A Finding Aid to the William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain Family Papers,
1888-1955
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.pearwill
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.pearwill
Creators:
Pearmain, William Robert
Dates:
1888-1955
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
0.4 linear feet
Repository:
Archives of American Art
The papers of painter and activist William Robert Pearmain (1888-1912) and the Pearmain family measure 0.4 linear feet and date from 1888-1955. Papers are found for William Robert Pearmain, his wife Nancy Douglas Brush (later Bowditch), their daughter Mary "Polly" Pearmain, and other members of the Pearmain family. There are biographical materials; family correspondence; a watercolor; a travel diary and school essays by Pearmain; printed materials, including clippings and two publications by the Industrial Workers of the World; and photographs of the Pearmain family and artwork.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of painter and activist William Robert Pearmain (1888-1912) and the Pearmain family measure 0.4 linear feet and date from 1888-1955. Papers are found for William Robert Pearmain, his wife Nancy Douglas Brush (later Bowditch), their daughter Mary "Polly" Pearmain, and other members of the Pearmain family. There are biographical materials; family correspondence; a watercolor; a travel diary and school essays by Pearmain; printed materials, including clippings and two publications by the Industrial Workers of the World; and photographs of the Pearmain family and artwork.
Scattered biographical information includes materials concerning the Pearmain and Upton families including a wedding invitation, school transcripts, biographical sketches and a debutate ball program from 1931.
Much of the correspondence is from William Robert Pearmain to his family written while in school and in Europe. Pearmain's correspondence with his family discusses his career, marriage, daughter, travel, and political views. Later correspondence is from both Robert and Nancy to family members. Other family correspondence is between Nancy, Polly, Sarah Upton, Sumner, Alice, Margaret, and Jack Pearmain.
There are a few incoming letters to Robert, including one from Margaret Sanger. There are condolence letters to Nancy from John Graham Brooks, Rockwell Kent, William Sanger, and Alexander Beckman. A letter from George de Forest Brush to Robert's mother, possibly dated 1906, discusses her unhappiness about Robert leaving Harvard and staying with the Brushs' in Italy. A photocopy of a letter from Samuel Clemens to George de Forest Brush is found. Additional correspondents include Charles F. Dole and William E. Trautmann.
Artwork consists of one watercolor by William Robert Pearmain. Writings and notes include one diary written by Robert while in Europe (1907), school essays, and a list of European trip expenses. Printed materials include clippings, and one issue each of
Solidarity
, and
Mother Earth
. Photographs are of a drawing of William Robert Pearmain by Will Loring and family snapshots of Robert, Nancy, and Polly Pearmain in New Hampshire (1911).

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 6 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1888-circa 1955 (Box 1; 5 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1899-1955 (Box 1; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 3: Artwork, circa 1910 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 4: Writings and Notes, circa 1900-1908 (Box 1; 3 folders)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1907-1913 (Box 1; 3 folders)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1900-1911 (Box 1; 2 folders)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
William Robert Pearmain (1888-1912), known as Robert, was a painter and political activist working in Boston and New York City. Born to a wealthy family in New England, Pearmain attended Harvard University to study architecture and studied painting in Italy under George de Forest Brush.
Between 1907 and 1908, Pearmain travelled through France and Italy studying with Brush and other artists. Upon returning to the United States, Pearmain married the eldest daughter of his mentor, Nancy Douglas Brush in Dublin, New Hampshire. Also an artist, Nancy settled with Robert in Boston and later in New York City. While in New York, Pearmain worked as an assistant to muralist Barry Faulkner. In 1911, the Pearmains welcomed their daughter Mary Alice, whom they called Polly.
While in New York, Pearmain grew dissatisfied with his artistic career. He discovered an interest in the conditions of the working class and his social and political viewpoints became increasingly radical. Despite his privilaged upbringing, he immersed himself in the world of manual labor. Leaving his wife and daughter behind, Robert walked from New York City to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to work at the Westinghouse Electric Company. Additionally, Pearmain became associated with the Industrial Workers of the World organization and participated in anarchist demonstrations.
Soon after arriving in Pittsburgh, Pearmain's health started to fail. His family believed the hard working conditions caused his illness and a doctor suggested that he return to Massachusetts to recover. In September of 1912, Robert Pearmain died of leukemia. Later, Nancy remarried Dr. Harold Bowditch.

Administration
Separated Material
A drawing by Will Loring of William Robert Pearmain as a child was microfilmed and photographed by the Archives of American Art and returned to William Robert Pearmain, nephew of the sitter.
Alternative Forms Available
The papers of
William Robert Pearmain
in the Archives of American Art were digitized in
2010
, and total
666
images.
Processing Information
The William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain family papers were microfilmed upon receipt. The collection was fully processed, arranged, and described by Jayna Hanson in 2009 and digitized in 2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Author
Finding aid prepared by Jayna Hanson
Sponsor
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Provenance
The papers of William Robert Pearmain were donated by his widow, Nancy Douglas Bowditch and their grandson, Edward F. McClennen in 1973-1974.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain family papers, 1888-1955. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The William Robert Pearmain and Pearmain family papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Related Material
Also found in the Archives of American Art is the Nancy Douglas Bowditch papers, circa 1900s-1970s that contain materials relating to her first husband, William Robert Pearmain and an oral history interview with Nancy Douglas Bowditch conducted on January 30, 1974 by Robert F. Brown.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Berkman, Alexander, 1870-1936 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bowditch, Nancy Douglas Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brooks, John Graham, 1846-1938 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brush, George de Forest, 1855-1941 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne, 1835-1910 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dole, Charles F. (Charles Fletcher), 1845-1927 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Industrial Workers of the World Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kent, Rockwell, 1882-1971 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pearmain, Alice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pearmain, Jack Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pearmain, Margaret Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pearmain, Mary Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pearmain, Summer Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sanger, Margaret, 1879-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sanger, William, b. 1888? Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Trautmann, W. E. (William Ernst), b. 1869 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Upton, Sarah Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art--Study and teaching Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters--Massachusetts--Boston Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters--New York (State)--New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Political activists--Massachusetts--Boston Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Political activists--New York (State)--New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Travel--Europe Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Writings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C., 20001
Phone: 202-633-7950
http://www.aaa.si.edu/askus