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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 406

Papers of Katharine Lane Weems, 1860?-1991


Correspondence, photographs, home movies, etc., of Katharine Lane Weems, sculptor.


  • Creation: 1860?-1991

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Katharine Lane Weems is held by Anne Hobson Freeman. 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.


7.93 linear feet ((18 file boxes, 1 card file box) plus 70 photograph folders, 12 folio folders, 6 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 1 oversize volume, audiovisual material)

The papers document the social life, particularly the courting, of an independent, wealthy twentieth-century woman, and an upper-class family's European and United States travels at the turn of the century. They provide information about the management of a large household and seaside estate, and about Katharine Lane Weems's charitable work and donations, but say little about her professional work. There is also little material about Katharine Lane Weems's mother or their relationship; Emma Gildersleeve Lane's correspondence and other papers are at Johns Hopkins University. Some of Fontaine Carrington Weems'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 KLW. No value. To be destroyed eventually." Katharine Lane Weems 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 Katharine Lane Weems, or by Anne Hobson Freeman or others who sorted the papers after Katharine Lane Weems's death. Notes by Anne Hobson Freeman 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 Katharine Lane Weems's father, Gardiner Martin Lane, including some from other members of his family. It also includes some clippings, menus, receipts, and correspondence kept by Katharine Lane Weems's mother, Eliza Gardiner Lane; correspondence about Katharine Lane Weems's maternal grandfather, Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve; and obituaries of Gardiner Martin Lane. 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 Katharine Lane Weems's artistic and other interests and activities. The series also contains poetry, clippings, and other items collected by Katharine Lane Weems. 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 Archives of American Art 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 Katharine Lane Weems, many from admirers. Clippings or photographs were enclosed with some letters, and there are photographs and an oversize scrapbook sent to Katharine Lane Weems by friends. The first part of the series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Katharine Lane Weems 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 Gardiner Martin Lane and Emma Gildersleeve Lane. After the Weemses were married, Fontaine Carrington Weems maintained many of the files about the houses, particularly repair records; he and Katharine Lane Weems kept some of their financial records together.


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 was born in 1859, the son of Frances Eliza (Gardiner) and George Martin Lane, a classics professor at Harvard College. Gardiner Martin Lane 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, Gardiner Martin Lane 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.

Emma Louise Gildersleeve was born in 1872, the daughter of Elizabeth (Colston) and Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve. Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve 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, Massachusetts, on the "North Shore." They lived in a large house on Marlborough Street in Boston, spending summers at The Chimneys. Gardiner Martin Lane died of cancer in 1914. After his death, Emma Gildersleeve Lane became the financial manager of Gardiner Martin Lane's estate, including the two households, nearly until her own death in 1954. Katharine Lane Weems 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.

Katharine Lane Weems 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 Museum of Fine Arts; 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. Katharine Lane Weems brought her love for animals, particularly dogs, ponies, and horses, to her work and became best known as an animal sculptor.

Katharine Lane Weems 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. Katharine Lane Weems also designed several medals, including the Legion of Merit and Medal for Merit in 1942. For more information about Katharine Lane Weems's artistic work, see Louise Todd Ambler, Katharine Lane Weems: Sculpture and Drawings (Boston Athenaeum, 1987).

Katharine Lane Weems 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, Katharine Lane Weems became a speaker and fund raiser for the Red Cross.

The title of Katharine Lane Weems'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 Katharine Lane Weems's artistic aspirations. Katharine Lane Weems 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, Fontaine Carrington Weems was a Princeton graduate and worked for J.P. Morgan and Company in New York. After a twenty-year correspondence, Katharine Lane Weems married Fontaine Carrington Weems 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 Katharine Lane Weems turned to drawing until her husband's death in 1966.

In the 1970s, Katharine Lane Weems 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 Katharine Lane Weems's work, contact the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, New England Regional Center in Boston.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. I. Family papers
  2. II. Personal and professional
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Household and financial

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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 Katharine Lane Weems's estate, and in April 1991 by Weem's cousin Anne Hobson Freeman. A portion borrowed by Anne Freeman was added in March 1991.


The following items have been removed from the collection and deposited in the Archives of American Art, January 1991 and May 1991, respectively:

  1. Diaries: 1961-1962, 1964-1965, 1966 (calendar format), 1967-1976, 1978, 1981-1983
  2. Clay covered and pin pricked photograph of George Clark. Audiotape, slides, and map for guided tour of Brookgreen Gardens.

The following items have been removed from the collection and returned to Anne Hobson Freeman, May 1991:

  1. Selected scrapbooks, photographs, volumes of recipies and menus, 1910s-1940s

The following items have been removed from the collection and given to Fontaine Carrington Weems (nephew of Fontaine Carrington Weems), May 1991:

  1. Weems family photographs, 1886-1947, correspondence, 1890-1947. 16mm home movies: 15 reels of Dulaney and Weems children, 1930s-1940s; 1 reel of Fontaine Carrington Weems's trip to Alaska, n.d. Fontaine Carrington Weems's menu, 1917.

The following items have been removed from the collection and deposited in the Harvard Archives, May 1991:

  1. Harvard College: valedictory sermon, 1881; commencement batons, 1892, n.d.; photograph of painting of Hasty Pudding Club, 1949.

The following items have been removed from the collection and discarded, May 1991:

  1. Harvard College Class of 1881 Secretary's Reports


  1. Box 1: 1, 8-11, 15-18v
  2. Box 2: 19-23, 25, 28-33, 35, 39-42, 49, 52-54, 64-65
  3. Box 3: 66-69, 71-74, 78-81, 83v-87
  4. Box 4: 88-99, 101-103
  5. Box 5: 104v-122, 124-125, 167
  6. Box 6: 168-170, 172m, 174, 176-180v, 182-189, 191, 193, 199-200
  7. Box 7: 201-203, 205-208, 210, 212-218, 220-227
  8. Box 8: 228-243
  9. Box 9: 244-261
  10. Box 10: 262-271, 273-286
  11. Box 11: 287-296, 299-304, 306-316
  12. Box 12: 317, 319, 321-340
  13. Box 13: 341-343, 345-356, 358v-364
  14. Box 14: 365-368, 370-372, 375-381, 383-388
  15. Box 15: 389-402
  16. Box 16: 403-414
  17. Box 17: 415-429v
  18. Box 18: 430v-442
  19. Box 19: 7m, 12m, 24m, 34, 100m, 171m, 173m, 190m, 195m, 211m, and from #329, 416

Processing Information

Processed: May 1991

By: Kim Brookes

Weems, Katharine Lane, 1899-1989. Papers of Katharine Lane Weems, 1860?-1991: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

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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