Charlotte Russell Partridge and Miriam Frink Papers, 1862-1980

Scope and Content Note

Papers of Partridge and Frink, who shared their personal and professional lives for fifty-five years. The collection is extensive and contains the personal, professional, and civic papers of the two women. The bulk of the collection relates to Wisconsin art, artists, and art education. Included are institutional records of the Layton School of Art and Layton Art Gallery, administrative records and photographs of Wisconsin Depression-era federal art projects, reference files of Wisconsin art exhibits and artists, and records of Wisconsin art organizations. The papers of both women may be found throughout many of the ten manuscript series, although the bulk of the papers are Charlotte's.

Researchers using the collection should be aware that Partridge, Frink, and Susan Habenicht, Frink's niece who was hired to write a history of the school, have all made later notes on documents and, in some cases, reorganized the files. Habenicht's red-penned notes and underlines are mostly found in the personal correspondence. Notes written by Charlotte or Miriam are often dated. Since original order of some files was confused, portions of the papers were reorganized to facilitate research use.

The Partridge and Frink Papers have been organized into ten series of paper records and five series of photographs. The pan series of paper records and five series of photographs. The paper record series are: Personal Papers of Charlotte Russell Partridge, Personal Papers of Miriam Frink, Researcher's Files, Layton School of Art, Layton Art Gallery, Layton Art Trust, Federal Arts Programs, Reference File, Walnut Area Improvement Council, and Zonta Club and Zonta Manor.

PERSONAL PAPERS OF CHARLOTTE RUSSELL PARTRIDGE (1862-1978) contain a variety of materials. Notable are her personal correspondence and that of her family, biographical items, papers concerning family history and family members, lectures given by Charlotte, materials relating to her work as a faculty member and head of the Fine Arts Department at Milwaukee-Downer College, scattered records of various civic and service organizations, journals and materials pertaining to her European and Latin American travels, and some of her written work and sketches.

Charlotte's incoming correspondence from family, companion Miriam Frink, friends, and professional acquaintances comprises the bulk of the series. The correspondence is organized chronologically and begins in 1862 with earlier letters written between members of her mother's family (Orr). Some of Charlotte's outgoing correspondence is included, sent primarily to family members.

There also are scattered items concerning Charlotte's education including records of the Church School of Art Alumni Group. A small file contains sketches and items concerning the Mequon house and Fox Point Studio.

A smaller series, PERSONAL PAPERS OF MIRIAM FRINK (circa 1911-1975) includes some biographical information, personal correspondence, family documents, scattered materials concerning her teaching career at Milwaukee-Downer, some of her own written work, and a few items from the American Association of University Women and the Meta Berger Memorial Committee. It appears that Frink did not save many of her own papers. Notes were discovered in which Miriam instructed Susan Habenicht to dispose of some of her files.

RESEARCHER'S FILES (1920-1976) concern materials developed and compiled by researchers hired by Charlotte and Miriam to write a history of the school and their biographies. Margaret Fish Rahill was hired around 1964 and let go in 1970 due to concerns over her progress. Frink's niece, Susan Frink Habenicht was hired to complete the project, which appears to have ended around the time Miriam went into the nursing home. Habenicht had physical possession of much of the collection at her residence in Boulder, Colorado until about 1976 when the papers were shipped to Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Researcher's Files are a particularly rich source of condensed information about the school and its co-founders. Included are correspondence; notes written by the researcher and the two women; research files; transcribed oral interviews; and an unpublished manuscript of the school's history and Charlotte's biography and obituary, written by Habenicht.

Of particular note are the transcribed interviews Habenicht conducted with Partridge, Frink, and Layton alumnae Margaret Davis Clark and Mary Lou Ballweg. The Clark interview is especially valuable in describing teaching methodology of the two women and the school's learning environment and atmosphere. Selected audio recordings of these interviews were retained to provide samples of verbal expression, when the transcription was not complete, and for important segments (e.g. discussion of Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit). There is also a transcribed interview with Partridge conducted by an Archives of American Art staff member.

