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Sylvester Rosa Koehler papers, 1833-1904, bulk 1870-1890

Koehler, S. R. (Sylvester Rosa), 1837-1900

Curator, Editor, Art historian

This site provides access to the papers of S. R. (Sylvester Rosa) Koehler in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2018, and total 16,110 images.

Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 5.4 Linear feet

Summary: The Sylvester Rosa Koehler papers measure 5.4 linear feet and date from 1833 to 1904, with the bulk of the material dating from 1870 to 1890. The collection consists primarily of Koehler's extensive correspondence to and from many notable artists and printmakers such as Jean F. Harfin, John M. Falconer, Frederick Juengling, and James D. Smillie, as well as friends, and family members and professional correspondence concerning Koehler's activities as a writer, curator, and editor of the American Art Review. The collection also contains financial records and other miscellaneous items.

Biographical/Historical Note

Art historian and curator Sylvester Rosa Koehler was born in Leipsic, Germany in 1837. He came to the United States with his family in 1849 and settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts. In 1868 he became the Technical Manager of Louis Prang and Company, a lithograph publisher. Koehler was the founding editor of the American Art Review , which commissioned artists for original etchings, and ran from 1879-1881. Through this publication, as well as his work as writer and exhibition curator, Koehler encouraged an American etching revival in the 1880s. Koehler also published many books on American art and was the first Curator of Prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. From 1886 to 1900 he served as the first Curator of Graphic Arts at the United States National Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution. While there, he created a permanent and traveling exhibition of graphic arts. His knowlege of the art world and his extensive personal contacts brought many important collections to the museum. Koehler died in Littleton, New Hampshire in 1900.


The collection was purchased from Argosy Book Stores, Inc, in 1959. A letter from John Sartain and eleven letters from William Merritt Chase were donated by Charles E. Feinberg, 1955-1962. Two postcards were donated in 2009 by William A. Turnbaugh, an autograph collector. In 2017, John F. McGuigan Jr. and Mary K. McGuigan donated sixty-nine letters from A. Barry, Truman Howe Bartlett, William Merritt Chase, Timothy Cole, Edward Henry Clement, Cyrus Edwin Dallin, Robert Swain Gifford, George Inness, Anna Lea Merritt, Stephen Parrish, John Sartain, Francis Hopkinson Smith, and Frederic Porter Vinton.

Related Materials

Language Note

English .


Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.