Identified individuals are represented by a biographical sketch, a list of connections to other signatures, and, in most cases, an artifact from the Ransom Centers collections. Help us identify more signatures by submitting your suggested identification.
FERN FORRESTER SHAY
Fern Forrester (d.1934) was a Philadelphia-born artist and the first wife of the bookshop's founder, Frank Shay. From the early 1910s, she worked as a fashion artist, drawing stylized renderings of the latest designs for women, and at some point, shared a studio with fellow fashion artist Helen Thurlow. Fern and Frank Shay were married on January 2, 1918, and Frank soon shipped off to France as a Private in the 312th Infantry of the 78th Division of the U.S. Army. After his return in 1919, they lived in New York and moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1923, where Frank helped found the Wharf Players. Frank, Harry Kemp, and several other members split from the Wharf group and founded the Barnstormers theater group in 1924; they held performances in the Shays' barn and Fern performed in at least one of their productions. The Shays had one daughter, Jean, in 1924 or 1925, and divorced in the late 1920s. Fern continued to produce artwork for magazines until her death in 1934. Jean, known as "Snookie" to her family, had no children, so there are no living descendents of the Shay family.
Edna St. Vincent Millay's The Ballad of the Harp-weaver (New York: Frank Shay, 1922), illustrated by Fern Forrester Shay. One of fifteen copies bound in red paper.
Shay's illustrations capture the strange mixture of innocence and eroticism in Millay's ballad, the third Millay volume to be published from the bookshop at 4 Christopher Street: Frank Shay published her landmark verse volume A Few Figs from Thistles in 1920 and the play The Lamp and the Bell in 1921. In 1923, Millay's collection The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, published by Harper, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The bright red cover of this copy of The Ballad of the Harp Weaver is a rarity. Millay bibliographer Karl Yost notes that for the total edition of five hundred copies, Shay bound a handful of copies in "red, dark green, apple green, yellow, and blue, and all the other copies were bound in orange." He did this in order to create striking multi-colored window displays in his shop. The Ransom Center holds orange, red, and green copies.