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John Steuart Curry and Curry family papers, 1848-1999

Contents and Arrangement

The collection is arranged into ten series:

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Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1911-1993
(Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)

This series contains certificates, a chronology of Curry's life, biographical narratives for encyclopedias, family history research and genealogical charts, school records, a video copy of home movies, and documents related to family members of John Steuart Curry.
Genealogical information appears to have been compiled by Curry's brother, R. Eugene Curry. The home movies are approximately eight minutes long and include footage of Curry around 1938 on horseback with a group of unidentified people in the mountains, and his daughter, wife, and pets playing in the yard.
Additional writings about John Steuart Curry are found in Notes and Writings and Estate Papers.

Series 2: Family Correspondence, 1916-1946
(Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)

This series contains correspondence between John Steuart Curry and members of his family, as well as letters among family members, written before his death in 1946. Curry's letters include detailed, early letters from Chicago during his first years of art school, and letters from Leonia, NJ and Greenwich Village during his early career. Scattered illustrations by Curry are found in these early letters. Two folders also contain notes about Curry's letters written by the family members who donated them to the Archives. Similar notes are found in Estate Papers.
Letters written by Kathleen Curry are to Margery Curry, Curry's sister. Letters from Margaret Curry are mainly addressed to John. Letters among family members after Curry's death in 1946 are found in the Estate Papers.
Letters are filed by author.

Series 3: Correspondence and Project Files, 1928-1946
(Boxes 1-3, OV 11; 2.3 linear feet)

This series contains correspondence and other materials related to Curry's position as Artist in Residence at the University of Wisconsin (1936-1946), other professional projects during that period, and scattered earlier correspondence and print material. Other types of documents found include receipts, invoices, lists of artwork, clippings, photographs, blueprints, and other miscellany. Documents are arranged alphabetically by personal name, corporate name, subject, or project. Substantial files are found for galleries that represented Curry, including Maynard Walker's Ferargil Gallery, Walker Galleries, and Associated American Artists. Curry's major mural projects are documented under the headings "Kansas State House Murals," "Treasury Department, Section of Painting and Sculpture," and University of Wisconsin. Illustration jobs are filed by title or publisher under the heading Book Illustration.
Background documentation for Curry's appointment as artist-in-residence in the agricultural college at the University of Wisconsin is found in the University of Wisconsin files, including writings and research materials related to the "Rural Art" program he served there. Throughout the series, correspondence with art students, art teachers, aspiring artists, art clubs, and other civic clubs in Wisconsin and throughout the midwest reflect his role in this initiative.
Arrangement is idiosyncratic. In general, letters are filed alphabetically by organization or corporate name, if applicable. Place names for schools and civic clubs are common access points. Names with five or more letters are filed in their own folders, and the remainder of correspondence is filed in miscellaneous files. Selected correspondents whose names do not appear in headings are indicated in a note following the folder heading. Materials other than correspondence are also noted in the folder listing.

Series 4: Subject Files, 1848-1946
(Boxes 3-4, OV 11-12; 0.7 linear feet)

This series contains clippings, photographs, prints, letters responding to research queries, a bibliography, notes, sketches, and other ephemera gathered by Curry. Many of the files consist entirely of images clipped from illustrated magazines and newspapers. Sketches are found in the Kansas history, Russell/Remington, and circus files. A series of snapshots in the circus files appear to have been taken by Curry. Other types of material found are noted in the folder listing.
Subjects that are particularly well-developed in this series include American Indians, the circus, John Brown, and Kansas history. Many of the subjects are recognizable as subjects of Curry's artwork.
Arrangement is alphabetical by subject. Headings added to subject files during reprocessing are indicated in brackets. Dates in the folder listing refer to dates of file contents; files appear to have been created between 1920 and 1946. Additional research and pictorial references gathered by Curry can be found in Correspondence and Project Files, Print Materials, and Photographs.

Series 5: Notes and Writings, circa 1911-1946
(Box 4; 0.3 linear feet)

This series contains essays, notes, transcripts of lectures and interviews, and other miscellaneous writings written primarily by John Steuart Curry. Other authors, where known, are noted in the folder listing, along with details about subject content. Subjects of writings include art technique, art history, Curry's artworks, early school essays, and one brief essay on Grant Wood. Also found are an annotated address book and mailing list dating from Curry's years in Westport, Connecticut, and travel notes from his trip to Europe in 1926-1927.
When multiple drafts are present, drafts are filed in the order in which they appear to have been written. Additional notes and writings are scattered throughout the collection.

Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1916-1952
(Box 4, OV 13; 0.3 linear feet)

This series contains documents related to John Steuart Curry's business transactions and personal finances. Records include contracts, account books, receipts, notes, correspondence, bills, bank statements, tax forms, stock certificates, deeds, copyright certificates, photographs, and lists of artwork. Curry's expenses in Chicago as a student are in a small, handwritten notebook. Later trips to Europe, Cuba, Panama, Kansas, and elsewhere are documented in notes, bills, statements, and receipts. Records of artwork include a small card file, photographs of artwork, copyright certificates, and lists of artwork, most of which appear to be related to exhibitions. Lists and inventories made after Curry's death are found in Estate Papers.
Additional business records from Curry's lifetime are found in Correspondence and Project Files, and Estate Papers contain business records from after Curry's death. See also Notes and Writings for additional documentation of Curry's travels.

Series 7: Print Materials, 1918-1985
(Boxes 4-5, 10; OV 12-13; 1.6 linear feet)

This series contains exhibition catalogs, clippings, periodicals, book illustrations, magazine illustrations, printed reproductions of artwork, monographs about Curry, scrapbooks created by Curry and his relatives, and other miscellany. This series includes print materials gathered during Curry's lifetime and after his death.
Magazine illustrations include some of Curry's early commercial artwork from illustrated magazines such as
Country Gentleman
Boy's Life
, and
Western Weekly
. The first magazine illustration in the series is annotated indicating that it was Curry's first illustration. Clippings are mostly related to Curry's artwork, his residency at the University of Wisconsin, and his death in 1946.
Exhibition catalogs are from Curry's solo and group exhibitions. Early catalogs contain some annotations. Reproductions of Curry's paintings and drawings are found in a variety of media including book and magazine covers, pamphlets, and advertisements.
John Steuart Curry's childhood scrapbook contains clippings from pictorial magazines, photographs of livestock, and a couple of sketches. Later scrapbooks kept by his wife, sister, and brother are also found, and contain mostly clippings.
Articles about Curry found in the periodicals are duplicated in clippings. Additional print materials are found throughout the collection. See series descriptions for further details.

Series 8: Photographs, circa 1900-1998
(Boxes 5-6, OV 14; 1.1 linear feet)

This series includes photographs of John Steuart Curry and his family, friends, colleagues, homes, and artwork. Photographs of Curry include formal portraits, publicity photographs, candid photographs, and snapshots. Notable subjects include a significant number of photographs showing Curry working on and posing with artwork, and many early photographs of Curry as a young athlete. Additional information about the subject matter of photographs is included in the folder listing.
Many of the photographs of works of art appear to have been made and maintained by Kathleen Curry, who owned the reproduction rights of her husband's artwork, and handled copyright permissions for the estate for many decades. Some of the earlier photographs of paintings are annotated with names of owners and information about their subjects which appears to be in Curry's handwriting.
Additional records related to Kathleen Curry's work with her husband's estate are found in Estate Papers. Additional information about copyright is also found in Personal Business Records.
Additional photographs are found throughout the collection. In particular, photographs of the circus, which appear to have been taken by Curry and include a photograph of Curry, are found in the Subject Files.

Series 9: Artwork, 1941, undated
(Box 7, OV 12, 14, 15; 0.2 linear feet)

This series includes sketches, a cartoon of Curry, and test canvases. Four sketches are found by John Steuart Curry, including one small watercolor sketch of corn, and a sketch of what appears to be the site of his mural in the Wisconsin Law Library.
Seven test canvases, two of them dated 1941, are annotated with notes regarding the materials used for the various colors and grounds represented.
Additional sketches are found in Subject Files, and in Curry's childhood scrapbook in Print Materials. Scattered illustrated letters from Curry can also be found in Family Correspondence.

Series 10: Estate Papers, circa 1946-1999
(Boxes 7-9 and rolled document; 2.3 linear feet)

This series contains papers created and gathered by Kathleen Curry and other family members after John Steuart Curry's death 1946. Types of materials include writings, published articles, correspondence, inventories of artwork and papers, and various business records kept by Kathleen Curry. Also found are alphabetical files dating roughly 1983 to 1999, which contain correspondence, clippings, catalogs, receipts, photographs, and other records related to museums, galleries, and other parties who dealt with the estate.
Articles about Curry include writings by family, friends, and scholars, both published and unpublished. Among the family writings are several articles written by Curry siblings, and notes written by R. Eugene Curry which refer to the papers themselves, especially to letters in Family Correspondence. Other articles include journal publications and writings related to exhibitions. Journal articles are accompanied by critical responses written to their authors from Kathleen Curry.
Chronological files of correspondence contain letters primarily from 1946 through 1980, although some later correspondence is found here. Alphabetical files contain most of the correspondence and other documents of the estate from about 1983 to 1999. Both the chronological correspondence and alphabetical files document publications, exhibitions, appearances, sales, disposition of papers, Curry-related events, and financial matters, with scattered personal correspondence. The estate's relationships with galleries representing Curry's artwork are heavily documented in this series. These include Associated American Artists, Robert Graham Galleries, and Kennedy Galleries in the chronological correspondence, and Mongerson Wunderlich, and Vivian Kiechel Fine Art in the alphabetical files. Correspondence between Kathleen Curry and many of her husband's colleagues is found, primarily in the chronological correspondence, including Thomas Hart Benton (1946), Thomas Craven, George Macy, Laurence Schmeckebier, Bob Hodgell, Don Anderson, Lloyd Garrison, Burton Cumming, William McCloy, and Maynard Walker. Letters between Laurence Schmeckebier and various family members (1981-1984), written for research on a revised edition of his biography of Curry (not published) includes letters with reminiscences of Curry's early life. A placard created to commemorate Curry's mural in the Law Library of the University of Wisconsin is found with a letter from Lloyd Garrison of 1948.
Inventories include lists of artwork, slides, papers, and reproductions. Most of the signed inventories were created by either Kathleen Curry or galleries representing Curry's artwork. Many are unsigned and unidentified.
Additional papers dated after Curry's death can be found in Print Materials, Personal Business Records, and Photographs. Additional information about Curry's family can be found in Biographical Materials and Family Correspondence.

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.