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COLLECTION Identifier: A-162

Papers of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1834-1959


Correspondence, photographs, drawings, etc., of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, sculptor and inventor.


  • Creation: 1834-1959


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-60.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer 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.


2.79 linear feet (5+1/2 file boxes, 1 card file box) plus 4 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 8 reels of microfilm (M-60)

This collection contains more than 750 letters, the great majority written by Harriet Hosmer to Wayman Crow, Cornelia Crow Carr, and other members of the Crow/Carr family. Only a few letters written by Wayman Crow and Cornelia Crow Carr are included. There is also a substantial number of letters from both Charlotte Cushman and Fanny Kemble to Hosmer or the Crow/Carr family. Other correspondents include Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Lydia Maria Child, John Gibson, Sir Frederick Leighton, Maria Mitchell and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The collection contains Hosmer's writings (speeches, reminiscences, plays, stories, poetry, articles and essays), sketches, drawings, photographs and clippings. In addition, it contains a plaster cast of the clasped hands of Elizabeth (Barrett) Browning and Robert Browning. Also included are drafts, notes and transcriptions Cornelia Crow Carrused in editing the book Harriet Hosmer, Letters and Memories (1912). The originals (letters, poems, reminiscences) of some of the transcriptions are to be found in various parts of this collection.

The papers provide information about Hosmer, her life and her art, about her many acquaintances and the social scene in Rome and England, and about her long, close friendship with the Crow/Carr family. There is some material concerning Hosmer's inventions, including artificial marble, and some concerning the "art fraud" accusation: that Hosmer did not actually do her own sculpting. Charlotte Cushman's letters to Cornelia Crow Carr contain information about her struggle with breast cancer.

The collection is arranged in two series: I. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, and II. Crow/Carr Family. Series I contains personal and biographical material, letters to Hosmer, drawings, writings, photographs, and miscellaneous. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by writer, with only selected names listed in the inventory. Most other material is arranged chronologically, with undated items at the end of each group. Series II contains letters from Hosmer, Fanny Kemble and Charlotte Cushman (includes photographs and clippings) to the Crow/Carr family, from Hosmer to others, to Cornelia Crow Carr from others, and others to others. This correspondence is grouped by writer, with subgroups by recipient, each arranged chronologically. It should be noted that Hosmer frequently used a rebus, a hat, in place of a signature and Fanny Kemble a fan; when writing to Hosmer, Charlotte Cushman often signed herself "Ma" and Adelaide (Kemble) Sartoris "Mar."

The last folders of Series II contain items removed from a scrapbook probably kept by Cornelia Crow Carr, or perhaps by her daughter, Hatty. Most of this material is correspondence to, from, or about Hosmer. It also includes a notebook (#183) kept by Fanny Kemble and given to Hosmer.


Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (October 9, 1830-February 21, 1908), was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, the daughter of Dr. Hiram Hosmer and Sarah (Grant) Hosmer. Her mother, brothers, and sister died when she was a young child and she was raised by her father, who encouraged her in out-of-door activities. She thus grew up with a strong love for the outdoors, and perhaps for this reason was always in good health.

At sixteen, Hosmer was sent to the home-school of Mrs. Charles Sedgwick of Lenox, where she was allowed the freedom to continue her interest in nature and where she met such literary and artistic figures as Fanny Kemble, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In this atmosphere her interest in art, and particularly in sculpture, developed. She also met Wayman Crow, father of her best friend Cornelia Crow, who became her first benefactor and life-long patron.

In 1850, through the influence of Wayman Crow, Hosmer went to St. Louis, Missouri, to study anatomy under the direction of Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell, head of the medical school of the state university. At the end of the semester, she returned to Boston and that summer produced her first sculpture, Hesper, in her home studio in Watertown. In the fall of 1852, encouraged by the actress, Charlotte Cushman, with whom she was to live, Hosmer went to Rome. The English sculptor, John Gibson, took her on as a pupil; she studied with him until she established a studio of her own six years later.

Throughout her career Hosmer took part in the social life of the English and American colony in Rome and Florence. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Sir Frederick Leighton, Lady Alwyne Compton, Lady Marianne Alford, Adelaide (Kemble) Sartoris and the William Story family were among her special friends. The many visitors to her studio included royalty from many countries in Europe. She spent the summers with members of the English aristocracy at their homes in England.

Hosmer made several trips back to the United States: in 1857 to exhibit Beatrice Cenci; in 1860, when her father became seriously ill; and in 1864, when she returned to exhibit Zenobia in New York and Boston. The following are Hosmer's major works: Hesper, 1852; The Clasped Hands of Mr. and Mrs. Browning, 1853; Daphne, 1854; Medusa, 1854; Oenone, 1855; Puck, 1856; Beatrice Cenci, 1856-1857; Falconnet monument, 1858; Fountain of Hylas and the Water Nymphs, 1858; Zenobia, 1861; Fountain of the Sirens, 1861; Sleeping Faun, 1865; Waking Faun, 1866; Will-o'-the-Wisp, 1866; Bust of Wayman Crow, 1868; Queen of Naples, 1868; Fountain of the Mermaid's Cradle, 1892; Triton, 1892; Queen Isabella, 1894; The Staghound, undated; African Sibyl, partially completed, undated.

