We are very pleased to report, that with the generous aid of John and Julie Lindsey, Trustees of the Chisholm Foundation, in honor of Page Knox, we have completed the processing of the Richard and Helena de Kay Gilder Manuscript Collection. The Gilder manuscript collection, 1781–1984, consists of approximately 23,000 items including the correspondence and papers of poet, editor Richard Watson Gilder and his wife, the artist Helena de Kay Gilder, and their family. Richard, 1844–1909, was born in Bordentown, New Jersey. Among his books of poetry are The New Day (1875), Poems and Inscriptions (1901), and A Book of Music (1906). With Newton Crane, he founded the Newark Register and he edited Scribner’s Monthly (later The Century Magazine), a post he held until his death. His wife, Helena, 1846–1916, was born in New York City. She was a painter, founder of the Art Students league and co–founder of the Society of American Artists. She studied with Winslow Homer and John La Farge, as well as at the Cooper Union Institute and the National Academy of Design. Together Richard and Helena had seven children. Their son Rodman was an author and married Comfort Tiffany, daughter of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Their daughter Dorothea had a brief stage career, while Rosamond, the youngest, also became a writer. She was the author of Enter the Actress: the First Woman in the Theatre and the editor of Letters of Richard Watson Gilder and an unpublished volume of letters between her mother and Mary Hallock Foote, tentatively titled Dialogue. A description, inventory and finding aid are all available online.
Gilder’s brother, William Henry Gilder, was managing editor of the Register, but is most well–known for his Arctic expeditions. He was second in command on the Eothen in search of Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition to discover the North Pole and wrote several books about the Arctic. In 1883 he was a war correspondent in Tonking during the French–Annamese War. Richard’s sister, Jeannette Leonard Gilder, was co–founder and joint editor with another brother Joseph Benson Gilder of The Critic, a literary magazine.
In addition to family members, the correspondence reflects the many friends and acquaintances who visited the Gilders at their Tyringham, Massachusetts home, as well as their private salon in New York. These include artists, musicians, writers, poets, scientists and politicians, such as August Saint–Gaudens, Winslow Homer, Mark Twain, and Nicola Tesla. There is extensive correspondence with Frances Folsom Cleveland (Mrs. Grover Cleveland), artist Cecilia Beaux and writer Mary Hallock Foote. An interesting joint diary of Helena and Richard, dated 1874–1888, may be found in the Diaries/Journals series.
Other items of interest include: a lock of Helena’s hair, dried flowers from John Keats’ grave picked in 1884, a pencil used by Walt Whitman, and dried leaves collected in 1863 from the Bull Run battlefield.
–Cherry Williams, Curator of Manuscripts
View more images from the collection here.