Skip to main content

Herbert Waide Hemphill papers, 1776-1998, bulk bulk 1876-1998

More Information

Jean Fitzgerald
Scope and Contents
The papers of folk art collector and museum curator Herbert Waide Hemphill date from 1776-1998, bulk 1876-1998, and measure 26.7 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical materials, personal business records, files documenting his collecting, writings, art work, minutes of meetings, a scrapbook, printed material including exhibition and auction announcements and catalogs, and miscellaneous artifacts. The collection also contains numerous photographs of Hemphill, family members, his residences, friends and colleagues, exhibitions, travel, and art work. Sound and video recordings include interviews of Hemphill.
Biographical material includes photocopies of Hemphill's birth certificate and passport, social security cards, and international health card, genealogical notes, an evaluation of his school work, membership cards, award certificates, address books, and an engagement calendar containing very brief annotations of his activities.
Correspondence documents Hemphill's affairs with miscellaneous museums and art institutions, discussing his presentation of lectures, exhibitions, and loans from his collection to organizations including the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection, the Folk Art Society of America, the Museum of International Folk Art, and the Smithsonian Institution's American Art Museum.
Hemphill's correspondence with friends and colleagues discuss collecting activities and pursuit of newly discovered folk art and artists. Many of the letters are from artists. Correspondents include Varick A. Crittenden, Michael D. Hall, A. Everette James, Daniel C. Prince, Neal A. Prince, and artists Rev. Maceptaw Bogun, Mary Borkowski, Tim Fowler, Joseph Victor Gatto, S. L. Jones, Gustav Klumpp, Roy Little, George Lopez, Kevin Orth, and Malcah Zeldis. There are also scattered letters from artists Miles Burkholder Carpenter, John W. Fancher, Rev. Howard Finster, William Hawkins, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Mr. Imagination, Mattie Lou O'Kelley, Clayton Patterson, St. EOM, and Mose Tolliver. One letter from Stephanie and John Smither is etched on a bone.
Personal business records include both legal and financial documents. There are wills for Hemphill, his mother, and for his friend Neal A. Prince. The records also include leases, insurance records, contracts, grant proposals, loan agreements, deeds of gift, price lists, consignment records, tax records, and miscellaneous receipts. Cancelled checks relate to Hemphill's collecting interests and activities, and include payments to artists for their work. There are court papers documenting a lawsuit by Hemphill's landlord who was attempting to evict him.
Art work consists of a sketchbook by Roy Little, a set of hand-cut Japanese mask designs, a collage of Polaroid photographs taped to glass created by Rev. Howard Finster, a hand-made book by Nancy Josephson, and miscellaneous drawings, watercolors, and prints by various artists including Justin McCarthy, Inez Nathaniel, and Nellie Mae Rowe.
Notes and writings include card files of artists, extensive bibliographic card files, and scattered notes on artists including Miles Carpenter, Raymond Coins, Rev. Howard Finster, Mattie Lou O'Kelley, Royal Robertson, Veronica Terrillion, Mose Tolliver, and Bill Traylor. Also found are lists of artists, patrons, and art work, miscellaneous notes, and minutes of meetings. Writings by Hemphill and others including Michael D. Hall, Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, A. Everett James, and Julia Weissman, consist of reports, typescripts, and poems concerning a wide range of art-related topics and travel.
A scrapbook consists of unbound pages of clippings and newsletters about Hemphill, his collection, and exhibitions of folk art.
There is extensive additional printed material illustrating Hemphill's many interests. This series primarily consists of clippings and exhibition announcements and catalogs for mainstream artists as well as folk artists. Also included are auction announcements and catalogs, announcements for festivals, press releases, and calendars of events. Numerous booklets, brochures, programs, menus, business cards, and novelty postcards concern a variety of topics including worldwide travel, the sale of art work, miscellaneous galleries, museums, organizations, conferences, schools, lectures, antiques and craft shops, films, publications, restaurants, household items, historical topics, and miscellaneous artists including Miles Carpenter, S. P. Dinsmoor, Lonnie Holley, Clementine Hunter, and Veronica Terrillion. There are also autographed copies of booklets The Black Swan and Other Poems by James Merrill, and The Blood of Jesus by Thomas Jefferson Flanagan. Novelty postcards range from photographs of Elvis Presley to cards with amusing captions or cartoon jokes. There is also sheet music by Charles Trenet. Miscellaneous printed material includes several eighteenth-century newspapers and a 1776 thirty shilling note from New Jersey.
Photographs are of Hemphill, family members, his residences, friends and colleagues including style editor Carrie Donovan, artist Rev. Howard Finster dancing at an exhibition opening, actress Alice Ghostley, Michael D. Hall, circus performers Vernon Goins and Tiny Hicks, Smithsonian curator Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, Neal A. Prince, and Jim Spies. Photographs of exhibitions include stereographic views of the International Exhibition in Philadelphia and the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and photographs of Hemphill's donation of his collection and its subsequent exhibition at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. Travel photographs include views of South Dakota, Texas, the American West, Japan, Mexico, and The Netherlands.
Numerous photographs of art work sometimes include images of the artists with their work including Bruce Brice, Raymond Coins, John W. Fancher, Rev. Howard Finster, Theora Hamblett, Bessie Harvey, William Hawkins, James Harold Jennings, John Jordan, Charles Lisk, Alexander Maldonado, St. EOM, Fred Smith, Edgar Tolson, Hubert Walters, and Purvis Young. Some photographs of unattributed art work has been arranged by the state in which it is located and includes a Mardi Gras parade in Louisiana, a Mummer's parade in Pennsylvania, Lucy the Elephant-shaped building in New Jersey, and Holy Ghost Park in Wisconsin. Other photographs of unattributed art work include works on paper, paintings, sculpture, signs, collages, needlework, glass, ceramics, and architecture.
Sound and video recordings include a cassette from Hemphill's phone answering machine that contains only Hemphill's message to callers, cassette recordings of interviews with and concerning Hemphill, artist St. EOM, painter Robert E. Smith discussing his work, and the tour narration for a Smithsonian exhibition Made With Passion. There are videotapes about Hemphill and about artists Gayleen Aiken, Miller and Bryant, and Malcah Zeldis, and miscellaneous African American artists. There is also a videotape of an American Museum of Natural History tour group arriving in a succession of villages in Melanesia and Papua New Guinea where they are greeted by the native people and given the opportunity to purchase their art work.
Artifacts consist of a scattered assemblage of three-dimensional objects including three wooden "fringe" pieces from cigar store figures, ceramic fragments from a sword handle, a lock of horse hair, and a hand-painted View Master viewer souvenir from the opening of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. The View Master contains a disc of photographs of artists with their work including Vollis Simpson and Mary Frances Whitfield. Also included is a teacher's kit Little Adventures in Art containing four phonograph albums and four short film strips of slides showing art work in animal and bird forms.
Herbert Waide Hemphill donated his papers in 5 installments between 1988 and 1996.
Processing Information
The collection received some processing shortly after it was donated in 1988 and prior to microfilming on reels 4026-4029. All accessions were merged, arranged, and described in accordance with archival standards by Jean Fitzgerald in March 2009.