Archives of American Art

A Finding Aid to the Solon H. Borglum and Borglum Family Papers, 1864-2002, in the Archives of American Art

Collection ID:
Borglum, Solon Hannibal, 1868-1922
Physical Description:
11.5 Linear feet
The Solon H. Borglum and Borglum family papers date from 1864 to 2002 and measure 11.5 linear feet. The collection documents Solon Borglum's personal life and his career as a sculptor specializing in Western themes through biographical material, family and general correspondence, writings and notes, research for his biography, financial and business letters, printed material, photographs and artwork.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Solon H. Borglum and Borglum family papers date from 1864 to 2002 and measure 11.5 linear feet. The collection documents Solon Borglum's personal life and his career as a sculptor specializing in Western themes through biographical material, family and general correspondence, writings and notes, research for his biography, financial and business letters, printed material, photographs and artwork.
Biographical material contains documents providing information on the Borglum Family history as well as Solon's military service and memorial. Also found is a leather portfolio of ephemera kept by Emma Borglum. Family correspondence includes numerous letters between Solon and Emma and various members of their extended family. The letters discuss family events, everyday life, Solon's military service, and family history. General Correspondence pertains to Solon's career as an artist and includes his incoming and outgoing correspondence with galleries, foundries, patrons, fellow artists such as Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and others. Later correspondence from galleries, museums, foundries, historical societies, and other individuals and organizations, is addressed to his daughter Monica Borglum and concerns Solon's artwork and legacy after his death. Writings and notes include material written by Solon Borglum and material written by others. Solon's writings include project proposals as well as essays, lectures, and other notes on the topics of his own works of art, art and form, and his participation in World War I. Also found are Solon's diary, notebooks, and address books kept during the last five years of his life. Writings by others include writings by Emma and others about Solon Borglum, as well as guest books for the Silvermine Group of Artists.
Series five contains documents compiled by Monica Borglum Davies and her husband A. Mervyn Davies for a biography Solon Borglum. Included are their research files and notes as well as heavily edited drafts of book sections and draft manuscripts and notes. Financial and business records document Solon's professional career and legacy, including project contracts and financial proposals, account books, ledgers, receipts, and items regarding the Solon H. Borglum Sculpture and Education Fund. Printed material contains items about Solon Borglum's career and artwork compiled by his daughter, Monica Davies, and includes exhibition catalogs, exhibition announcements, brochures, programs, clippings, reports, and other publications. Also included is the textbook Sound Construction.
This collection also contains numerous photographs, including Solon's personal and family photographs, and photographs of his artwork. Family and personal photographs consist of photos of Solon taken throughout his career, including his time in military service, photos of his family and friends, various studios and residences including Rocky Ranch, and of him and and Emma at the Crow Creek Reservation. Artwork is comprised of sketches Solon made for his sculptural works and for Sound Construction. Also found are sketches by Emma and Gutzon Borglum, including a sketch of Solon, and artwork by others such as artist Robert Fulton Logan.

