-J, circa 1923-1971
10 6 Identified by First Name, M-Z, circa 1916-1972
10 7 Unidentified Sender, circa 1926-1962
10 8 Miscellaneous Collected Correspondence, 1890-1985

Series 3: Memoir Book Production, 1883-1959
(Box 11, OV 13; 0.4 linear feet)

Wilna Hervey intended to publish memoirs of her days involved in The Toonerville Trolley films. Included in this series are handwritten memoirs chronicling her years prior to and during the 1920s (many of the handwritten memoirs have been typed by Karin Whiteley and are also located in this series).

This series also includes research materials such as typed synopses of two Toonerville Trolley scripts copied from the files of Fontaine Fox, correspondence with sketches from Fontaine Fox to Dan Mason, "The Little Folks Paper," published in 1891, playbills, writings and notes from unidentified sources, an indenture of deed, a deed of trust by Thomas Vincent Cator, newspaper clippings and advertisements. Within the series is one oversized drawing from an unidentified artist, undated.

The majority of the correspondence is to Hervey from Karin Whiteley (additional correspondence from Karin Whiteley regarding the memoir is located in Series 2: Correspondence, 1890-1985). Correspondence also includes Hervey's contract with The Paul Gerson Pictures Corporation dated 1922, and typed and handwritten writings by Dan Mason.

Items are arranged in original order.

Box Folder
11 1-3 Memoir Writings by Wilna Hervey, circa 1956-1957
(3 folders)
11 4-5 Research Materials, 1883-circa 1976
(2 folders)
11 6-7 Correspondence, 1956-1959
(2 folders)
11 8 Artwork by Unidentified Artist, undated
(Oversized material housed in OV 13)

Series 4: Artwork, 1961, undated
(Box 11, OV 13; 2 folders)

This series includes three small watercolor sketches by unidentified artist, and a print by Edward Chavez.

Box Folder
11 9 Watercolor sketches by unknown artist, undated
(3 sketches)
11 10 Print by Edward Chavez, 1961
(Oversized, housed in OV 13)

Series 5: Photographs, circa 1915-1982
(Box 12; 5 folders)

Photographs in this series are mostly snapshots of friends and family, life in Woodstock, New York and Anna Maria, Florida. Black and white snapshots contain photos of unidentified costumed people at an outdoor party, Wilna Hervey gardening, Elsie and Eugene Speicher, Charles Rosen, Nan Mason and Wilna Hervey in Italy in 1926, and of a home in a forested setting. Color snapshots are of gardens, beach scenes, and unidentified women. Negatives were originally found in an un-postmarked envelope with a return address labeled "Betzwood Film Co." and include six negatives of people on a boat, including Wilna Hervey and Dan Mason. Twenty-one negatives appear to be from a camera shoot for the Toonerville Trolley films. In several of the negatives Wilna Hervey is dressed as The Powerful Katrinka, and in one negative Dan Mason is The Skipper.

Box Folder
12 1 Black and White Snapshots, circa 1915 - 1960
12 2 Color Snapshots, circa 1950-1982
12 3-4 Negatives, circa 1920-1921
(2 folders)
12 5 Negatives from Georgina Klitgaard, 1933

Series 6: Personal Files of Dan Mason, 1919-1928
(Box 12; 0.4 linear feet)

The personal files of Dan Mason include correspondence to Mason, Mason's own handwritten and typed memoirs, newspaper clippings, and financial records mostly related to the death of his wife, Millicent Mason in 1919. The bulk of the correspondence is written by Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason, and chronicles their trip to Europe and North Africa in 1926-1927, as well as their close relationship with Dan Mason. Correspondence also includes a few family snapshots.

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically. Memoirs, financial records, and newspaper clippings are arranged chronologically.

