Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 762: DVD-101

Records of Camp Walden (Denmark, Me.), 1916-2014 (inclusive), 1930-1970 (bulk)


Photographs, camp uniforms, song books, campers' letters, DVD, and memorabilia of Camp Walden, a girls' camp established in 1916.


  • Creation: 1916-2014
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1970

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Researchers must sign a special permission form to use the collection. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Camp Walden is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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.


12.02 linear feet ((7 file boxes, 2 half file boxes, 1 card file box, 1 folio box, 3 folio+ boxes, 2 oversize boxes) plus 4 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 55 photograph folders, 3 folio photograph folders, 7 folio+ photograph folders, 1 supersize photograph folder, 184 slides, 1 DVD, 1 object, electronic records)

This collection documents the activities of campers at Camp Walden in Denmark, Maine. The bulk of the collection consists of photographs of campers and counselors (group portraits, informal photographs, and images of campers engaging in activities such as sports, dramatics, and crafts), and camp buildings and interiors. Collection also includes camp uniforms; mementoes kept by campers and their letters home; counselors' reports on campers; brochures; menus; songbooks; scrapbooks; directories of former campers; and anniversary books. Very little material on the administration of the camp is included. In 2003, after agreeing to donate its records to the Schlesinger Library, the camp asked former campers to send in uniforms, photographs, letters, and other souvenirs of their time at Camp Walden, to be added to the collection. Campers responded by sending material either to the camp or directly to the library.

Folder titles were created by the processor; titles created by campers or camp administrators, when used, appear in quotation marks. Issues of the camp's annual publications, Splash and The Main Idea, have been removed and transferred to the Schlesinger Library Printed Materials Division. (One version of the 1977 edition of Splash, and the 1980, and 1981 editions, belonged to former camper Susan Palestine Grant and contain messages from other campers to her.; the 1948 edition belonged to Barbara Loebenstein Michaels and has messages from other campers to her.) Two issues of another camp newsletter, titled Newsletter, have also been transferred to the Printed Materials Division. The camp's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX).

Additional material received 2013-2014 (accession numbers 2013-M201 and 2014-M43) was added to the collection in April 2014. These materials are housed in #16.1-16.7 and DVD-101.1. All other files remain in the same order. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order.

Series I, PHOTOGRAPHS, PUBLICITY, MEMORABILIA, AND ADMINISTRATION, 1916-2012 (#1.1-4.1, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.1, OD.1, 8OB.1m-9OB.1m, PD.1-PD.49sl, DVD-101.1, E.1), consists primarily of photographs, both loose and in albums, documenting activities at the camp (and changes in its uniform) from its founding until approximately 1995. Campers can be seen throughout the years engaging in sports, crafts, and dramatics. Photographs of the camp's co-founder Blanche Hirsch and longtime director Helen Herz Cohen are also included, as well as images of camp buildings and interiors. The series also includes "anniversary books" with addresses and reminiscences of former campers; brochures and booklets about the camp; information on camp reunions; a scrapbook with photographs of campers, clippings, and camp mementoes; song books; and camp uniforms which could not be attributed to specific campers. There is only a small amount of material related to administration of the camp: this includes blank health and registration forms; menus; counselors' diaries describing daily activities at the camp; a notebook of instructions for operating the camp; and a list of expenses. The series is arranged alphabetically, with the photograph folders listed chronologically therein.

Series II, ITEMS KEPT BY CAMPERS AND COUNSELORS, 1916-2014 (#4.2-7.7, 13.1m, 16.1-16.7, FD.3m-FD.4, F+D.2, SD.1, 15FB.1v, 10F+B.1m-10F+B.3m, 12F+B.1m, 14F+B.1m, 9OB.2m-9OB.9m, 11CB.1m-11CB.7m, PD.50-PD.66, Mem.1+), includes camp uniforms (shorts, blouses, t-shirts, a sweater, neckerchiefs), pins, rings, felt badges, Banquet Night favors, a wooden box made by a camper, and other mementoes kept by former campers and counselors. The series also includes letters home, letters exchanged among campers (including "truck letters" given to campers going on overnight trips), a notebook kept by the president of the camp's council, and photographs of campers and counselors. The series is arranged alphabetically by name of camper.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1916-1999, undated (PD.1-PD.66), serves as a shelflist for photographs described in Series I and II. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database.


