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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 965

Papers of Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth Woodward) Tyler, ca.1846-2014

Artwork (including drawings, paper dolls, watercolors, and silhouettes), diaries, scrapbook, correspondence, genealogical material (including family trees and photographs of ancestors), photographs, and electronic records of interior decorator Elizabeth Woodward Tyler.

Dates

  • 1846-2014
  • Majority of material found within 1932-1945

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 Elizabeth W. Tyler 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.

Extent

8.05 linear feet ((16 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ box, 6 folio folders, 6 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 13 photograph folders, 8 photograph albums)

36.67 Megabytes (5 files)

The papers of Elizabeth W. Tyler primarily document her life between the ages of fifteen and twenty eight. This material includes a scrapbook she kept during high school; her high school yearbook; dance cards; autograph books; diaries detailing her social engagements, working as a camp counselor, life as an art student and while working in New York City, early married life and the births of her first two children; photographs of Tyler on her wedding day, with friends, and with her first child; paper dolls, fashion design sketches, and other artwork; letters to her mother Allene Durkee Prouty, and correspondence with her husband Harry during his World War II service. With the exception of a sketch of window treatments through the ages, no material related to her work as an interior decorator is included in the collection. Her later life is represented primarily by travel diaries and sketchbooks, as well as by forms of art such as silhouettes and paper cutouts.

The collection also includes Hank Tyler's early 1970s travel diaries; diaries and autograph and quotation books belonging to other family members, including a diary belonging to Allene Durkee Prouty; correspondence between other family members; genealogical information including family trees, wills, and a family memoir by Tyler's maternal grandmother; and photograph albums of Prouty, Durkee, and other family members.

The Tyler family digitized many of the documents that are available in this collection and also provided digital scans of some items for which there are no paper copies. The latter are represented in the finding aid by #E.1-E.5.

Series I, Biographical, personal, and artwork, 1919-2014 (#1.1-6.5, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1-F+D.3, 17F+B.1, E.1-E.4), includes a partial autobiography (covering Tyler's life through the early years of her marriage): her obituary and biographical writings about her, including a reminiscence of her by her sister Nancy; Tyler's Daughters of the American Revolution certificate; Tyler's high school yearbook; report cards; dance cards (listing Tyler's partners for dances attended in the 1930s and early 1940s); and autograph books. Of particular note is Tyler's "memory book," a scrapbook she compiled which primarily documents her high school years. She wrote detailed captions describing the scrapbooks contents (including dance cards, corsages, movie tickets, theater programs, confetti from a football game, and souvenirs from excursions to the beach and from hayrides) and the volume gives a vivid look at the life of a popular girl in the mid-1930s. The series also includes the diaries Tyler kept from 1933 to 1946, describing her high school and art school studies, her experiences as a counselor at Camp Elektor, her active social life (including dates with a variety of men), her developing relationship with Harry Tyler, their eventual marriage, and his service during World War II. Also included are diary entries from 1978, a diary dated from 1980 to 1994, and travel diaries from trips Tyler took to Europe, Costa Rica, China, and Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The travel diaries are illustrated by Tyler with sketches.

The series also includes artwork created by Tyler. Of particular note are the dozens of paper doll outfits Tyler made in the 1930s. (included with the outfits are two paper dolls, one of them a replica of a doll she made in the 1930s and apparently mislaid.) The outfits include day and evening dresses, pajamas, coats, and costumes. (The outfits were originally housed by Tyler in paper pouches; to make them more accessible to researchers, the Schlesinger Library conservationist placed them in Mylar sleeves.) Her interest in fashion is further reflected in her sketches of dresses and other attire for women. The series also includes silhouettes and paper cutouts, art forms she adopted late in her life; notecards she designed; pencil sketches of her children and friends; watercolors; and sketchbooks from her trips to China, the Galapagos Islands, and Europe. Some documents (including images of quilts Tyler made and of some of her fashion designs) are only available in an electronic format; these are located in folders #E.1-#E.4.

