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Curtis-Iselin Family Papers, 1904-2000 (Bulk: 1935-45)
9 boxes (7.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 675

Abstract:
Artist; Journalist; Military spouse; Photographer; Sculptor. The papers primarily concern Sally Curtis and Lewis Iselin, but there is also considerable material and research pertaining to their friends and family. Biographical material spans from their childhoods to later years, featuring correspondence, clippings, and photographs about their personal and professional lives, including Sally Iselin's publishing career. Correspondence comprises the largest set of documents, dating from 1933 to 1945, primarily letters between Lewis and Sally Iselin while he served for the Navy. Their daughter, Edith Byron, conducted substantial research on the family history, reflected in the many notes and histories that annotate the papers.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats:

  • Collection is stored offsite; researchers must give 48 hours advance notice.
  • This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the unpublished works in this collection created by Curtis-Iselin family members. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

The Curtis-Iselin Family Papers document the lives of Sally (Curtis) Iselin and Lewis Iselin, Jr. Sally Cary Curtis was born in Nahant, Massachusetts on June 16, 1915 to Charles Pelham and Edith Roelker Curtis. The Curtises were both descendents of elite New England families and were identified with Boston's Back Bay elite; their acrimonious divorce in 1934 was the source of scandal. Sally attended a series of girls' preparatory schools before attending Radcliffe College in 1934. In Cambridge, she met Lewis Iselin, Jr., who, in that year, left Harvard University to study at the Art Students League of New York. Sally too left Radcliffe without completing her degree. Like Sally Curtis, Lewis Iselin, Jr.--known as "Skinny"--belonged to a wealthy, privileged family. He was born in New Rochelle, New York on June 22, 1913 to Lewis and Marie deNeufville Iselin. Lewis and Sally married in 1935 and had a daughter, Edith (Byron), on July 14, 1937. A boating enthusiast, Lewis enlisted in the naval reserve and was commissioned an ensign in 1940. He was called to active duty in 1941 and spent the war as Lieutenant Commander on a number of ships, receiving the Legion of Merit. The couple's second daughter, Sarah Cary (Morrison), was born on July 4, 1941.

During the war, Sally worked as an editorial assistant for the foreign news division of the fledgling magazine Newsweek . This was the start of a career in magazine publishing that included positions as assistant editor at Town and Country (1945-48), reporter for Life (1948-50); and fashion editor at Woman's Home Companion (1956). She also published freelance pieces and took up photography, which she exhibited later in life. Sally's most prominent work at these publications centered on the fashion industry, as she supervised fashion shoots and wrote articles on French couture. Couture was also a personal passion of Sally's, and she later donated designer pieces to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After the war, Lewis Iselin pursued an artistic career. He gained considerable renown for his portrait sculpture and received commissions that included the U.S. Military Cemetery in Paris and Whitney Museum of Art. He also exhibited widely, from small galleries to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The family's leisure activities echoed the pastimes of their elite forbears. They were avid sailors, art collectors, and active in New York City's society life. The couple maintained a house in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan and an apartment in Paris. In 1971, they relocated to Camden, Maine. Lewis Iselin died on August 10, 1990. Sally Curtis Iselin died on March 18, 1998.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Curtis-Iselin Family Papers are an extensively annotated set of materials concerning Sally Curtis and Lewis Iselin. There is also considerable material and research pertaining to their friends and family. Well-researched family histories of both sets of extended families are augmented by such primary source material as Marie deNeufville Iselin's 1904 diary and photographs from Edith Roelker Curtis. Biographical material about Lewis and Sally Iselin spans from their childhoods to their later years, featuring correspondence, clippings, and photographs about their personal lives and professional careers. Drafts, publications, and photographs document Sally Iselin's publishing career; an oversize scrapbook details her work as fashion editor of Woman's Home Companion . These materials lend insight into the couture industry at mid-century. The collection also contains Sally's diaries, one from childhood, another from the war years, and one from 1950. Correspondence comprises the largest set of documents. It extends from 1933 to 1945 and consists primarily of letters exchanged between Lewis and Sally Iselin while he served for the Navy. There is a lesser amount of correspondence between the Iselins and other family and friends. There are courtship letters between Sally and Lewis from the 1930s, and the World War II letters particularly reveal the strains of wartime on family life. In addition, these letters provide a lens into the social dynamics of the "upper class." Sally and Lewis Iselin's daughter, Edith Byron, conducted substantial research on the family history. This is reflected in the many notes and histories that annotate the papers.

[NOTE: The contents list for this collection is not online. Contact the Sophia Smith Collection if you would like one sent to you.]


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection with the following caveats:

  • Collection is stored offsite; researchers must give 48 hours advance notice.
  • This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.

Restrictions on use:

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the unpublished works in this collection created by Curtis-Iselin family members. Copyright to materials authored by others may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. Permission must be obtained to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use." It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Curtis-Iselin Family Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

The Curtis-Iselin family papers were donated to the Sophia Smith Collection by Edith Byron in 2011 and 2012. Periodic additions to the collection are expected.

Accruals:

Periodic additions to collection are expected and may not be reflected in this record.

Processing Information

Accessioned by Amanda Izzo and Kathleen Banks Nutter, May 2011 and January 2012


Additional Information
Contact Information
Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email Reference Form: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/emailform.html
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/

Language
English


Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

Subjects
  • Artists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Art -- Study and teaching -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Byron, Edith, 1937-
  • Courtship -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Curtis-Iselin family
  • Diaries
  • Family -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Fashion shows -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Fashion -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Iselin, Lewis
  • Iselin, Sally
  • Journalists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Marriage -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Military spouses -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Parenting -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Sculptors -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Sculpture, American -- 20th century
  • United States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Upper class families -- United States -- History -- Sources
  • Women journalists -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • Women photographers -- United States -- Biography -- Sources
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- United States -- Sources

Contributors
  • Byron, Edith, 1937-
  • Iselin, Lewis
  • Iselin, Sally


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