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Mary Fanton Roberts papers, 1880-1956

Mary Fanton Roberts papers, 1880-1956

Roberts, Mary Fanton, 1871-1956

Writer, Editor

Representative image for Mary Fanton Roberts papers, 1880-1956

This site provides access to the papers of Mary Fanton Roberts in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2007, and total 12,093 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 3.8 linear feet

Summary: The papers of art writer and editor Mary Fanton Roberts measure 3.8 linear feet and are dated 1880 to 1956. The collection is comprised mainly of correspondence with family members, artists, dancers, actors, writers, musicians, and visual and performing arts organizations. Also found are scattered biographical materials, writings, printed material, photographs and artwork.

The collection contains a small amount of biographical material about Mary Fanton Roberts and her husband, William Carman Roberts, including his journal of a vacation with Ernest Thompson Seton and his wife. Personal Correspondence is with her husband and sister Belle Fanton, and with friends. Business and political correspondence documents her career as a magazine editor and writer, her participation in political organizations and events, her participation in radio talks, and her correspondence regarding war issues.

Art correspondence/subject files include correspondence with and collected materials on artists, photographers, art patrons, critics, and wives of artists, as well as arts organizations, museums, and schools. Correspondence of note is with George Gray Barnard, Gutzon Borglum, Ben Ali Haggin, Leon Kroll, Frederic Remington, W. Goodridge Roberts, Nicholas Roerich, Pierre Troubetzkoy, illustrator Oliver Herford, John Butler Yeats, and Ashcan school artists Robert Henri, John Sloan, and William Glackens, as well as many others. Dance and theatre correspondence/subject files include correspondence with actors, dancers, playwrights, patrons, organizations and theatres. Correspondence of note in this series is with Charles "Orlando" Coburn, Eva Le Gallienne, Angna Enters, and the "Duncan Dancers." Literary and music orrespondence/subject files include correspondence with authors, poets, critics, singers, publishers, and musicians, such as Bliss Carman, Yvette Guilbert, and Lloyd Osbourne. Additional material found in these subject files, other than letters, includes invitations, photographs, calling cards, artwork, news clippings, and printed material.

Writings by Roberts include an autobiographical essay about her youth and early career, guest lists and notes concerning hosted events, and typescripts of poems by her niece Dorothy Gostwick Roberts. Printed material is comprised of art exhibition catalogs, published articles and trade bulletins written by Roberts, and newsclippings. Photographs are of Roberts, her family, friends, and places she lived, and include autographed portraits given to her, primarily from actors and actresses. Also found are photographs taken by Nickolas Muray of art models. Scattered artwork in this collection includes several small drawings by unidentified artists, as well as a pencil portrait of Roberts by John Butler Yeats.

Biographical/Historical Note

Mary Fanton Roberts (1864-1956) was a writer, editor, and critic from New York City. Wrote for Herald Tribune, Journal, the Sun, editor for the Craftsman, 1906-1916, the Touchstone, 1917-1921, Arts & Decoration, ca. 1922-1934. Wrote occasionally under the name Giles Edgerton.


Donated by Phoebe DuBois and Violet Organ in 1957.


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

Location of Originals

  • 4 Ira Glackens letters, 1946-1947, reel D162, fr. 971-982: Originals returned to Ira Glackens after filming.

A Finding Aid to the Mary Fanton Roberts Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Mary Fanton Roberts was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1864. When she was a young girl her family moved to Deadwood, in the Montana territory, where her father had mining prospects. When she was old enough, she and her sister were sent back to New York to attend the Albany Female Academy. After finishing school, Roberts pursued journalism and became a staff writer for four years for the Herald Tribune, the Journal, and the Sun in New York. During her long career she was editor of
Demorest Magazine
, editor-in-chief of
New Idea Woman's Magazine
, managing editor of
The Craftsman
, and creator and editor of
The Touchstone Magazine
Decorative Arts
magazine. Her longest period at one publication was seventeen years as editor of
Arts and Decoration
. She often wrote articles on the topic of decorative arts and home decorating, and published two books,
Inside 100 Homes
, and
101 Ideas for Successful Interiors
In 1906 she married William Carman Roberts, writer and editor of
Literary Digest
for thirty years. They lived in Manhattan and Waterford, Connecticut.
Roberts was very involved in the artistic, theatrical, and literary circles in New York City, and met and became friends with many young avant garde American artists, including Robert Henri and John Sloan. Through her husband she met many writers and poets, including Theodore Dreiser and Bliss Carman. Roberts was active in organizations such as the Women's City Club, Pen and Brush, and the MacDowell Society and also attended countless art openings, theater performances, and other social events. As an avid supporter of modern dance, she became friends with many performers, including Isadora Duncan and Angna Enters. After her husband's death in 1941, Roberts moved to the Chelsea Hotel, where she lived for the rest of her life. She maintained lifelong relationships with a wide circle of friends and continued to correspond with them and attend social events until her death in 1956 at the age of 92.
The collection is arranged into 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1906, 1912-1941, undated (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 2: Personal Correspondence, 1902-1951, undated (Box 1; 7 folders)
Series 3: Business and Political Correspondence, 1903-1959, undated (Box 1; 6 folders)
Series 4: Art Correspondence/Subject Files, 1898-1956, undated (Box 1-2; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 5: Dance and Theatre Correspondence/Subject Files, 1902-1953, undated (Box 2-3; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 6: Literary and Music Correspondence/Subject Files, 1900-1952, undated (Box 3; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 7: General Correspondence, 1898-1946, undated (Box 3-4; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 8: Writings, 1915-1926, 1952, undated (Box 4; 3 folders)
Series 9: Printed Material, 1899, 1909-1947, undated (Box 4-5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 10: Photographs, 1880-circa 1943, undated (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 11: Artwork, 1906, undated (Box 5; 3 folders)
Donated by Phoebe DuBois and Violet Organ in 1957.
Location of Originals
  • 4 Ira Glackens letters, 1946-1947, reel D162, fr. 971-982: Originals returned to Ira Glackens after filming.
Processing Information
The collection was arranged upon accessioning and microfilmed on reels D161-D164. A finding aid to the microfilm was prepared by Erin Corley in 2006 and the collection was digitized in 2017 as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Grant.

Additional Forms Available

The collection was digitized in 2017 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website.

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

Mary Fanton Roberts papers, 1880-1956. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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