The series is arranged alphabetically with biographical and personal material listed first, followed by the artwork, also arranged alphabetically.

Series II, Correspondence, 1929-2014 (#6.6-11.10, F+D.4), consists largely of Tyler's letters to her mother Allene Durkee Prouty and her correspondence with her husband Harry Tyler. Tyler's son Hank wrote summaries of the letters she sent her mother between 1936 and 1943; these summaries are included with the letters. In these letters, Tyler describes her experiences in art school, while working as an art counselor at a summer camp and in art departments in New York City, and during her early married life. (Her letter of September 15, 1942 refers obliquely to her miscarriage, with her noting that Harry is home on furlough and "It is so wonderful to have him here with me now.") Also of note is Tyler's correspondence with Harry during World War II. (These letters are arranged as received by the Schlesinger Library, with a chronological run of Tyler's letters followed by Harry's letters to her.) These letters, exchanged while Harry was stationed at various locations in the United States and England, describe their daily activities, their feelings for each other, and their religious beliefs, with Harry also describing his impressions of England. Their affection for each other is expressed through shared catchphrases such as, "I love you nine dollars" and "I love you forever and a week." They frequently express their eagerness to be reunited and reflect on the physical aspect of their relationship, with references to "naps with trimmings" and necking. After Tyler's miscarriage, they exchange letters expressing their belief that they will have a family when the time is right. V-mail Harry sent to Tyler is also included. (V-mail, or Victory Mail, was a mail process used by the United States during the Second World War as a secure method to correspond with soldiers stationed overseas and to reduce the cost of sending original letters through the military postal system. V-mail letters were censored, copied to film, and printed back to paper upon arrival at their destination. The final print of a V-mail was considerably smaller than the original document.) The series also includes congratulations of Tyler's wedding, notes from school friends (several in mirror writing), and Tyler's letters to her friend Marie King regarding her engagement and wedding planning. Of note is a letter to King from Catherine Piehl (a mutual friend) in which Piehl opines that Tyler's marriage has changed the nature of her friendship with her single friends. The series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
Scope and Contents Series III, Family, 1846-2014 (#11.11-16.13, FD.4-FD.6, F+D.5-F+D.6, OD.1, SD.1, E.5), includes family trees and other genealogical material (including wills and obituaries) concerning the Durkee and Prouty families as well as related families such as the Kilburns and Woodwards (The original spelling of this name was "Woodard'; some individuals, including Tyler's paternal grandmother Mary Eliza Woodward Prouty, apparently used both spellings.) The series also includes correspondence; diaries; autograph albums; and diplomas and certificates of members of Tyler's extended family. Of note are the illustrated journals Hank Tyler kept during his international travels between 1972 and 1974 and Harry Tyler's letters to his mother Alice and sister Virginia "Sis" Tyler. In a letter to Virginia, Harry gives a vivid description of a leave he spent in London during World War II. Also of note is the material regarding Ruth Prouty's service at Wrentham State School; Allene Durkee Prouty's five-year diary; and Parker Tyler Sr's advice on diet and "clean living." The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, Photographs, ca.1860-2000 (#PD.1-PD.21), includes images of Prouty in her youth and old age, alone, on her wedding day, and with friends and her infant son Hank. The bulk of the series consists of eight photograph albums of Durkee, Prouty, and other family members, with the photographs dating roughly from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. The albums also include images of members of the Kilburn, Woodard/Woodward, French, and Martin families. Members of the Tyler family identified the Durkee family albums as "D I" through "D V" and the Prouty albums as "Prouty I" through "Prouty III." The family identified many of the photographs with captions written on post-it notes; a Schlesinger Library processing assistant added the album page numbers to the post-it notes and placed them on sheets of acid-free paper, which were foldered and housed with the photograph albums. Some tintypes are included in the series. The series is arranged with photographs of Tyler appearing first, followed by the numerically arranged albums, and photographs of Tyler's ancestors, primarily members of the Prouty family, and of Harry Tyler.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.