Blanche Hirsch, a graduate of Barnard College, taught mathematics at the Park Avenue School in New York; she later bought the school, renaming it the Alcuin School, and served as its head. In 1915, inspired by the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Hirsch and Clara Altschul purchased 45 acres of land in the woods near Denmark, Maine, for $800, with the goal of establishing a camp providing city girls with an outdoor camping experience and an appreciation of nature. Hirsch developed plans for the camp, designing a main house and 5 cabins with running water and indoor plumbing, so that the girls would not have to go into the woods at night to use an outhouse. Camp Walden opened in 1916, with thirty girls enrolled for the nine-week season, at a cost of $300 each; the number of campers soon grew to over a hundred with the number of cabins and other camp buildings also increasing. Notable former campers include author Ruth Krauss, poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser, and movie director Nancy Meyers.

From its earliest days, the camp sought to create an atmosphere of trust, respect, and consideration for others, with an emphasis on sportsmanship and giving your best effort. Girls were taught a variety of land sports, as well as swimming, rowing, and arts and crafts, and were divided into two teams, with Bruno the bear as the mascot of the Brown Team and Tango the monkey the mascot of the Tan Team. Hirsch and Altschul also established the traditions of campers' creating a newsletter, Splash, and going on overnight camping trips. Other traditions included the "bunkshows" performed each Saturday night by different cabins, and the Banquet Night celebration at the end of the camp season.

In 1938, Helen Herz Cohen, a former counselor at the camp, and a niece of Blanche Hirsch, was named director of the camp. She later purchased the camp and remained its director until her retirement in 1995, when her daughter Wendy took over as director. In 1968, Helen Herz Cohen established The Main Idea, a 10-day free summer camp program for disadvantaged girls. Helen Herz Cohen died in 2006 and Wendy Cohen in 2008. Upon Wendy Cohen's death, leadership of the camp passed to a board of trustees selected by Wendy and Helen Herz Cohen. The trustees appointed Kathy Jonas director of the camp in 2010.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Photographs, publicity, memorabilia, and administration, 1916-2012 (#1.1-4.1, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.1, OD.1, 8OB.1m-9OB.1m, PD.1-PD.49sl, DVD-101.1, E.1)
  2. Series II. Items kept by campers and counselors, 1916-2014 (#4.2-7.7, 13.1m, 16.1-16.7,, FD.3m-FD.4, F+D.2, SD.1, 15FB.1v, 10F+B.1m-10F+B.3m, 12F+B.1m, 14F+B.1m, 9OB.2m-9OB.9m, 11CB.1m-11CB.7m, PD.50-PD.66, Mem.1+)
  3. Series III. Photographs, 1916-1999, undated (PD.1-PD.66)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2003-M87, 2003-M112, 2003-M154, 2004-M7, 2005-M135, 2006-M133, 2006-M159, 2006-M191, 2007-M158, 2011-M127.

Accession numbers: 2013-M201, 2014-M43 were added in April 2014.

The records of Camp Walden were given to the Schlesinger Library by Helen Herz Cohen between July 2003 and January 2004, with additional donations by Marie Ariel in October 2005, Linda Abess Ellis between August 2006 and August 2007, Ellen Elting Michelman and Susan Elting Hillyard in October 2006, and Camp Walden in July 2011, by Kathy Jonas in November 2013, and Barbara Loebenstein Michaels in March 2014.


Donors: Helen Herz Cohen

Accession numbers: 2003-M87, 2003-M154

Processed by: Susan Earle

The following items have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Books Department:

  1. Main Idea, 1993, 2001-2005
  2. Newsletter, 1939, 1965
  3. Splash, 1917-1994 (with gaps), 2012-2013

Processing Information

Processed: October 2013

By: Susan Earle, with the assistance of Emily Underwood.

Camp Walden (Denmark, Me.). Records of Camp Walden, 1916-2014 (inclusive), 1930-1970 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957.

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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA