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MC 406

Weems, Katharine Lane, 1899- . Papers, 1860?-1991: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


Radcliffe College
May 1991

© 1991 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 406
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: Katharine Lane Weems, 1899-1989
Title: Papers, 1860?-1991
Quantity: 18 file boxes, 1 card file box, 70 photograph folders, 12 folio folders, 6 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 1 oversize volume, audiovisual material
Abstract: Correspondence, photographs, home movies, etc., of Katharine Lane Weems, sculptor.

Processing Information:

Processed: May 1991
By: Kim Brookes

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 89-M194, 89-M207, 91-M36
The papers of Katharine Lane Weems were given to the Schlesinger Library in October and November 1989 by James B. Ames and Edward L. Emerson, executors of KLW's estate, and in April 1991 by KLW's cousin Anne Freeman. A portion borrowed by Anne Freeman was added in March 1991.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Use Restrictions:

Copyright. Copyright is held by Anne Hobson Freeman.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred citation for publication:

Katharine Lane Weems Papers, 1860?-1991; item description, dates. MC 406, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


An eminent animal sculptor, Katharine Ward (Lane) Weems was born in Boston on February 22, 1899, the only child of Gardiner Martin and Emma Louise (Gildersleeve) Lane. She was named for her father's sister, who had died as a young woman.
Gardiner Martin Lane (GML) was born in 1859, the son of Frances Eliza (Gardiner) and George Martin Lane, a classics professor at Harvard College. GML graduated from Harvard in 1881 and worked for Lee, Higginson and Company, a banking house, for several years. He was then an assistant, and later vice-president, to Charles Francis Adams, president of the Union Pacific Railway Company. In 1892, GML became a partner in Lee, Higginson and Company. He was a director of several railroad and financial companies and served as treasurer of Boston charitable funds. In 1907 he became president of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).
Emma Louise Gildersleeve was born in 1872, the daughter of Elizabeth (Colston) and Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve. BLG had been a school friend of George Lane's and was a classics professor at Johns Hopkins University. Gardiner Lane and Emma Gildersleeve were married in 1898 and built a house called The Chimneys in Manchester, Mass., on the "North Shore." They lived in a large house on Marlborough Street in Boston, spending summers at The Chimneys. GML died of cancer in 1914. After his death, EGL became the financial manager of GML's estate, including the two households, nearly until her own death in 1954. KLW donated the Marlborough Street house to the French Institute in 1957 and in 1965 dedicated a gallery of her animal sculptures and drawings in Boston's Museum of Science to her mother.
KLW attended Miss May's School for Girls, and learned the skills expected of wealthy, prominent young women in Boston society. In 1915 she began to study drawing, and later sculpting, at the MFA; among her instructors there were Frederick Allen and Charles Grafly. In 1918, she met animal sculptor Anna Hyatt (later Huntington), who critiqued her work and encouraged her. KLW brought her love for animals, particularly dogs, ponies, and horses, to her work and became best known as an animal sculptor.
KLW was elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors in 1925 and to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1952. She began to show her work in 1920 and gained a national reputation when her Narcisse Noir, a whippet, won the George D. Widener Memorial Gold Medal at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1927. Rhinoceroses, brick friezes, and a bronze door (1937) at Harvard's Biological Laboratories, and Dolphins of the Sea (1977) outside the Aquarium, are perhaps her best-known sculptures in the Boston area. KLW also designed several medals, including the Legion of Merit and Medal for Merit in 1942. For more information about KLW's artistic work, see Louise Todd Ambler, Katharine Lane Weems: Sculpture and Drawings (Boston Athenaeum, 1987).
KLW led an active social life. She had her debut in Baltimore in 1918. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, she and a group of friends, which included editor Edward Weeks, poet David McCord, and composer Edward Ballatine, gave a few benefit concerts as the Boston Parlor Club. During World War II, KLW became a speaker and fund raiser for the Red Cross.
The title of KLW's autobiography, Odds Were Against Me: A Memoir (as told to Edward Weeks, New York: Vantage Press, 1985) refers to the way social pressures threatened KLW's artistic aspirations. KLW refused several proposals of marriage because she knew wifedom and motherhood would threaten her career as a professional sculptor. She did, however, correspond with several admirers, particularly Fontaine Carrington Weems. Born in Houston in 1884, FCW was a Princeton graduate and worked for J.P. Morgan and Company in New York. After a twenty-year correspondence, KLW married FCW in 1947 and moved to New York City, living apart from her mother for the first time; the Weemses spent summers at The Chimneys, however. Married life left little time for sculpting, so KLW turned to drawing until her husband's death in 1966.
In the 1970s, KLW resumed sculpting, took part in animal rights campaigns, and occasionally gave lectures about her work. She was living in Boston's Back Bay when she died in 1989.
For further information about her life and work, see Odds Were Against Me and Katharine Lane Weems: Sculpture and Drawings. For an extensive collection of diaries, correspondence, lectures, slides, photographs, films, and exhibition lists documenting KLW's work, contact the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, New England Regional Center in Boston.