The collection is arranged into 9 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.
    Missing Title
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1866, 1895-1922, undated (Box 1, 13; 10 folders)
  • Series 2: Family Correspondence, 1885-1972, undated (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)
  • Series 3: General Correspondence, 1871-1989, undated (Box 1-2; 1.0 linear foot)
  • Series 4: Writings and Notes, 1871-1983, undated (Box 2-3; 1.0 linear foot)
  • Series 5: Solon Borglum Biography, 1870-1975, undated (Box 3-8; 5.3 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Financial and Business Records, 1898-1998, undated (Box 8, 13; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Printed Material, 1879-2002, undated (Box 9, 13-14; 1.1 linear feet)
  • Series 8: Photographs, 1864-1986 (Box 9-13, MGP 1, MGP 3, OV 15-16; 2.0 linear feet)
  • Series 9: Artwork, 1890-1921, undated (Box 12-13; 0.3 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Solon Hannibal Borglum was born in Ogden, Utah in 1868. His father Jens (James) Borglum and wife Ida emigrated to America in 1864, as Mormon converts. James took a second wife Christina who was the mother of Solon and his older brother John Gutzon de la Mothe. Christina left the family after just a few years, when James left the Mormon Church. James and Ida raised the large family, which included Solon, Gutzon, Miller, Arnold, August, Anna, Harriet, Theodora and Frank. Solon spent most of his childhood in Fremont, Nebraska, and in 1893 he became a ranch hand in Southern California. At this time he also developed an interest in art which he shared with his brother Gutzon, who was studying painting in Los Angeles.
From 1885 to 1893 Solon ran a ranch on his father's land in central Nebraska, but also took painting lessons from artist J. Laurie Wallace. After spending a short time at his brother's studio in Sierra Madre, and living as an artist in Santa Ana, he studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy under Louis T. Rebisso from 1895 to 1897. Solon then went to Paris where he met sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens who persuaded him to study sculpture at the Academie Julian. He studied there under Denys Puech and won numerous awards for works exhibited both in France and the United States. In 1898 Solon married Emma Vignal in Paris. They spent four months at the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota, an experience that greatly influenced his work. In 1901 Solon was elected to the National Sculpture Society, later becoming its vice president, and set up a studio in New York. Despite his success, such as winning the gold medal at the Art Palace at the 1904 World's Fair, confusions began between him and his brother Gutzon who decided to also become a sculptor. In 1906 he moved with his wife and children, Paul and Monica, to a farm in Connecticut called "Rocky Ranch." Artist Paul Manship became his student helper and lived with the family. Solon received commissions to do many monuments and memorials, but also continued to exhibit his work and participate in the local Silvermine Group of Artists.
From 1916 to 1917 Solon taught at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York and also developed ideas for an art textbook called Sound Construction, which he worked on with his student assistant Mildred Archer Nash. In 1918, he enlisted in the YMCA for overseas war work, attached to the Third and Fifth French Army. While there he was also the Director of Sculpture at the specially organized American Expeditionary Forces Art Training Center. When he returned home, he decided to establish the School of American Sculpture in New York City. He ran the school with great success, and gave many lectures on art and his experiences overseas until his sudden death after an appendectomy in January of 1922. His legacy was carried on by his wife Emma until her death in 1934, at which point his daughter Monica and her husband, A. Mervyn Davies, oversaw the exhibition of his artwork, and in 1974 published his biography Solon H. Borglum: "A Man Who Stands Alone".

Erin Corley
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Most of the materials in the collection were originally loaned by the Borglum family between 1969-1975 and microfilmed. Much of the same material was later donated in several accretions between circa 1991-2004 by various family members David Borglum, Harriet M. Borglum, Alfred Davies, Harold Davies, Monica B. Davies, Linda Borglum Fry, and Gwynneth Kelly. In 1979 approximately 200 photographs were transferred from the Smithsonian American Art Museum Library to AAA, which had received them from Monica Borglum Davies.
Separated Material
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reels N69-98 and 1054) including a scrapbook of new clippings, other printed material, writings, and correspondence, much of which was included in subsequent donations. Loaned materials not donated at a later date are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
Alternative Forms Available
The papers of sculptor Solon Borglum and the Borglum Family were digitized in
by the Archives of American Art, and total
Materials not digitized include a few certificates, writings and notes not authored by Solon but by others, Monica Borglum Davies research files for and drafts of the biography Solon H. Borglum, A Man Who Stands Alone, 1974, some routine financial materials, clippings and magazines, and photographs of artwork.
Materials lent for microfilming, most of which was later donated, merged, and digitized, are available on 35mm microfilm reels N69-98 and 1054 at Archives of American Art offices and for interlibrary loan.
Processing Information
The papers were originally microfilmed as loans on reels N69-98 and 1054. Most of the loans were lated donated by the family and merged with later gifts. All accretions were merged and the entire collection was fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Corley in 2005 and digitized with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Glass plate negatives were re-housed in 2015 with a grant provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Using the Collection
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Preferred Citation
Solon H. Borglum and Borglum family papers, 1864-2002. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
The bulk of the collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and not served to researchers.

Related Material
The Archives also holds several collections related to the Borglum family, including the Gutzon Borglum collection, available on microfilm only, reel 3056. This collection includes correspondence, printed material, and photographs. Originals reside at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Also found are the Gutzon Borglum letters to John A. Stewart (available on microfilm reel D8, frames 359-362) and the Harriet Collins Allen papers relating to Solon Borglum. The Library of Congress also holds papers of Solon Hannibal Borglum and is the primary repository of the papers of Gutzon Borglum.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Sculpture, American -- United States Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculptors -- Connecticut -- Wilton Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculpture -- Study and teaching Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1914-1918 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Davies, Monica Borglum, 1903-1997 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Davies, A. Mervyn (Alfred Mervyn) Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Borglum, Gutzon, 1867-1941 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Borglum, Emma Vignal, 1864-1934 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
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Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001