The LAYTON SCHOOL OF ART (1910-1980) files are extensive and include the institutional records which Partridge and Frink took with them upon their departure in 1954. There are also records which were received and compiled by the two women up to the time of the school's closure. Included are administrative, statistical, financial, curricular, historical, publicity, and student-related materials. However, few files could be regarded as “complete” and it is likely they were part of a larger administrative subject file housed in the school office. For the most part, original order has been retained when known.

The most complete records relate to publicity and student recruitment as Partridge paid a great deal of attention to getting out information about the school and keeping it in the public eye. News Clippings were meticulously saved in scrapbooks and later, in loose form.

Special note should be made of a lengthy run of general correspondence (1921-1972). Correspondence with faculty documents Charlotte's emphasis on locating and hiring excellent teaching staff. Files pertaining to the Board of Trustees, finances, fund raising, the 1951 school building, enrollment, Layton Art League, and forced retirement of the two women are sizeable and thorough.

Notably lacking are annual yearbooks, and much in the way of student/staff directories and campus newsletters or newspapers. Materials pertaining to student activities and governance is thin.

Partridge served as both director and curator of the LAYTON ART GALLERY (1882-1975) and the records reflect that dual function, as they pertain both to gallery administration and gallery exhibitions. Administrative files include annual reports, articles of incorporation and by-laws, records and meeting minutes of the Board of Trustees, correspondence, financial records, catalogues and records of the permanent collection, items pertaining to gallery activities such as teas and concerts, public and radio lectures given by Partridge to promote art and gallery usage, and news clippings (1888-1962). Gallery diaries, 1911-1946, contain both narrative and statistical information about exhibitions and patrons. Files document Partridge's involvement in planning the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. Also contained are newsletters, catalogs, and miscellaneous records of various Wisconsin art and artist organizations, including the Wisconsin Designer-Craftsmen and Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors.

Much of the series pertains to exhibitions. Organized alphabetically by exhibition name, individual files may include exhibit programs, invitations, Partridge's notes, correspondence with artist or promoter, records of incurred expenses, news clippings, press releases, list of exhibited works, and miscellaneous materials.

Partridge served on the Wisconsin Centennial Art Committee which held an exhibition of Wisconsin artists in the Layton Gallery and at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1948. The series contains records of the committee and personal history cards for each artist.

Other files concern the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition at the Layton Gallery in 1930. Partridge wrote a narrative account of events surrounding the exhibition. Reference files about Wright were compiled by Charlotte and also form a part of this series. A taped NBC radio interview (circa 1956), entitled “Meet Frank Lloyd Wright” features interviews with Wright himself, Charlotte Partridge, Douglas Orr (former president of the American Institute of Architects), Walter Bublitz, real estate developer William Zeckendorf, Madison Mayor Ivan A. Nestingen, son David Wright, and H. F. Johnson of Johnson Wax Co. It was part of the radio series, “Biographies in Sound,” moderated by Morgan Beatty.

A small series, the LAYTON ART TRUST (1927-1952) contains financial and administrative records, minutes of trust board meetings, annual reports, and audit reports. The trust was established through provisions in Dr. Ernest Copeland's will. Trust income was allocated to either the gallery or school and allocation decisions were made by gallery trustees rather than the trustees of the art trust.

FEDERAL ARTS PROGRAMS (1933-1952) include administrative, personnel, and project records relating to the Public Works of Art and Federal Arts projects in Wisconsin. Partridge directed both. Although she was involved in early federal planning for these Depression-era art projects, evidence of this activity is not found in this series.

Records pertaining to artists accepted into the project and their artistic assignments form the bulk of the Public Works of Art Project files. Included are lists of artists, location artwork, a general index to artists, and a master list of allocated projects.

