Harry T. Peters papers, 1790 – 1988

Extent: 91 boxes
The Harry T. Peters papers consist of manuscripts, correspondence, ephemera, publications, prints, and photographs documenting Peters’s activities as a collector of American lithographs, authority on the firm Currier & Ives, published author, and avid sportsman.

Biographical Note
Harry Twyford Peters was born in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1881, the son of Samuel T. Peters and Adeline Peters (née Mapes Elder). Peters entered the coal business after graduating from Columbia College in 1903. He worked at Williams and Peters, his father’s firm, later becoming a partner and its president. Peters inherited $500,000 dollars upon the death of his father in 1921–the equivalent of over $6 million dollars by today’s standard–making him a very wealthy man.

Peters was an avid collector of American prints and a leading authority on the firm Currier & Ives, a prolific American printmaking firm that operated out of New York City. The firm was founded in 1834 by Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888), who invited James Merritt Ives (1824–1895) to join him as partner in 1857. Currier and Ives sons took over operation of the business following their fathers’ deaths, until the firm was liquidated in 1907 He is credited with recognizing the historic and artistic value of American lithographs during an era when they had fallen out of favor, and generating a new wave of interest by collectors and the public. He is the author of Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People (Doubleday, 1929), a “Chronicle of the Firm, and of the Artists and their Work, with Notes on Collecting,” with reproductions of select works. The two volume set is the accepted catalog raisonné of the firm’s work. This text was followed by America on Stone: the Other Printmakers to the American People (Doubleday, 1931), which is a “chronicle of American lithography other than that of Currier & Ives, from its beginning, shortly before 1820, to the years when the commercial single-stone hand-colored lithograph disappeared from the American scene.” In 1935 he published California on Stone, detailing lithographic coverage of the Gold Rush period.

Peters was an avid sportsman, with a passion for hunting, horses, and dogs. In 1925 he became Co-Master of Foxhounds of the Meadow Brooke Hunt in Long Island, New York, a position he held into the 1940s. He was a member of the Westminster Kennel Club and often served as an exhibitor and judge at dog shows. He gave a lecture “Sport in Art through the Ages,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in (circa 1937-1940), and began drafting a full length work on the same topic that was never published. In 1935 he authored Just Hunting, which provides personal and historical perspectives on the subject with illustrations by Betty Babcock.

Peters was an active member of the Grolier Club, American Antiquarian Society, and New-York Historical Society. He also participated in home defense activities, serving as a member of the Fuel Administration during World War I, and as Civilian Defense Director for Suffolk County during World War II. Peters retired from the coal business in 1945. He died in 1948 at age 66, survived by his wife Natalie (née Wells), his daughter Natalie Peters Webster, and his son Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Scope and Content
The Harry T. Peters papers consist of manuscripts, correspondence, ephemera, publications, prints, and photographs documenting Peters’s activities as a collector, scholar of American printmaking, published author, lecturer, and avid sportsman. Multiple drafts of the manuscripts for Peters’s published and unpublished works provide evidence of Peters’s writing process and the evolution of the texts. The nearly 1,200 lantern slides of prints, paintings, and objects were used as visual aids by Peters in his illustrated lectures, and/or were created as part of his research. As an authority on Currier & Ives, Peters received many letters from the public requesting information about particular prints, and from dealers offering prints for purchase. Peters also corresponded with staff members of museums, libraries, and historical societies. Peters’s participation in various sporting, cultural, and social activities is documented through pamphlets, invitations, and photographs. Peters also collected trade cards, British prints, books, pamphlets, catalogs, and other items related to his scholarly interests and hobbies. Small quantities of materials are more personal in nature, including photographs, letters, medical records, and items related to his father, Samuel T. Peters. Finally, some items with references to Currier & Ives and/or Harry T. Peters dating from the 1960s through the 1980s had been intermingled with Peters’s papers. These items are believed to have been collected by the City Museum and added to the collection over the years. As the entire collection lacks documentation of provenance, they have been filed with Peters’s documents in Series VI: Printed Collections.

Series I: Projects and Manuscripts, 1838-1946, bulk 1926-1941
Sub-Series A: Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People, 1858, 1926-1931
Sub-Series B: America on Stone, 1858, 1930-1931
Sub-Series C: California on Stone, 1931-1936
Sub-Series D: Just Hunting, 1932-1936
Sub-Series E: Just Collecting, circa 1930s
Sub-Series F: Survey of Sporting Art, 1899-1946, bulk 1937-1941
Sub-Series G: Additional Lectures, Articles, and Projects, 1838-1945, bulk 1930-1940

Series II: Hobbies and Clubs, 1871-1945
Sub-Series A: Printed Ephemera, 1871-1945
Sub-Series B: Photographs, 1900-1945

Series III: Correspondence, 1896-1940, bulk 1930-1937

Series IV: Personal, 1870-1945, bulk 1914-1937
Sub-Series A: Papers, 1870-1945, bulk 1914-1937
Sub-Series B: Photographs, 1898-1940, undated

Series V: Graphic Collections, 1790-1945
Sub-Series A: Advertisements, 1800-1940, undated
Sub-Series B: Games and Objects, 1850-1940, undated
Sub-Series C: Holiday cards, 1925-1940, undated
Sub-Series D: Photographs, 1861-1940, bulk undated
Sub-Series E: Postcards, circa 1900-1945
Sub-Series F: Prints, 1790-1940, undated
Sub-Series G: Trade Cards, 1870-1900

Series VI: Printed Collections, 1790-1988, bulk 1920-1950
Sub-Series A: Books and Pamphlets, 1794-1939
Sub-Series B: Catalogs, 1863-1988, bulk 1923-1949
Sub-Series C: Clippings, 1817-1942, bulk 1930-1940
Sub-Series D: Maps, 1829, 1926, undated
Sub-Series E: Serials, 1790-1959, bulk 1920-1950

Click below to download the full finding aid, container list, and appendices:
Harry T. Peters papers finding aid
Harry T. Peters papers container list
Harry T. Peters Appendix A: Slide box list
Harry T. Peters Appendix B: Representative slide inventory

You may also request the container list or appendices as an excel file by emailing research@mcny.org.

Click here to view the Currier & Ives collection via the online Collections Portal.

Related Collections
Grace M. Mayer papers

This collection was processed with the generous support of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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One response to “Harry T. Peters papers, 1790 – 1988

  1. Pingback: The Sporting Life: A look at Harry T. Peters as huntsman | MCNY Blog: New York Stories·

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