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Douglas Volk and Leonard Wells Volk papers, circa 1858-1965, bulk 1870-1935

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Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of painter and teacher Douglas Volk (1856-1935) and his father, sculptor Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895), measure 12.4 linear feet and date from circa 1858-1965, 2008, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1870-1935. Douglas Volk's papers document his life and career through biographical material, family and professional correspondence, writings and notes, diaries and journals, financial records, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork and sketchbooks, and photographs of the artist, his family, friends, and artwork. The papers also provide documentation of the formation and operations of the Sabatos Handicraft Society established with Marion Volk from the Volk's summer home, Hewnoaks, in Center Lovell, Maine. Scattered documentation of the life and work of Leonard Wells Volk, is found in biographical material, land records, letters, memoirs, and photographs.
Douglas Volk's papers form the bulk of the collection and document all stages of his life from his first visits to Europe during his teenage years, until his death. Biographical material includes address books, biographical notes, genealogical records of Volk's family, and a warranty deed for land purchased by Marion Volk in Center Lovell, Maine, in 1904.
Family correspondence is primarily between Douglas and Marion throughout their courtship and marriage, but also includes letters from other family members including daughter Marion Volk Bridge and sons Wendell and Gerome Volk. General correspondence is with colleagues, art galleries, societies, institutions and museums, schools and colleges, government agencies, and others. Also found are letters from artists including George de Forest Brush, Elliott Daingerfield, Cass Gilbert, Philip Leslie Hale, Swedish woodcarver Karl von Rydingsvard, and J. Alden Weir; and friends Felix Adler and Percival Chubb.
Douglas Volk's writings and notes are on art, art instruction for children, and the significance and influence of his father's work, particularly Leonard Volk's Lincoln life mask, and include drafts of his monograph "Art Instruction in Public Schools."
Diaries and journals record details of Volk's early art education in Europe, including his friendships with Eugene Benson and George de Forest Brush and others, his time spent studying under Jean-Léon Gérôme at the École des Beaux Arts, his appointment by the National Art Committee to paint portraits of World War I era politicians and military figures, and his Lincoln portrait painted just prior to Volk's death.
Financial records document day-to-day routine expense, as well as sales of artwork and other art-related transactions.
Printed material and a scrapbook of clippings and letters include press coverage of Douglas Volk's career from the early 1900s to 1918. An additional scrapbook provides documentation of the Sabatos Handicraft Society, including a copy of one of only three known editions of the society's publication The Fire Fly. Artwork includes sketches, two small oil paintings, and fifteen sketchbooks of Douglas Volk.
Photographs include portraits taken at various stages of Volk's career, family photographs, photographs of the main house at Hewnoaks and additional buildings, photographs of several artists including William Merritt Chase and Karl von Rydinsgsvard, photographs of world leaders including David Lloyd George, King Albert of Belgium, and General John J. Pershing, and photographs of artwork.
The papers of Leonard Wells Volk include seven volumes of his hand-written memoirs which document his relationship with Stephen A. Douglas, his first meeting with Lincoln, and his involvement with the Chicago Academy of Design. Also found are three letters including one written to Douglas Volk in 1887, and a memorandum related to the value of Leonard Wells Volk's Lincoln and Douglas statues at the Illinois State House. Photographs include three of Leonard Wells Volk, photographs of other family members including his wife Emily, photos of houses and woodland scenes, and photos of artwork.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The George Arents Research Library, Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York first lent material for microfilming in 1989. Most of the material was then donated in 2004–2005 by Jessie J. Volk, the daughter-in-law of Douglas Volk, who also bequeathed the Volk estate including additional Volk papers to the University of Maine. In 2006, University officials arranged for an auction of much of the property of the estate including the remaining family papers. The Volk Family estate auction was conducted by Cyr Auction Co., in Gray, Maine, on July 19, 2006. Several individuals purchased parts of the papers at that auction and subsequently donated them to the Archives. Those donors are: David Wright, who acquired the 1875 journal and Brush letters and donated them to the Archives in 2006; Dr. Christine Isabelle Oaklander, who purchased the account book, 1873–1875, and donated it to the Archives in honor of Judith Ellen Throm in 2007, and also donated additional letters and a photograph in 2008; and Mary K. and John F. McGuigan Jr., who purchased correspondence (1120 letters), speeches, lectures, articles, checks, check stubs and miscellaneous items and donated them to the Archives in 2015. In 2007, the University of Maine Foundation via Amos Orcutt donated the 1934 journal and 60 photographs.
John F. McGuigan Jr. and Mary K. McGuigan have purchased and donated additional archival materials to the Archives, including the Mary K. McGuigan and John F. McGuigan Jr. artists' letters collection, and 69 letters now among the Sylvester Rosa Koehler papers.
In 2007, the University of Maine Foundation via Amos Orcutt donated the 1934 journal and 60 photographs that were part of the Volk Family estate, but not included in the June 19, 2006 auction.
In 2019 Dr. Christine Isabelle Oaklander donated additional material purchased at auction, primarily photographs and some printed material.
Separated Materials
Volumes 1, 3, 6-7, 9, and 10 of Leonard Volk's memoirs form part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana in the Library of Congress.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel 4280) including correspondence of Leonard Volk and photographs of his artwork. Lent materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection received some preliminary processing at some point after donation. All accessions were merged and the collection was fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley in 2016 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. The collection was digitized in 2016 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. The 2019 addition was processed by Ryan Evans to a minimal level in 2020.