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Dec 9, 2022
Manuscripts – The Cadwallader L. Washburn Papers, -1988
King Jordan Student Academic Center 1255
Washburn, Cadwallader L. (Lincoln), 1866-1965
The Cadwallader L. Washburn Papers, -1988
Gallaudet University Archives
Repository: Gallaudet University Archives
Call No.: MSS 215
Creator: Washburn, Cadwallader L. (Lincoln), 1866-1965
Title: The Cadwallader L. Washburn Papers, -1988
Quantity: 5 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Abstract: Papers of prominent deaf artist and world traveler Cadwallader L. Washburn. Includes diaries, sketchbooks, correspondence, photographs, brochures, lists of works, and more.
Note: This document last updated January 2017.
Acquisition Information: Donated to the Archives by Margaret O. Packard, Washburn’s stepdaughter, in 2016.
Processed By: Christopher Shea, January 2017.
Conditions on Use and Access: This collection is open to the public with no restrictions.
Related Material in the Archives
The Gallaudet University Archives holds an extensive collection of Washburn’s etchings and other works. Contact the Archives Director for a viewing.
Cadwallader L. Washburn was born in Minneapolis in 1866. He became deaf at age five due to scarlet fever and spinal meningitis, and attended the Minnesota State Academy of the Deaf until 1884. At Gallaudet College, Washburn, who had originally been interested in entomology and natural science, discovered a love for drawing and decided to study architecture after his graduation in 1890. Washburn went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to learn architecture and joined the New York Art Students’ League. There, he met art teacher William M. Chase, who took him to Europe with other students. There, Washburn studied under European artists including Joaquín Sorolla and Albert Besnard. Inspired by Besnard’s teaching and the work of American etcher James McNeill Whistler, Washburn bought etching supplies in Paris and went to Italy to work. He produced his first etchings in 1903.
He then traveled to Cuba and Japan, where he and his brother, Stanley, worked as war correspondents during the Russo-Japanese War. In 1907, he returned to America and settled at Norlands, the Washburn family farm in Maine (now a historical museum), where he continued to work on his etchings.
By 1910, Washburn was becoming recognized as a well-known artist. He traveled to Mexico, where he was caught up in the Mexican Revolution. He escaped on a ship called the Merida, but the ship was wrecked and Washburn lost many of the prints he had made in Mexico. Over the next few years, he moved from Maine to New Jersey to California. When World War I broke out, he and Stanley became war correspondents again, traveling through Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand before returning to America in 1916. In Arizona he produced many portraits of the local Native Americans, and then returned to Mexico, where he made illustrations of bullfighting.
In 1923 Washburn joined a scientific expedition to the Marquesas Islands, after which Gallaudet gave him an honorary Ph.D. degree. He continued to travel widely over the next several years, including California, the French Riviera, Tunisia, the Canary Islands, and Paris. By 1937, the eyestrain caused by etching forced Washburn to give it up, and he returned to working as an oil painter. He settled back in Maine and married Margaret Ohrt in 1943. Cadwallader Washburn died in 1965 at the age of 99.
Scope and Content
The two series of most interest to the researcher are likely Washburn’s diaries and sketchbooks. The diaries cover the later portion of his life from his late 40s through his 70s, with some gaps. The sketchbooks are from his most active period as an artist and etcher, roughly from the 1910s through late 1930s, and include many distinctive images.
The collection of Washburn’s correspondence includes some famous correspondents, but is mostly fragmentary (no more than one or two letters from each correspondent) and does not include much of his own writing.
Also included are some materials from the business side of Washburn’s art, including the production and sale of the various prints he made. While these are less useful outside of their original context, they do provide a look at how he arranged his work and how he distributed it among various dealers and sales channels. It also includes documentation on Washburn works that were given to various public institutions over the years.
There are also several handwritten accounts and reminiscences about Washburn’s experiences as a traveler, particularly in Mexico, Morocco, and the South Pacific.
The photographic collection is small but includes some interesting portraits of Washburn at various ages, as well as some photos of him at work in his studio.
Series 1. Diaries, 1912-1952
Washburn’s diaries for the time span mentioned above. There is a gap between 1919 and 1923, and from 1943 to 1948. Most of the diaries are of the five-year type, which means that each day gets a few brief sentences of description. Series 4 includes a synopsis of some of the diaries from the 1910s.
Series 2. Correspondence, 1899-1968
Most of this correspondence is from others, directed to Washburn, but a few of his letters are also included. It also includes some correspondence directed to Margaret Washburn after his death.
The largest single set of correspondence is from Ludwig Emge, a California physician who was a great admirer and collector of Washburn’s work. Other interesting names in the correspondence include art dealer Frederick Koeppel; fellow artists including Howard Chandler Christy, James McBey, and John Taylor Arms; Ada Galsworthy, widow of British novelist John Galsworthy; Albert Besnard, Washburn’s teacher in etching; and Frank Weitenkampf, chief of the art and print departments of the New York Public Library. From the deaf community, there are letters from David Peikoff, Ben Schowe, and Gallaudet president Leonard Elstad, as well as some schools for the deaf. There is some correspondence from politicians, including the governor of California and ambassadors to England and France, giving their support to exhibits of Washburn’s work.
Of particular interest may be the letters to journalist Eleanor Ferris, who Washburn apparently had romantic interest in. These include some letters he wrote while on his 1920s trip to the Marquesas that contain some local color and anecdotes.
Series 3. Records of artwork, 1908-1983
Records concerning the production, distribution, and sales of Washburn’s artwork. Includes extensive lists of his prints, arranged by series, with notes on how many were produced and how many were sold. Most of the prints are listed by name only, but this series does include descriptions he wrote of a few pieces.
Also present are correspondence and lists of pieces that Washburn presented to various libraries, schools, and museums. There is also some material on exhibits of his work, including brochures and lists of prints to be shown.
Also includes a contract with Washburn’s agent, Gerard de Vries, and a list of prints that were consigned with de Vries.
Series 4. Other writings, -1966
A collection of material by and about Washburn. Includes several accounts from his journeys, including his early visit to Europe with William Chase, as well as travel in Morocco, the Marquesas, and Mexico. The last includes both some material on the Mexican Revolution and a description of a bullfight he attended.
Also included are some essays Washburn wrote on Mexican architecture and natural science, as well as a canceled passport and some letters of introduction from his brother, Stanley.
Note that one pad of Washburn’s conversation notes has a very early sepia photograph of him pasted in the back.
Also includes some memorial material, including a program from a memorial service and a copy of his eulogy.
Series 5. Photographs, 1898-1968
A small collection of photos from Washburn’s life. Most photos are of Washburn, including large photos of him in his printmaking and art studios and some smaller portrait photos. Also includes a very small photo of Stanley Washburn.
This series also includes a few photographic reproductions of Washburn’s work, including some bullfighting scenes and copies of a seascape painting.
Note there are a few photos in series 4 as well.
Series 6. Newspaper and magazine articles, 1911-1988
A collection of media articles both by and about Washburn. Of interest are a couple of scientific journals on oology (the study of eggs) he collected, as well as an article from the literary journal The Bellman where Washburn reminiscences about his early art training. It also includes articles on exhibits of his work, biographical articles, and memorials from after his death.
Series 7. Sketchbooks, ca. 1916-1938
Pocket sketchbooks used by Washburn, including both pencil and ink sketches. Subjects depicted include details of architecture, landscapes, and boats, but there are a few sketches of human figures. One book (box 5/folder 2) includes a humorous cartoon of Washburn himself as a fisherman with his line tangled in a tree.
Series Description and Folder List
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