Hosmer produced little sculpture after 1885, but spent most of her time visiting friends in England and America, giving an occasional lecture. She lived the last years of her life in Watertown, Massachusetts, devoting virtually all her time and energy to attempts to create a perpetual motion machine. This work reflected a life-long interest in mechanical devices and other inventions; she had tried to perfect a technique for making marble out of limestone. Hosmer died in 1908.


  1. SERIES I. Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, #1-90, 186
  2. SERIES II. Crow/Carr Family, #91-185

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 1598, 69-22, 72-20, 78-M49, 81-M265, 81-M266

This collection of the papers of sculptor and inventor Harriet Goodhue Hosmer and the papers of her friend and biographer, Cornelia (Crow) Carr, were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mrs. Carr's granddaughter, Mrs. Delmar Leighton, in 1969, 1972, 1978, and 1981.


For a list of the contents of A-162, see the inventory that follows. For a description of A/H827 and A/H827a, see HOLLIS, Harvard's online catalog.

  1. Folders 1-20: M-60, Reel 1
  2. Folders 21-50: M-60, Reel 2
  3. Folders 51-98: M-60, Reel 3
  4. Folders 99-112: M-60, Reel 4
  5. Folders 113-125: M-60, Reel 5
  6. Folders 126-136: M-60, Reel 6
  7. Folders 137-154: M-60, Reel 7
  8. Folders 155-185: M-60, Reel 8
  9. Folders A/H827 and A/H827a: M-60, Reel 8

When requesting microfilmed material, please use the microfilm number, M-60, and the reel number

  1. 1. Two small Harriet Goodhue Hosmer collections, A/H827 and A/H827a were also microfilmed; they appear at the end of the last reel.
  2. 2. Dates, notes and page numbers have been written on some items by a number of people, including Hosmer and Cornelia Crow Carr. In arranging the material the processor accepted dates added by others and left undated material that was grouped with dated items where it was. All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
  3. 3. The pages of some items were numbered to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researcher. Blank pages were not numbered.
  4. 4. Letters of one or more pages with either the salutation or signature missing, as well as smaller portions of letters, have been counted in the inventory as fragments.
  5. 5. The photographs in this collection have been microfilmed with the Library's photograph collection; the film is available at the Schlesinger Library.
  6. 6. Many letters in the collection were written on flimsy paper. When both sides of such sheets were used the text frequently shows through; these letters are extremely difficult to read in the original.
  7. 7. Only a selection of Hosmer's plays, stories and poetry was microfilmed. The material not filmed (see #43-46 and #57-63) is extremely difficult to handle and read: some is in the form of very rough drafts or notes on small scraps of paper; some pages were pinned together to form long strips; notes were pinned over existing text; there is extensive overlapping of text, with in some places writing on both sides of a sheet; ink (often smudged) and very faded pencil appear on the same pages (sometimes written over erased text); and the handwriting is frequently illegible. Micro-filming would have been very expensive and the resulting frames extremely confusing to the reader. The material is available to researchers at the Schlesinger Library.
  8. 8. Some of the material filmed has problems similar to those mentioned in #7 (above): e.g., various colors of ink, pencil, and blue pencil often were used on the same page; faded and/or erased notes appear both in the margins and the body of some texts; and both pen and pencil notes are sometimes smudged. Targets inform the researcher about some of the worst problems, but it was impossible for the processor to note them all.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1777-1981 (MC 907); Additional papers of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1848-1915 (MC 1232); Letter from Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, undated (A/H827); Letter from Harriet Goodhue Hosmer to Annie Adams Fields, undated (A/H827a); Letters from Harriet Hosmer to Lydia Avery Coonley, 1889-1897 (A/H827b); Letters from Harriet Hosmer to Lydia Maria Child, 1855-1865 (A/H827c); Letters from Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, ca.1865, 1895 (A/H827d).

Container List

  1. Box 1: 1-24, 26-32
  2. Box 2: 33-36, 38-44, 46-57
  3. Box 3: 58-71, 82, 84-100
  4. Box 4: 101-132
  5. Box 5: 133-156, 159-169
  6. Box 6: 170-174, 177-185
  7. Card file box 7: 186

Processing Information

Reprocessed: April 1981

By: Bert Hartry

Hosmer, Harriet Goodhue, 1830-1908. Papers of Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1834-1959: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
This collection was reprocessed and microfilmed under a grant from The George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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