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Frederic Allen Williams Lantern Slide Collection

A Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Williams, Frederic Allen, 1898-1958
Title: Frederic Allen Williams Lantern Slide Collection
Dates: 1915-1957 (bulk 1940s-1950s)
Extent: 6,184 lantern slides (13 filing cabinet drawers)
Abstract: The Frederic Allen Williams Lantern Slide Collection is comprised of 6,184 lantern slides, dating from 1915 to 1957. It documents the life and work of Frederic Allen Williams and features a wide variety of subjects including art and architecture, aviation, world travel, horses and cowboys, and Native Americans.
Call Number: Photography Collection PH-364
Language: English
Access: Open for research

Acquisition: Transfer, 1976
Processed by: Mary Alice Harper, 1999; updated by Nicole Davis, 2013

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

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 1924 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.

HRC. Announcement of Gift (unpublished article), ca. 1959.
Hodge, Carle. West on 57th Street (unpublished manuscript), 1953.
The International Who's Who. London: Europa Publications, Ltd., January 1948.
Watts, Diane. Frederic Allen Williams (unpublished finding aid).

Scope and Contents

The Frederic Allen Williams Lantern Slide Collection is comprised of 6,184 lantern slides, dating from 1915 to 1957, and it features a wide variety of subject matter which documents the life and work of Frederic Allen Williams. The Collection is arranged in the following manner: Series I. Frederic Allen Williams, 1915-1957 (bulk 1940-1956), 1,893 slides; Series II. Sculpture/World Art Studies, 2,723 slides; Series III. Native Americans, 604 slides; Series IV. New York City, 1930s-1957, 876 slides; and Series V. Washington, D.C. and Annapolis, Md., ca. 1920s-1930s, 88 slides.
When possible, sub-headings were assigned based on Williams' slide and box labels. Primary areas of interest, which were often the subjects of Williams' artwork, include horses, cowboys, rodeos and round-ups, the American West, Native Americans, and aviation. Other areas of interest include window displays, flowers and foliage, and world art and architecture. Various processes were used to create the images including gelatin silver glass- and film-based slides (2,564), color glass- and film-based slides (3,365), autochrome glass-based slides (169), hand-colored gelatin silver glass-based slides (57), and a group of Paget process glass-based slides (7). Examples of different processes can be located using the container list.
Approximately half of the slides are of art and architecture from around the world and were made from book plates. Williams used these not only as studies for his own works but also to illustrate a series of lectures. Of particular interest are images of early aviation and aviators. The aviation material consists primarily of slides made from earlier materials, but there are also a number of slides purchased by Williams. Much of the aviation material is related to Augustus Post. Post was a close friend of Williams and appears in a number of images not only within the aviation slides, but also amongst a group of slides of the Honorable Artillery Company of Britain.
Slides of Williams' travels make up approximately one-sixth of the collection. The majority of slides were made in the United States between 1944 and 1954, but included also are slides from his 1940 trip to Mexico, and several trips to Canada. During his travels Williams photographed the art and architecture of each region (especially in the American Southwest), so that the images might serve as studies for his own artwork. Highlights include: the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco; the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán, the Mixtec-Zapotec ruins of Oaxaca, and the ruins of Teotihuacán; rodeos in Pendleton (Oregon) and Calgary (Canada); and the Native Americans and artist colony at Taos (New Mexico) during the 1920s and 1930s.
Williams' personal life is documented by slides made from early family photographs (ca. 1890s-1910s), and slides of his mother, his friends both from the rodeo circuit and the Taos art colony, and slides of his own artworks, studio, and collection of equestrian art. Because Williams lived in New York City for most of his life, his slides documenting window displays from the 1940s and 1950s, architecture and sculpture, the Madison Square Garden annual rodeo, the 1939 World's Fair, and other public events, are quite notable.

Series Outline

  • I. Frederic Allen Williams, 1915-1957 (bulk 1940-1956), 1,893 slides
  • A. Art Works, ca. 1929-1956, 80 slides
  • B. Family and Friends, ca. 1920s-1954, 70 slides
  • C. Horse Collection, 10 slides
  • D. Horse Story Lecture Slides, 42 slides
  • E. Interests, 1934-1956 (bulk 1940s-1956), 252 slides
  • F. Portraits of Williams, 1928-1946, 18 slides
  • G. Trips, 1915-1957 (bulk 1940-1956), 1,421 slides
  • II. Sculpture/World Art Studies, 2,723 slides
  • A. General, 1,805 slides
  • B. American Veterans' Society of Artists, 15 slides
  • C. Animal Study, 95 slides
  • D. Armor Study, 93 slides
  • E. Art of the American West, 40 slides
  • F. Aviation Study, 255 slides
  • G. Horse Study, 157 slides
  • H. Icons (religious), 6 slides
  • I. Landscapes/Gardens, 99 slides
  • J. Mask Study, 105 slides
  • K. Medals, awards, etc., 2 slides
  • L. Metalwork, 51 slides
  • III. Native Americans, 604 slides
  • A. Photographs, 1925-1953, 224 slides
  • B. Works by Native Americans, 261 slides
  • C. Works depicting Native Americans, 119 slides
  • IV. New York City, 1930s-1957, 876 slides
  • A. Architecture/Sculpture, 1937?-1957, 440 slides
  • B. Cityscapes, ca. 1930s-1956, 7 slides
  • C. Events, 1934-1956, 103 slides
  • D. Flowers and Gardens, 1946-1949, 12 slides
  • E. Window Displays, 1937-1957, 180 slides
  • F. 1939 World's Fair, 1939-1940, 134 slides
  • V. Washington, D.C. and vicinity, ca. 1920s-1930s, 88 slides

The Lantern Slide Collection forms only one part of the extensive holdings of F. A. Williams materials found throughout the Ransom Center's collections. Also found within the Photography Collection are the Frederic Allen Williams Collection and the Frederic Allen Williams Postcard Collection. The former is comprised of 38,500 photographs and negatives with subjects similar to those found in the Lantern Slide Collection, including sculpture, aviators, and indigenous subjects of the Americas, as well as documentation of Williams' own artwork. The latter is comprised of approximately 600 postcards and mounted prints, some hand-tinted, of various subjects including landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, portraits and works of art, which were made and/or collected by Williams between circa 1940 and 1950. The Ransom Center's Film Collection holds approximately thirty 16mm motion picture films made by Williams, and the Manuscripts Collection holds two boxes of papers, comprised of correspondence and financial documents. The Art Collection holds 550 prints, drawings and sculptures created and/or collected by Williams. Images include landscapes, American historical events, religious subjects, portraits, Native Americans and the American cowboy, and various prints from around the world including Latin America, Spain, France, and Great Britain.


Williams, Frederic Allen


Air pilots
Indians of North America
New York World’s Fair (1939-1940)


New Mexico
New York (N.Y.)
United States
Washington (D.C.)

Document Types

Lantern slides