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William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain family papers, 1888-1955

William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain family papers, 1888-1955

Pearmain, William Robert, 1888-1912


Collection Information

Size: 0.4 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter and activist William Robert Pearmain (1888-1912) and the Pearmain family measure 0.4 linear feet and date from 1888-1955. Papers are found for William Robert Pearmain, his wife Nancy Douglas Brush (later Bowditch), their daughter Mary "Polly" Pearmain, and other members of the Pearmain family. There are biographical materials; family correspondence; a watercolor; a travel diary and school essays by Pearmain; printed materials, including clippings and two publications by the Industrial Workers of the World; and photographs of the Pearmain family and artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Robert Pearmain (1888-1912) was a painter from Dublin, N.H. The Pearmain family were neighbors of George de Forest Brush in Dublin, N.H., where many artists lived. Samuel Clemens was also a neighbor. Pearmain left Harvard after his first semester to study painting with Brush in Italy. He married Brushs' daughter, Nancy, in 1909, and returned to New York and became active in socialist causes, joining the I.W.W. and working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the Westinghouse Electric Co. He died of leukemia in 1912. Nancy later married Dr. Harold Bowditch.


Donated 1973 and 1974 by Nancy Bowditch and Edward F. McClennen, Pearmain's widow and grandson. The photograph of the drawing was lent for microfilming by W. Robert Pearmain, Pearmain's nephew, 1974. Some of the items have been annotated by Pearmain's younger brother, Jack. The collection was microfilmed in 1993.

Related Materials

A drawing by Will Loring of William Robert Pearmain as a child was microfilmed and photographed by the Archives of American Art and returned to William Robert Pearmain, nephew of the sitter.

Also found in the Archives of American Art is the Nancy Douglas Bowditch papers, circa 1900s-1970s that contain materials relating to her first husband, William Robert Pearmain and an oral history interview with Nancy Douglas Bowditch conducted on January 30, 1974 by Robert F. Brown.


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

Location of Originals

  • Drawing of a young Pearmain by [Will?] Loring: Original returned to W. Robert Pearmain after photographing.

Additional Forms Available

The William Robert Pearmain papers were digitized in 2009 and are 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

William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain family papers, 1888-1955. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Digitization Note

The papers of William Robert Pearmain in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2010. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 666 images.