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Wilna Hervey and Nan Mason papers, 1883-1985

Biographical Note

Wilna Hervey was born in 1894 and grew up in Far Rockaway, New York. She met Nan Mason (1896-1982), daughter of silent film actor Dan Mason, while on production of The Toonerville Trolley silent film comedies in 1920. They were lifelong companions until Hervey's death in 1979.
As a young woman in the late 1910s, Hervey took art lessons at the Art Students League in New York City, Winold Reiss' studio at 4 Christopher Street, New York City, and during the summer of 1918 in Woodstock, New York. In 1919, she joined the Betzwood Studios in Audubon, Pennsylvania to play the role of "The Powerful Katrinka" in The Toonerville Trolley, a series of silent films based on Fontaine Fox's comic strip. Co-star Dan Mason, who played the Skipper, took Hervey under his wing, and Hervey lived with the Masons while filming the series. After The Toonerville Trolley series ended in 1921, Dan and Nan Mason traveled to Hollywood to start a new company, and Wilna followed shortly after, taking the train across the country in early 1922. The new endeavor, Plum Street Comedies, began at the Paul Gerson Pictures Corporation in San Francisco and was based on The Toonerville Trolley series; the film crew included the young Frank Capra. The Plum Street Comedies were in production for only one year, 1922-1923.
Around 1919-1920, Hervey's father bought Wilna a small studio in Bearsville, New York. From 1922-1929 Hervey and Nan Mason split their time between painting and farming in Woodstock, New York, and pursuing acting while living with Dan Mason in California. In 1926-1927, the women traveled to Europe and North Africa together to see museums, art, and architecture.
After the death of Dan Mason in 1929, Hervey and Nan Mason made Bearsville their permanent home. Beginning in the late 1950s, Hervey and Mason began spending winters in Anna Maria, Florida and summers in New York. Hervey and Mason achieved success as artists in the 1960s - Hervey as an enamel painter, and Mason as a painter and photographer.
Wilna Hervey passed away in 1979, and Nan Mason died in 1982.
Sources consulted include "The Biggest Girl" by Joseph P. Eckhardt (http://faculty.mc3.edu/jeckhard/biggestgirlarticle/thebiggestgirl.html).