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Frederic Allen Williams:

An Inventory of His Papers and Photography Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Williams, Frederic Allen, 1898-1958
Title: Frederic Allen Williams Papers and Photography Collection
Dates: 1890s-1955, bulk 1920-1955
Extent: 100 document boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 6 cartons (54.18 linear feet)
Call Number: Photography Collection PH-00376
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Please note: Part or all of this collection is housed off- site and may require up to three business days notice for access in the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Negatives cannot be accessed without curatorial approval. To make an appointment or to reserve photography materials, please email Visual Materials Reference staff. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.

Preferred Citation Frederic Allen Williams Papers and Photography Collection (Photography Collection PH-00376). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Transfer, 1976
Processed by: Nicole Davis, 2010

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin,

Frederic Allen Williams, the American sculptor, was born April 10, 1898 in West Newton, Massachusetts, to Dr. Frederic Allen Williams, Sr. and Elizabeth Williams (née Paine). Williams’ father was both an ophthalmologist and lawyer in Boston, so Williams grew up in a privileged and proper household, spending his spare time with the family horses. He received his secondary education at the Boston Latin School (1913-1917) where he was taught both Latin and Greek. In 1917 Williams’ education was interrupted when the United States entered World War I. Williams joined the United States Army and was stationed on Manhattan Island for the duration of the war. Following the war Williams stayed in New York City, and enrolled in Columbia University (1918-1920), the Beaux Arts Institute of Design (1921-1923), and the National Academy of Design (1921-1929).
Williams’ move to New York was instrumental in shaping his artistic vision. During the 1910s the New York art scene was filled with images of the West. And, while Williams saw the works of Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, he became quite influenced by a group of artists who, beginning in 1898, began summering in Taos, New Mexico, returning each winter to New York with their latest works in hand. This group of artists, who in 1915 had founded the Taos Society of Artists, included Joseph Henry Sharp, Bert Geer Phillips, E. Irving Couse, and Ernest L. Blumenschein among others. In 1925 Williams made his first documented trip to New Mexico and Arizona. He returned again in 1926 with his first commission, to sculpt a Native American. As a result Williams returned to Taos nearly every year thereafter, and by the 1950s he was spending summers in Taos and winters in New York.
Another reason Williams’ move to New York was so influential was that he saw his first rodeo at Madison Square Garden. From that point on Williams was in love with the rodeo. Rodeo participants became some of his closest friends, and many of his travels were to see rodeos and round-ups not only in the west but also along the East Coast. It was perhaps at the rodeo that Williams met a man named Dan Frost. Frost, an importer and trader of beads with Native Americans, was responsible for getting Williams his first job as a ranch-hand, from a Pendleton (Oregon) saddle-maker named John Hamley. Williams’ ranch experience further solidified his love of the West and his respect for the cowboy.
Williams embraced all aspects of the American West, from cowboys to the Taos lifestyle, and the growing trend of interest in the arts of Native Americans. However, unlike many of his contemporaries who went on to adapt a more Modernist approach to their art, Williams became a student of Native American art. In 1940 he expanded his fields of study and took an extensive tour of Mexico, spending time in many states including the Yucatán, Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Mexico State. Here he documented ruins, artwork, costumes, and fiestas both with still photography and 16mm motion pictures. From his studies of the arts of North, Central, and South American Native Americans, Williams began to incorporate their imagery, designs, and symbolism into his own works, culminating in his design for the outdoor sculpture titled Shrine of the Americas (1939).
While recognized primarily as a sculptor of Native Americans and Western imagery, Williams is also known for his portrait heads of early aviators, authors, musicians, and jurists who were known to him and his family. Prominent subjects include Augustus Post, Alan Hawley, Will Rogers, Charles Russell, Edwin Markham, and Percy MacKaye. These portraits, along with his other works, were not for private consumption only, and Williams had the pleasure of seeing his work exhibited at The National Academy of Design, The American Federation of Arts, The National Sculpture Society, The San Francisco Sculpture Exposition, The Brooklyn Museum, the Santa Fe Museum, and the American Veterans Society of Artists, Inc. annual exhibitions, among other venues.
In addition to his talents as a sculptor, Williams was also a teacher, lecturer, writer, and amateur photographer. One of his main concerns was that art be made accessible to the public at large. With this goal in mind, he produced a number of albums designed to instruct laymen of the value of the arts, function as guide books, and provide historical information. In addition, the albums also served as the basis for a series of lectures Williams gave over a period of at least ten years. A published brochure advertised the following lectures: 1. Mexico, 2. Arts of Mexico, 3. Indian Arts of the United States, 4. Indian Arts of the Americas, 5. The Arts of Peru, 6. Pottery, 7. Polychrome Sculpture, 8. The Sculptures of New York, and 9. New York World’s Fair. The lectures were illustrated with Williams’ own lantern slides and, in some cases, with the 16mm movies he made during his 1940 trip to Mexico. The audiences which received these lectures included art clubs such as the Newport Art Association, Masonic groups, and members of patriotic organizations such as the American Legion.
Williams did not limit himself to presenting lectures to societies, he was also an active member of a number of societies including the American Veterans Society of Artists, Inc. (President, 1943-1949), the American Rough Riders, Inc. (Vice President, 1948), the New York Ceramic Society, the American Artists Professional League, the Artist Guild, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Rodeo Cowboys Association, and the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies.
Williams continued to sculpt in his New York studio, located at 58 West 57th Street, until his death on 6 December, 1958.