BIOGRAPHY

Interior decorator Elizabeth (Betty) Woodward Prouty Tyler was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1918, the oldest child of Allene Nancy Durkee Prouty and Philip Woodward Prouty, an engineer who worked for Westinghouse. Her mother taught school briefly in Saugus, Massachusetts. Tyler noted in her unpublished autobiography that she was born just nine months after her parents' wedding and before they were really ready to start a family. She grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts and had a younger brother and sister, Charles and Nancy. She graduated from Central High School in 1935.

The Prouty family were Christian Scientists, and in the summers of 1939 and 1940 Tyler worked as a craft counselor at Camp Elektor, a Christian Science camp. Tyler continued to practice the Christian Science faith throughout her life. She studied at the Worcester Museum of Art (1936-1938) and the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, graduating in 1939 with a degree in industrial design. As a teenager, she created dozens of paper doll outfits and fashion design sketches, and she continued to create artwork in a variety of media, including pencil sketches, water colors, quilts, and cut-paper silhouettes, throughout her life. One of her quilts represented the state of Maine in a national quilt show in California.

In 1939, she moved to New York City, where she worked first at Gotham Carpet and then in the art department at Norcross Card Company. In New York, she lived at Katherine House, which she described in her unpublished biography as "Great fun. Girls from all over, all just starting out on their first jobs." While living in New York, she met Harry Tyler, whom she married in 1941. Harry was a ninth generation descendant of Job Tyler, who settled in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the mid 1600s. Harry served in the Army Air Force during World War II and was stationed in England. After the war ended, they moved to Turner, Maine, and lived there and in Auburn and Brunswick, before settling in Mere Point, Maine, in 1956. Tyler suffered a miscarriage early in the marriage, but the couple eventually had four children: Harry Jr. (also known as Hank), John, Letitia, and Timothy. Harry Sr. worked in sales of industrial supplies for the woodworking industry in Auburn and Portland, Maine. He died in 1969 and after his death Tyler established and ran Tyler Interiors in Brunswick. She maintained the business for almost twenty-five years, employing five or six women to make slip covers, bedspreads, and window treatments for local residences, businesses, and restaurants. In 1985 she was hired to oversee the renovation of the chambers of the Maine state legislature in Augusta; in an autobiographical sketch, Tyler called this her most exciting decorating job and also reflected that, "It was a joy to make homes in our area more comfortable and more beautiful." She also designed artwork for the town of Brunswick and for Bowdoin College and served as president of the Longfellow School PTA. She was an active member of the Republican party, serving as an election clerk and warden for over forty years, and as president of the Brunswick League of Women Voters. Tyler enjoyed the artwork of her daughter-in-law, Diana Dee (D.D.) Tyler, the wife of Hank Tyler, and the two women would often sketch together. The Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas holds a collection of Diana Tyler's work. Elizabeth Woodward Tyler died in 2003.

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged in four series:
  1. Series I. Biographical, personal, and artwork, 1919-2014 (#1.1-6.5, FD.1-FD.3, F+D.1-F+D.3, 17F+B.1, E.1-E.4)
  2. Series II. Correspondence, 1929-2014 (#6.6-11.10, F+D.4)
  3. Series III. Family, ca.1846-2014 (#11.11-16.13, FD.4-FD.6, F+D.5-F+D.6, OD.1, SD.1, E.5)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, ca.1860-2000 (#PD.1-PD.21)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2014-M172, 2014-M208, 2017-M152

The papers of Elizabeth W. Tyler were given to the Schlesinger Library by Hank, John, Letitia, and Timothy Tyler between October 2014 and August 2017.

Processing Information

Processed: June 2019

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Henry Shull, Monica Reichard, and Ashley Thomas.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
Link to catalog
Title
Tyler, Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth Woodward), 1918-2003. Papers of Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth Woodward) Tyler, 1846-2014 (inclusive), 1932-1945 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Author
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Sponsor
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing Fund.
EAD ID
sch01626

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.

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