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Edward Bruce papers, 1902-1960, bulk, 1932-1942

Edward Bruce papers, 1902-1960, bulk, 1932-1942

Bruce, Edward, 1879-1943

Painter, Businessperson, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 8.5 linear feet

Summary: The collection documents Bruce's work as an artist, art collector, exhibition juror, and federal government art administrator, particularly his tenure as Director of the U. S. Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts. Well over one-half of the collection consists of extensive correspondence with many notable artists and government officials. Also found is scattered biographical material, office diaries and speeches, personal financial material, printed material, four scrapbooks, and photographs.

A small amount of biographical material includes birth records and many awards and certificates. Bruce's correspondence files comprise over half of this collection, containing correspondence with family, friends, artists, art organizations, political figures, museums, art galleries, and government agencies. Found within the files is extensive correspondence with friend and art critic Leo Stein and artist friend Maurice Sterne. Additional artists Bruce corresponded with include George Biddle, Adrian Dornbush, and Olin Dows. Also included is correspondence documenting his career as Chief of the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts with government colleagues and officials, much of it concerning his role on various federal arts committees, including the Commission of Fine Arts. There is also extensive correspondence with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt concerning federal and public art projects.

Writings include office diaries and notebooks containing notes, addresses, lists of Section of Fine Arts projects, and dated work entries. There are copies of numerous written speeches given by Bruce on the importance of art, public art projects, and political issues. Financial material consists of a small number of items documenting Bruce's financial activity such as tax and insurance records, bills, a cash book, and house leases. Printed material documents Edward Bruce's career as an artist and federal arts projects and programs. Found are news clippings and magazine articles, exhibition catalogs, brochures, bulletins from the Section of Fine Arts, published speeches, and miscellaneous publications. Four scrapbooks contain news clippings, letters, photographs, and other printed material highlighting Bruce's career.

Extensive photographs include photographs of Bruce's artwork, portraits of Bruce, the Bruces with family and with friends and at many special events, including an NBC radio broadcast and at an exhibition with Eleanor Roosevelt. There are also photographs taken by Bruce during his travels and while living in Anticoli Carrado, Italy.

A book, "Art in Federal Buildings," by Forbes Watson and Edward Bruce was donated to AAA with Bruce's papers and microfilmed with the rest of collection on Microfilm Reel D91-D92, and then transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum Library.

Biographical/Historical Note

Edward Bruce (1879-1943) was a painter, lawyer, businessman, and art director in Washington, D.C. Practiced law in N.Y. and Manila, Philippines; president of Pacific Development Corporation of California; lived and painted in Anticoli Carrado, Italy; director of the Treasury Dept.'s Section of Fine Arts.


Papers on reels D82-D92 and 1817 donted by Mrs. Edward Bruce in 1962. Unmicrofilmed materials donated 1979 by Maria Ealand, the Bruce's niece. The photograph on reel 1817 was received with the papers but microfilmed in 1980 as part of AAA's Photographs of Artists-Collection II.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Edward Bruce Papers,
(bulk 1932-1942)
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Edward Bruce was born in 1879 in Dover Plains, New York. Though he enjoyed painting at a young age, he pursued a career in law and graduated from Columbia Law School in 1904. He practiced law in New York and in Manila, Philippines and was actively involved in international issues. He became president of the Pacific Development Corporation of California, was a lobbyist for the Philippine Independence Bill, and, in 1933, attended the London Economic Conference as a silver expert.
In 1923 Bruce gave up his career in law and business and began to paint, particularly landscapes. He and his wife Peggy spent the next six years in Anticoli Carrado, Italy where he studied painting from his friend and fellow artist Maurice Sterne. Bruce returned to the United States in 1929 and settled in California, exhibiting his artwork to much public and critical praise. In addition, Bruce was an avid collector of Chinese art.
In 1933 Bruce was appointed Chief of the newly established Public Works of Art Project, a federal government New Deal program within the U.S. Treasury Department, that employed artists to decorate numerous public buildings and parks. Though this federal program lasted less than a year, Bruce worked with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., to establish the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture in 1934 - later renamed the Section of Fine Arts in 1938. Bruce was appointed Director of the department and played a primary role in securing federal government support for American artists. In 1940 he was appointed to the Commission of Fine Arts by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Bruce received many honors and awards during his lifetime both for his work as an artist and for his capable and dedicated administration of federal arts programs. Despite poor health, he continued his work for the Section of Fine Arts until shortly before his death in 1943.
The Edward Bruce collection is arranged into 7 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1904-1938 (Box 1, OV 11; 3 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1921-1957 (Boxes 1-6; 5.5 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1931-1942 (Box 6; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 4: Financial Material, circa 1909-1913, circa 1928-1943(Box 6, 0.3 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1919, circa 1926-1943, 1960 (Box 7, 0.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Scrapbooks, 1922-1941 (Box 7-8; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1902-1943 (Box 7, 9-10; 1.0 linear foot)
Although the collection no longer matches the exact filmed order, large groups of materials have been maintained in film order, particularly the correspondence. Microfilm reel and frame number notations are provided at the folder level when known.
Papers on reels D82-D92 and 1817 donted by Mrs. Edward Bruce in 1962. Unmicrofilmed materials donated 1979 by Maria Ealand, the Bruce's niece. The photograph on reel 1817 was received with the papers but microfilmed in 1980 as part of AAA's Photographs of Artists-Collection II.
Processing Information
Accessions of the Edward Bruce papers were microfilmed upon receipt on microfilm reels D82-D92 and 1817. Material comprising the donation made in 1979 was never microfilmed. The microfilmed and unmicrofilmed portions were integrated, and the entire collection processed, arranged, and described in accordance with archival standards by Erin Corley in 2006 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Grant.

Additional Forms Available

Much of the collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reels D82-D92 and reel 1817 at Archives of American Art offices, and for interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of material described in this finding aid closely matches the arrangement of the microfilm, but not for all of the files. When known, notations have been made at the folder level in the container listing to the corresponding reel and frame numbers.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Edward Bruce papers, 1902-1960, bulk, 1932-1942. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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