The information in this Biographical Sketch was taken from several unpublished sources in the Frederic Allen Williams Collection in the Photography Department. Photocopies of these source materials have been placed in the Department’s Biographical file on Williams, and they are available upon request.

Approximately 27,375 gelatin silver prints, 10,000 negatives, as well as albums, clippings, correspondence, manuscript materials, and ephemera document the career and life of artist Frederic Allen Williams, from 1890s-1955, bulk from after the 1920s. The collection is arranged in four series: Series I. Artistic Career Subject Files; Series II. Artwork by Williams; Series III. Personal and Career-Related Materials; and Series IV. Williams Family.
Series I. Artistic Career Subject Files is the largest series with approximately 16,100 prints and 7,300 negatives. It consists of research materials (primarily photographs but also related correspondence, clippings, and ephemera) which provided inspiration for Williams’ own artwork. The series is organized alphabetically by subject. Williams’ primary areas of interest included animals, aviation and aviators, Native Americans, and rodeos and cowboys. This series also includes images of models in various types of costume and portraits of friends which were used as reference for figurative sculptures.
Series II. Artwork by Williams consists of about 3,300 prints and 325 negatives documenting Williams’ artwork, which was primarily sculpture but included some painting and drawing. The images show works in progress and completed. Some images include the models with the artwork, and some depict Williams at work.
Series III. Personal and Career-Related Materials is comprised of a variety of items which document William’s life and career. Included are several albums compiling photographic reproductions of artwork by Williams and by others with notes and essays by Williams. Additionally, this series contains card files, clippings, correspondence, postcards, and snapshots and commercial photographs from Williams’ travels, as well as portraits of Williams and images of his studios. There are approximately 7,300 prints and 2,250 negatives in this series.
Series IV. Family consists of items belonging to Avis Elizabeth Williams-Baier (Williams’ sister), Sarah Paine Williams (Williams’ mother), Cordelia Paine (Williams’ grandmother?), and various other family members. Items include about 700 prints, 100 negatives, 7 glass negatives, as well as diaries, correspondence, and ephemera.
All items are black and white gelatin silver prints, 8x10” or smaller, unless indicated otherwise. Titles of artwork and albums in quotation marks were taken from Williams’ inscriptions; others were supplied by the archivist. The number count for each folder includes only photographic material.
Items are housed physically by format and size:
  • Boxes 1-70, 106: Prints (8x10” and smaller) and manuscript material
  • Boxes 71-79: Prints (11x14”)
  • Boxes 80-82, 109-116: Oversize prints and albums
  • Box 83: Card files
  • Boxes 84-105, 107-108: Negatives
  • File cabinets (PH FC): Glass negatives

The Ransom Center Photography Collection also holds the additional collections of Frederic Allen Williams materials. See Separated Material.

In addition to photographic and manuscript material, the Ransom Center also received works of art, 16mm motion picture film, personal effects, and a book from Williams. These materials have been transferred to the appropriate units within the Ransom Center.
Art Collection:
  • Painting (unmounted oil on canvas) of Native American
  • Early Birds logo letterpress stamp
  • Button with ribbon from New York World’s Fair, 1939
Library: Farley, Walter. The Black Stallion. New York: Random House, 1941.
Moving Image Collection (16 mm motion picture film):
  • Uxmall-Minds [?]
  • blanks/ends
  • [illegible] boy girl country
  • Sea--Havana--Acupulco river, from movie “Mexico”
  • Central Park ducks
  • [illegible] fiesta
  • Mother
  • Major, St. [illegible] church
  • NG Rodeo
  • Bill [illegible], Vic Mackey [illegible]
  • NG--except for very end, Polo St. Bart’s [?]
  • [4 empty boxes/spools]
  • Major St. Anne’s [?] church
  • Popo sunset
  • Mex--clippings
  • Poe-Post
  • Circus parts
  • Old Chichen-Itza, Yucatan, old ruins
  • Mitla Teotihucan, Uxmal, dupl. extras
  • 1st B&W movies 1940, Central Park
  • Duplicate Chichen-Itza
  • Equestrian Statues, Boston Parade, Farwell
  • Unused--Shipboard--Haramen [?], [illegible], Miami, Prado
  • [illegible], West, Sheet, Basket, Lacas
  • Rodeo NG
  • [illegible; german box]
  • S.S. Bremen
  • Yucatan flying birds, shore, trip, orchids, poems, etc.
  • SW [illegible], Nazc[??], Pots…
  • bits--blue pig--lionglass--rebosas [?], Mexican


Early Birds of Aviation (Organization).
Indians of North America.
New Mexico.
New York.
New York World’s Fair (1939-1940).
Photography of art.
Williams, Frederic Allen.

Document Types

Black-and-white negatives.
Color transparencies.
Gelatin silver prints.
Manuscripts (documents).
Photograph albums.
Printed ephemera.