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Mary, Xanthus, and Russell Smith family papers, 1793-1977, bulk 1826-1977

Mary, Xanthus, and Russell Smith family papers, 1793-1977, bulk 1826-1977

Smith, Mary Russel, 1842-1878


Collection Information

Size: 5.1 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Mary, Xanthus, and Russell Smith were a family of artists in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. Russell Smith (1812-1896) was a native of Glasgow, Scotland whose family came to the United States in 1819 and settled near Pittsburgh. Russell Smith married Mary Priscilla Wilson, a flower painter and teacher of French and drawing, in 1838. Mary Priscilla Smith (1819-1874) studied at a female seminary in Germantown, Pennsylvania operated by noted educator William Russell (Russell Smith's uncle) in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and at Charles Picot's school in Philadelphia. After becoming a mother, she painted very little but taught her children, Xanthus and Mary, to draw and paint. Xanthus Smith (1839-1929) was born in Philadelphia. Mary Russell Smith (1842-1878) was born near Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.


Donated 1978-1979 by Franklin R. Smith, a descendant of Smith.

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, writings, artwork, financial records, printed material, miscellaneous items and photographs provide documentation of the lives and works of painter, illustrator and poet, Russell Smith, and his son, painter Xanthus Smith, and scattered documentation of the lives of his wife, painter and educator Mary Priscilla Smith, and daughter and painter Mary Russell Smith.

Family papers include correspondence, writings, printed material, and miscellaneous items. Correspondence, the bulk of which is comprised of letters to and from Russell and Xanthus Smith, covers both personal and professional matters. Among the correspondents are family, friends, colleagues, and arts organizations. Writings, printed material, and miscellaneous items in this series refer either to the entire Smith family or multiple individuals. Miscellaneous items also concern Horace Binder, father-in-law of Xanthus Smith.

The Russell Smith papers are comprised of biographical information, writings, artwork, and financial records. Biographical information includes some personal documents such as passports and marriage certificates. Among Russell Smith's writings are an autobiography, transcripts of correspondence, and notes. Artwork consists of loose pages and sketch books containing sketches and drawings in pencil, ink, and watercolor. His financial records are cash books recording professional and personal expenses, and receipts and memorabilia from the family's 1851-1852 travels in Europe. The printed material consists of loose clippings and a scrapbook of clippings from Philadelphia newspapers, as well as a small number of exhibition catalogs.

The Xanthus Smith papers consist of biographical information, artwork, financial records, and printed material. Among the writings are his unpublished autobiography, biographies of his father and sister, impressions of the Centennial art exhibition, journals, notes, and poems. Artwork consists of loose sketches in pencil and ink, and sketchbooks containing sketches and finished drawings in pencil and ink, some colored with gouache or watercolor washes. Financial records are cash books recording personal and professional expenses. Printed material includes clippings and a scrapbook.

The Mary Smith papers consist of writings, sketches, and printed material. The papers of her mother, Mary Priscilla Smith, are comprised of writings and printed material.

Photographs are of people, artwork, and miscellaneous subjects. People represented are Russell and Mary Priscilla Smith, their children Xanthus and Mary Smith, and several other relatives including Xanthus's wife and Russell's sister, granddaughter, and uncle. Photographs include ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, and tintypes, along with glass negatives and a small number of original prints. Copy prints have been produced from the glass negatives and other cased photographs. Photographs of artwork are of paintings by Russell Smith, Xanthus Smith, and other artists.

Portions of the collection are available on microfilm reels 2035-2040, and 2062 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. The arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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