Box Folder
12 6-7 Correspondence from Nan Mason, 1926
(2 folders)
12 8 Correspondence from Nan Mason, 1927 January
12 9 Correspondence from Nan Mason, 1927 February-1928
12 10 Correspondence from Wilna Hervey, 1926-1927
12 11 Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1922-1927
12 12 Envelopes, 1924-1928
12 13-15 Memoirs, circa 1920s
(3 folders)
12 16 Financial Records, 1919-1927
12 17 Newspaper Clippings, circa 1924-1926

Index of selected correspondents from Series 2: Correspondence

  • Adams, Kenneth M.: 1955
  • Antenucci, Margaret: 1961
  • Arndt, Paul Wesley: 1976
  • Baumann, Mag and George: 1964, 1970
  • Bellows, Emma: 1948-1958
  • Bentley, John W. (Jack): 1922, 1931
  • Bettels, Kathryn: 1926
  • Blanch, Lucile and Arnold: 1931, 1955
  • Booth, Jean Bellows: 1945-1978
  • Cannon, Eleanor Rixson: 1950-1954
  • Capra, Frank: 1935, 1973
  • Carlson, Margaret: 1958
  • Cator, Bruce: 1948-1959
  • Cator, Eleanor: circa 1924
  • Cator, Thomas Vincent: 1928-1929
  • Chavez, Edward and Jenne: 1950-1952
  • Clark, Susan: 1960-1966
  • Clement, Jean: 1931, undated
  • Currie, Bruce: 1946, circa 1951-1952
  • De La Vergne, Gladys Hurlbut: 1959, undated
  • Eddy, Ruth: 1934-1959
  • Ganso, Emil and Nina: 1933
  • Gonzales, Betty (Mrs. Boyer Gonzales): 1959
  • Gonzales, Nell (Mrs. Boyer Gonzales): 1936
  • Harris, Alexandrina (Allie): 1926, 1931, 1959
  • Harrison, Jenny (Mrs. Birge Harrison): 1941, 1945
  • Heckman, Albert and Florence: 1949-1964
  • Hervey, Anna: 1908-1922
  • Hervey, W.R.: 1913-1925
  • Hervey, Wilna: circa 1919-1961
  • Hitzig, William M.: 1940-1972
  • Holt, Percy W.: 1923-1930, 1953
  • Karoly: 1939
  • Kesselring, Joe and Charlotte: 1949-1952
  • Klitgaard, Georgina: 1933, 1974, undated
  • Komroff, Odette and Manuel: 1945-1978
  • Kroll, Leon: 1939, 1963
  • Laufman, Beatrice (Mrs. Sidney Laufman): 1970
  • Lee, Doris: 1950-1953
  • Lindin, Louise (Mrs. Carl Lindin): 1936-1968
  • Loederer, Richard: 1923-1924
  • Magafan, Ethel: 1957
  • Marsh, Fred Dana: 1948-1952
  • Mason, Dan: 1921-1929
  • Mason, Nan: 1919-1921
  • Mattson, Henry and Daphne: 1931-1959
  • McFee, Aileen (Mrs. Henry Lee McFee): circa 1928-1936
  • McFee, Henry Lee: 1931-1936
  • Mearns, Hughes and Fagley: 1942, circa 1952-1960
  • More, Edna (Mrs. Hermon More): 1930-1943
  • Pachner, Lorraine "Zombie" (Mrs. William Pachner): 1949-1978
  • Pachner, William: circa 1950-1975
  • Petersham, Maud and Miska: circa 1930s-1959
  • Pollock, Muriel "Mollie" (Donaldson): circa 1916-1959
  • Rheinish, Arthur: 1920-1921
  • Rohland, Caroline Speare: 1926-1960
  • Rohland, Paul: circa 1931, 1935
  • Rosen, Jean (Mrs. Charles Rosen): 1936-circa 1961
  • Rosen, M. (Mrs. Charles Rosen): 1924-1927
  • Rosen, Polly: before 1959
  • Ruellan, Andrée (Mrs. John Taylor): 1943-1977
  • Search, Frederick Preston: 1933
  • Shore, Henrietta: 1933
  • Smith, Georgine Wetherell: 1951-1953
  • Speicher, Charles: 1931-1945
  • Speicher, Elsie (Mrs. Eugene Speicher): 1926-1959
  • Speicher, Eugene: 1935-1961
  • Striebel, Fritzi (Mrs. John H. Striebel): 1946-1978
  • Striebel, John H.: 1961
  • Summers, D.: 1952-1961
  • Summers, Pauline "Paul": 1952-1961
  • Varian, Dorothy: 1954-1977
  • Webster, Florence: 1954, 1978
  • Weston, Brett: 1958
  • Weston, Edward: 1935, 1951
  • Whiteley, Karin: 1945-1981