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Francis Davis Millet and Millet family papers, 1858-1984, bulk 1858-1955

Biographical Note

During his lifetime, Francis Davis Millet (1846-1912), always known as Frank, was a prominent artist who was well known for murals that contained exactingly accurate historical details. His broad-ranging career included work with worlds' fairs in Vienna, Chicago, Paris, and Tokyo as a juror, administrator, mural painter/decorator, or advisor. In addition, Frank Millet was a newspaper writer who published short stories and enjoyed adventures as a war correspondent during the Russo-Turkish War and in the Philippines during the Spanish American War.
Millet was among the founders of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and was influential in the early days of the American Federation of Arts. Millet was involved with the American Academy in Rome from its inception and served as Secretary from 1904-1911. In 1911, Millet went to Rome as Chief Administrator of the newly combined Schools of Fine Arts and Classical Studies. He died aboard the Titanic while traveling to New York City on Academy business.
1846
born in Mattapoisett, Mass.
1864
enlisted as a private in the 60th Massachusetts Militia during Civil War, serving as a drummer; also acted as a surgical assistant to his physician father in the army of the Potomac
1869
graduated from Harvard University, where he studied modern languages and literature
1869-1870
learned lithography while working on the Boston Advertiser
1871-1872
studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp, where he won the silver medal (1871) and was awarded the gold medal (1872); traveled through Germany with 3 other American Students
1873
Secretary to Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Massachusetts' commissioner to the Vienna Exposition member of the Vienna Exposition; jury correspondent for the New York Herald and the New York Tribune; traveled through southern Europe and Turkey
1873-1874
traveled in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany
1875
toured Italy; returned to Boston and set up a studio on Tremont Street
1876
exhibited The Bay of Naples at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where he represented the Boston Advertiser and was a correspondent for the American Architect and Building News; assisted John La Farge in decorating Trinity Church, Boston; founded the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with La Farge and W. M. Hunt
1877
exhibited portraits of Charles Francis Adams, Jr. and Samuel L. Clements at the National Academy of Design
1877-1878
special war correspondent to the New York Herald and Times of London, and special artist to the London Graphic, reporting on the Russo-Turkish War; Russia awarded him the Cross of St. Stanislaus and the Cross of St. Anne for military advice and exceptional service (informing Russian officers of a ford that would allow them to cross into Turkey more easily) and the Iron Cross of Romania
1878
returned to Paris to paint; served on fine arts jury at the Exposition Universelle in Paris; exhibited in the Paris Salon and at the British Royal Academy
1879
married Elizabeth (Lily) Greeley Merrill in Paris; returned to the United States, settling in East Bridgewater, Mass., where he set up a studio that included an accurate reconstruction of a colonial era kitchen
1880
lectured on costumes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; birth of daughter, Katharine Field; became a member of the Society of American Artists; worked with Louis Comfort Tiffany on the decoration of the Seventh Regiment Armory, New York City
1881
shared studio in New York with Edwin Austin Abbey; birth of son, Edwin Abbey; commissioned by the Class of 1861 to design two windows for Harvard University Memorial Hall
1882
traveled in northern German and Scandinavia with Edwin Austin Abbey and R. Swain Gifford; elected an Associate member of the National Academy of Design
1883
traveled to England
1884
birth of Laurance, in London; settled with family in Broadway, Worcestershire (spending the winters of the next decade in New York); along with Edwin Austen Abbey, John Singer Sargent, and Alfred Parsons, he established a colony that at various times included Edwin Howland Blashfield, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and Henry James, along with various other writers, actors, musicians
1885
traveled with Charles Francis Adams, Jr. throughout the U.S. and its territories, and to Mexico; elected a National Academician, National Academy of Design
1886
purchased "Russell House," that became his permanent home in Broadway, Worcestershire; and moved studio to "Abbot's Grange"
1887
translated "Sebastopol" by Tolstoy from French to English for publication
1888
birth of John Alfred Parsons
1889
awarded silver medal, Salon des Artistes, Paris
1890
published a collection of short stories, A Capillary Crime and Other Tales; purchased the "Abbot's Grange" that had been serving as his studio for the previous four years
1891
elected vice-president of National Academy of Design; for Harper's Magazine traveled with Alfred Parsons and Poultney Bigelow on a trip down the Danube in one-man canoes, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea (their illustrated narrative was published in the magazine, Feb.-May 1892; the following year, it appeared in book form as From the Black Forest to the Black Sea)
1892-1893
director of decorations for the White City of the World's Columbian Exposition, acting as a close advisor to the fair's architect Daniel Burnham; served on New York jury of the Columbian Exposition; once the Exposition opened, he served as Director of Functions and Ceremonies and also provided public relations and advertising services
1897
completed restoring "Abbot's Grange" to its 16th century appearance; completed lunette, Agriculture, commissioned for the Bank of Pittsburgh
1898
went to the Philippines to cover the Spanish American War as a special correspondent to Harper's Weekly, the London Times, and the New York Sun
1899
published Expedition to the Philippines, P. Bigelow, co-author
1900
appointed U. S. representative to the Paris Universal International Exposition where he was in charge of decoration of the Government Pavilion, and was a member of the Jury of Selection and the Fine Arts Jury; awarded Chevalier de la Legion of Hounneur by the French government in appreciation for his services to the Paris Exposition
1905
traveled to northwest United States, Alaska, and British Columbia; completed mural, The Treaty of the Traverse des Sioux, July 23, 1851, commissioned for the Minnesota State Capitol; became a charter member of the American Academy in Rome
1906
traveled to North Africa, Italy, and France
1907
completed mural, The Fourth Minnesota Regiment Entering Vicksburg, July 4, 1863, commissioned for the Minnesota State Capitol; completed mural, Foreman of the Grand Jury Rebuking the Chief Justice of New Jersey, 1774, commissioned for the Essex County Courthouse, Newark, New Jersey; traveled to Cuba
1908
completed The History of Shipping from the Earliest Recorded Use of Boats until the Present Time commissioned to decorate the ceiling of the Custom House, Baltimore; traveled to Japan as Special Commissioner to the proposed World's Fair in Tokyo [the fair was never held]; awarded "First Class Order of the Sacred Treasure" by the Japanese government; additional travel to Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and China; elected Secretary of the American Academy in Rome; elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters
1909
completed frieze of 13 panels, The History of the Settlement of Ohio, and several portraits commissioned by the Cleveland Trust Company; also responsible for the general color scheme of the building; completed frieze of 35 panels, The History of Mail Delivery, commissioned for the Post Office in the Federal Building, Cleveland; also responsible for determining the general color
1910
influential in the founding of the American Federation of Arts; served as its Secretary until his death; appointed to Federal Commission of Fine Arts; elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters
1911
completed lunettes, The Repulse of the Dutch, September 3, 1609, and The Purchase of the Land, 1658, and 12 small historical panels, commissioned for the Hudson County Courthouse, Jersey City, New Jersey; also responsible for the general color scheme of the building; traveled to Panama with Lily and Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Adams, Jr.; elected Vice Chairman of the Fine Arts Committee, American Academy in Rome; moved to Rome to serve as Chief Administrator of the consolidated schools of the American Academy in Rome and the American School of Classical Studies in Rome following the death of Charles F. McKim (Millet was a charter member and had served as Secretary since its inception)
1912
died aboard the S. S. Titanic, while heading to New York City on American Academy in Rome business