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Benjamin K. Smith papers relating to O'Brien Galleries, 1912-1941

Smith, Benjamin K., 1872-1973

Gallery director


Collection Information

Size: 1 Item partial microfilm reel

Summary: Papers kept by Benjamin K. Smith, an employee of the O'Brien Galleries (1912-1922), including: handwritten lists concerning paintings from the Samuel Nickerson collection on consignment from the Chicago Art Institute (1920-1921) and furniture bought for the O'Brien Galleries (photographs of furniture microfilmed on reel 4181); a December 1912 issue of ART, a monthly magazine published by the Galleries; sales catalogs and announcements for the O'Brien Art Galleries, the House of O'Brien, and M. O'Brien & Sons; a 1922 exhibition announcement for paintings by Helen West Heller at the Walden Book Shop with pencil sketches of a table "Spanish early 17th cent." on its reverse; a newspaper advertisement and an article (1941) "Gallery Fading from Picture as Art Declines in Chicago."

Biographical/Historical Note

Art gallery; Chicago, Ill. and Scottsdale, Az. Chicago's first art gallery and one of the oldest family owned and operated gallery in the United States. It opened in 1855 as a frame shop, offering a variety of services to both artists and collectors. It was called by several names, including O'Brien's Art Emporium, O'Brien Art Galleries, O'Brien Galleries, House of O'Brien, and M. O'Brien & Sons. The gallery remained in Chicago until 1941, closed during the war, and resumed operation in Scottsdale, Arizona in the 1950s. Three generations of O'Briens (Martin, William, and William Jr.) ran the gallery before it moved to Arizona; all were committed to bringing culture and the visual arts to Chicago.


Donated by Barton Smith, 1986, son of Benjamin K. Smith (1872-1973), was an employee of the gallery from 1912 to 1922 prior to opening his own art appraisal business.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 4065 & 4181 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

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.

How to Cite This Collection

Benjamin K. Smith papers relating to O'Brien Galleries, 1912-1941. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.