The Weems papers consist of KLW's family and personal papers and are arranged in four series:
The papers document the social life, particularly the courting, of an independent, wealthy twentieth-century woman, and an upper-class family's European and U.S. travels at the turn of the century. They provide information about the management of a large household and seaside estate, and about KLW's charitable work and donations, but say little about her professional work. There is also little material about KLW's mother or their relationship; EGL's correspondence and other papers are at Johns Hopkins University. Some of FCW's papers are housed at Princeton University and others are currently in the possession of family members in Texas. Some of George Martin Lane's papers are at the Harvard University Archives.
Bundles of letters and other items, now in #102, 216, 218, 282, 300-04, 308, 310-15, 316-18, 322, 419, were removed from a metal box labeled "Personal, old letters to KWL. No value. To be destroyed eventually." KLW appears to have used the box to save mementos from her debut and after. Folder titles in quotation marks were copied from notes or headings by KLW, or by Anne H. Freeman or others who sorted the papers after KLW's death. Notes by AHF and others are scattered throughout the collection, particularly among the photographs.
Series I, Family papers (#1-96), consists primarily of correspondence, photographs, photograph albums, clippings, and other papers that belonged to KLW's father, GML, including some from other members of his family. It also includes some clippings, menus, receipts, and correspondence kept by KLW's mother, ELG; correspondence about KLW's maternal grandfather, BLG; and obituaries of GML. Correspondence with Charles Francis Adams and Ward W. Briggs appears in this series.
Series II, Personal and professional (#97v-224). The personal documents, biographical material, notebooks, photographs (loose and in albums), music, scrapbooks, home movies, memorabilia, and other material in this series pertain to KLW's artistic and other interests and activities. The series also contains poetry, clippings, and other items collected by KLW. Although this series contains most of the photographs in the collection, there are photographs in every series.
Fourteen diaries (1961-1983) were deaccessioned and donated to the Archives of American Art, which already had longer runs of diaries. Also donated to the AAA were a guided tour (comprised of map, audiotape, and slides) of Brookgreen Gardens and a photograph of George Clark, with clay still adhering to it from its use in making a relief.
Series III, Correspondence (#225-356), consists almost entirely of letters to KLW, many from admirers. Clippings or photographs were enclosed with some letters, and there are photographs and an oversize scrapbook sent to KLW by friends. The first part of the series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. KLW had bundled most of these letters by correspondent and had arranged or numbered them chronologically; the processor added several more correspondents, those from whom there were substantial numbers of letters. Some correspondents who appear in this section may also appear in #88-96 and #346-356. The second portion of the series is arranged chronologically. Letters from Anne Hobson Freeman appear in #328, 335, 337-43, 349. There is some additional correspondence in the other three series.
Series IV, Household and financial (#357-442), includes receipts, correspondence, accounts, maps, appraisals, recipes, and menus, and falls into two broad categories: houses and land, and expenses and donations. Similar material about houses and land appears in series I; this is material kept by GML and EGL. After the Weemses were married, FCW maintained many of the files about the houses, particularly repair records; he and KLW kept some of their financial records together.

Reel Guide for Home Movies in Folder 127mp



Additional catalog entries

The following catalog entries represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. An entry for each appears in the Harvard On Line Library Information System (HOLLIS) and other automated bibliographic databases.
Adams, Charles Francis, 1835-1915
Amateur films--Massachusetts
Archibald, Norman, 1894-
Ballantine, Edward, 1886-1971
Boston Parlor Club
Briggs, Ward W.
Bruce, David Kirkpatrick Estes
Colby, Francis
Dick, Fairman
Fraser, Laura Gardin
Freeman, Anne Hobson, 1934-
Gildersleeve, Basil L. (Basil Lanneau), 1831-1924
Hancock, Walker Kirtland, 1901-
Heard, Townsend
Huntington, Anna Vaughn Hyatt, 1876-1973
Lane, Emma Louise Gildersleeve, 1872-1954
Lane, Gardiner Martin, 1859-1914
Lane, George Martin, 1823-1897
Vinson, John William
Weems, F. Carrington (Fontaine Carrington), 1884-1966
Amateur films
Animal sculptors
Bills (financial)
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Capitalists and financiers
Courtship--History--20th century
Dog owners--Massachusetts
Dog shows--Massachusetts--Manchester
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918
Home economics--Accounting
Lee, Higginson and Company
Manchester (Mass.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
Manchester (Mass.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Motion pictures
Upper classes--Homes and haunts--Massachusetts
Upper classes--Massachusetts
World War, 1939-1945--War work--Red Cross


The following items have been removed from the collection and deposited in the Archives of American Art, Jan. 1991 and May 1991, respectively:
The following items have been removed from the collection and returned to Anne Hobson Freeman, May 1991:
The following items have been removed from the collection and given to Fontaine Carrington Weems (nephew of FCW), May 1991:
The following items have been removed from the collection and deposited in the Harvard Archives, May 1991:
The following items have been removed from the collection and discarded, May 1991: