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John Frazee papers, 1819-1966, bulk 1819-1893

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Jayna Hanson
Scope and Contents
The papers of sculptor and architect John Frazee measure 0.6 linear feet, and date from 1819-1966, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1819-1893. These scattered papers contain documentation of Frazee's early career as a gravestone carver, his commission to design the New York Customs House, and his busts of John Jay, the Marquis De Lafayette, and other famous figures. There is also correspondence with family members, genealogical materials, sketches of Frazee monuments and stone engravings, poems and notes by Frazee, printed materials, a few financial documents, photographs of works of art, and a plaster cast of a medal.
Biographical information consists primarily of family history and genealogical materials.
Correspondence is mostly with family members, although there are a few letters from others regarding his work. The majority of letters written by John Frazee are to his first and second wives, Jane and Lydia respectively. Other letters are addressed to his brother Noah and reflect his sorrow at the premature deaths of his first wife and some of his young children. In these letters, he talks about the grave markers he designed for his family members, and includes sketches of the markers and lettering. In another illustrated letter written to Lydia Frazee, John describes and sketches his experience on a railroad train in 1834. General correspondence includes letters of praise by the sons of John Jay and the Marquis de Lafayette for Frazee's busts of their fathers. There is also one letter from John J. Audubon. The majority of letters concerning busts for the Boston Athenaeum are photocopies.
There is one file documenting documenting John Frazee's congressional commission as the designer of the New York Customs House. The file contains a draft of the petition by Frazee for the position, the subsequent grant of the petition by President Tyler, and a detailed report written by Frazee to Congress of the work completed on the building.
Artwork consists of scattered unsigned sketches of grave markers designed by Frazee. It is not clear whether Frazee completed the sketches, or if they were done at a later date by someone else.
Writings and notes include poems written by Frazee and scattered notes referencing Frazee's works. There is also one small ledger of Frazee's purchases and scattered receipts. Printed materials consist of a clipping and two catalogs. One catalog is about Frazee's design of the Washington Monument in the New York Customs House, and the other is of the New York Historical Society's art collection, which includes pieces by Frazee.
Photographs are of Frazee's busts including Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster and Nathaniel Bowditch as well as an image of a bust of John Frazee by another sculptor. There is one plaster cast of a medal commemorating Napoleon Bonaparte.
The John Frazee papers were donated by the sculptor's great granddaughter Marguerite Heath and grand niece Theresa Eliot in several increments between 1973-1978.
Separated Material
A few exhibition catalogs and printed materials microfilmed on reel 1103 were later transfered to The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library.
Location of Originals
Some correspondence included in this collection are photocopies of originals that remained with the donors.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Processing Information
Upon receipt, the papers were microfilmed on reels 1103 and 2804. All accessions were merged and processed by Jayna Hanson in 2008 and scanned in 2010 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.