Files of the Federal Arts Project, a project under the Works Progress Administration, are less complete. Correspondence is primarily with federal project personnel, participating artists, and Margaret Davis Clark, who succeeded Charlotte as project director after her resignation in 1939. Other files include news clippings, mural competitions for Wausau and West Allis post offices, records concerning project-related exhibitions, and scattered materials of various projects including Civilian Conservation Corp camp artists, the Index of American Design, and WPA Handicraft Project.

Correspondence, reports, and survey data pertain to a National Arts Survey which Charlotte conducted in 1940, through Carnegie grant funding. The survey was conducted for the Section of Fine Arts, Federal Works Agency. Reports include “Art in Public Buildings” and “Report of Six Month Study of Art in the United States.” Survey data is arranged by state and is not complete.

Records documenting Partridge's work with the National Advisory Committee on WPA Community Service Projects and the Wisconsin-based WPA Advisory Committee, and the resulting National Art Week planning and activity files also form a part of the series.

Miss Partridge compiled a REFERENCE FILE (circa 1923-circa 1970) containing information about Wisconsin artists and Wisconsin galleries and various art collections. The files contain news clippings, and exhibition invitations, flyers, and programs. Individual artist files are organized alphabetically by the artist's last name and may also contain correspondence and photocopies of photographs.

The WALNUT AREA IMPROVEMENT COUNCIL (1965-1971) files contain board meeting minutes, scattered financial records, correspondence, newsletters, and miscellaneous materials concerning a self-help neighborhood group organized in one of Milwaukee's African American neighborhoods. There is one file about professional architects who assisted the council.

Both Charlotte and Miriam were involved with the ZONTA CLUB AND ZONTA MANOR (1935-1965). There is some material concerning the Zonta Club of Milwaukee, but the bulk of the records pertain to the planning and construction of Zonta Manor, an apartment housing project for elderly persons of moderate incomes. Included are administrative records, meeting minutes and reports, committee records, correspondence, financial records, and building planning and construction files.

Photographs, glass slides, transparencies, lantern slides, and 16mm film footage form the second part of the collection. It has been divided into five series: Charlotte Partridge, Miriam Frink, Layton Art Gallery, Layton School of Art, and Federal Art Projects.

The CHARLOTTE PARTRIDGE series contains snapshots and formal portraits of Charlotte and her family. Subject related photographs include the Church School of Art in Chicago, Commonwealth Art Colony (Boothbay Harbor, Maine), Charlotte's theatrical performances for the Woman's Club of Milwaukee, Milwaukee-Downer College, Zonta Club of Milwaukee and Zonta Manor, Charlotte's and Miriam's home in Mequon, Wisconsin and Fox Point Studio, a 1934 trip to Mexico, and images documenting other events in Charlotte's life.

The MIRIAM FRINK series includes snapshots and formal portraits of Miriam and her family. There are also group and recreational views of Miriam's student days at Elkhart High School (Indiana) and Milwaukee-Downer College.

LAYTON ART GALLERY images pertain to the building, Frederick Layton, permanent art collection, and several exhibitions which the gallery sponsored. The two photographs of the 1930 Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit in the gallery may be the only views of that exhibit which toured the United States and Europe between 1930 and 1931. There are also a series of photographs for the Army-At-War Art and Wisconsin Centennial Art exhibitions.

The bulk of photographs in the LAYTON SCHOOL OF ART series pertain to classroom work and student projects. However, images also include various school buildings, faculty art work, graduating classes, children's art classes, the Board of Trustees, snapshots of Layton faculty and other Wisconsin artists, and miscellaneous images. Three 16 mm film segments depict Layton classroom activities.

Photographs in the FEDERAL ART PROJECTS series are extensive, primarily consisting of views of project artists and their work for two projects: the Public Works of Art Project and Federal Arts Program. There are also images of work completed under the Index to American Design project and miscellaneous photographs relating to some aspect of the depression-era federal art projects. Photographs documenting Partridge's work for the National Arts Survey, a project funded by the Carnegie Corporation under Federal Works Agency sponsorship, include murals found in post offices and public buildings throughout the county.