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Baldwin, Amelia Muir, 1876-1960. Papers of Amelia Muir Baldwin, 1821-1961: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: A-131
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Amelia Muir Baldwin, 1876-1960
Title: Papers of Amelia Muir Baldwin, 1821-1961
Date(s): 1821-1961
Quantity: 5.75 linear feet (8 file boxes, 2 half boxes, 4 card files) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 1 oversize volume)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, financial ledgers and files, photographs, etc., of Amelia Muir Baldwin, interior decorator and needle tapestry designer.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 595, 73-40
The papers of Amelia Muir Baldwin were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mr. and Mrs. LaRue Brown, executors of the estate of Amelia Muir Baldwin, in May 1963 and March 1973.

Processing Information:

Reprocessed: July 1983
By: Jane S. Knowles

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Amelia Muir Baldwin as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Amelia Muir Baldwin Papers, 1821-1961; item description, dates. A-131, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.


Amelia Muir Baldwin, interior decorator and needle tapestry designer, was born in Boston on December 25, 1876, the daughter of Loammi Austin and Louise Vernon (Maynard) Baldwin. She was graduated from Melrose High School in 1894 and enrolled as a special student at Radcliffe, 1905-1907. While studying, she supported herself as a bookkeeper and secretary. She became a saleswoman at A.H. Davenport (1913-1915), where she learned the interior decorating trade, and took courses in decorative arts from Huger Elliot at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In 1916 she was appointed head of the interior decorating department of Bigelow Kennard and Co., but soon proved too expensive for them and left, to work freelance from her own studio. At this time she also planned and designed the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Bazaars. She then served as a field agent for the United States Housing Corporation (1919-1920). After World War I, she taught courses in applied art at the Garland School of Homemaking, Boston, and then re-opened her studio and went into business as a decorator and a needlework designer and supplier. She weathered bankruptcy in 1923 and developed a good clientele among the wealthy and socially prominent of the 1920s who summered at Lenox, the North Shore or Bar Harbor, and wintered in Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, Santa Barbara or abroad. She increased her business by exhibiting and had agents in many places; the most active were Marion Webb and M.K. Johnson. As a designer she did extensive research; her designs were sold nationwide and won much acclaim.
She managed to continue her business during the Depression working from her apartment, but her files show the vicissitudes of working with clients who were slow to settle accounts, and who frequently complained that she had supplied too little wool, or had charged exorbitant prices. World War II contributed to the demise of her business, as it was a luxury trade, but she continued to supply clients with wools and designs until her death in 1960.
In 1942 she took a ship drafting course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and found temporary work at the Arthur D. Little Co. From 1942 until 1954 she lived at Elizabeth Peabody House and taught English and Americanization courses to foreigners. She also designed scenery for the House's theatrical productions, working with, among others, Sarah Caldwell. Near the end of her life she was executive secretary, then assistant treasurer, of the Friends of Framingham, positions created by her friends LaRue and Dorothy Brown to provide her with some income.


The collection is arranged in two series:


This collection contains Baldwin family papers and photographs, Amelia Muir Baldwin's personal correspondence and writings, and the records of her interior decorating and needle tapestry business.
Series I, Family and personal, contains family correspondence of Loammi and Amelia (Muir) Baldwin, Baldwin's grandparents; also the correspondence of Loammi Austin and Louise Vernon (Maynard) Baldwin, Baldwin's parents, with other family members, their certificates, awards and memorabilia; and letters from and among other relatives. There are Baldwin and Maynard family photographs and photographs of Baldwin. Baldwin's own papers include clippings, certificates and personal correspondence; writings, including lectures and articles; letters seeking employment; records of her casual employment and her affiliations with political and civic organizations; and her estate papers.
Series II, Business records, contains an extensive record of Baldwin's interior decorating and needlework business: advertising and exhibition material; correspondence with lawyers over debts and bankruptcy; and client files. The client files were greatly reduced when the collection was first processed. The samples of complete files which were retained (see # 58, 85, 90, 91, 102-104) show her personal contacts, method of work, growth of the business (1925-1932) and its decline (1932-1935). They contain work orders, correspondence, samples of threads, wools, upholstery, drapery material, wallpaper, needlework designs and blueprints. There are also records of Baldwin's design research, her financial records, mailing lists, and lists of suppliers and clients.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Account books
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Decoration and ornament
Interior decoration
Interior decorators
Theaters--Stage-setting and scenery
Women-owned business enterprises--Massachusetts
Auchincloss, Emma B.
Baldwin family
Boston Society of Decorative Art
Bourne, Frank Augustus, 1871-1936
Bowen, Catherine Drinker, 1897-1974
Brown, Dorothy Kirchwey, 1888-1981
Caldwell, Sarah, 1924-2006
Elizabeth Peabody House
Friends of Framingham Reformatory
Garland School Of Homemaking (Boston, Mass.)
Hammond, Natalie Hays
Luce, Clare Boothe, 1903-1987
Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association
McGinley, Gertrude
Peters, Martha Phillips
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Society of Arts and Crafts (Boston, Mass.)
United States Housing Corporation