A Finding Aid to the Holger Cahill Papers,
1910-1993
,
bulk 1910-1960
, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.cahiholg
Creators:
Cahill, Holger, 1887-1960
Dates:
1910-1993
bulk 1910-1960
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
15.8 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of Holger Cahill (1887-1960) date from 1910 to 1993, with the bulk of the material dating from 1910-1960, and measure 15.8 linear feet. The collection offers researchers fairly comprehensive documentation of Cahill's directorship of the Works Progress/Projects Administration's (WPA) Federal Art Project (FAP) in addition to series documenting his work as a writer and art critic. Material includes correspondence, reports, artist files, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of Holger Cahill (1887-1960) date from 1910 to 1993, bulk 1910-1960, and measure 15.8 linear feet. The collection offers researchers fairly comprehensive documentation of Cahill's directorship of the FAP in addition to series documenting his work as a writer and art critic. FAP records include national and state administrative reports, records of community art centers, photographic documentation of state activities, artist files, divisional records about teaching, crafts, murals, and poster work, files concerning the Index of American Design, scrapbooks, and printed material.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into nine series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material and Personal Papers, 1931-1988 (Box 1; 19 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence Files, 1922-1979, 1993 (Boxes 1-2; 1.5 linear ft.)
  • Series 3: Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, 1934-1970 (Boxes 2-14, 18, MMs009; 10.75 linear ft.)
  • Series 4: Writings, Lectures and Speeches, 1916-1960 (Boxes 14-15, 18; 1.0 linear ft.)
  • Series 5: Minutes of Meetings and Panel Discussions, Non-FAP, 1939-1947 (Box 15; 5 folders)
  • Series 6: Notes and Research Material, 1935-1970 (Boxes 15-16; 0.25 linear ft.)
  • Series 7: Artwork, undated (Boxes 16, 18; 2 folders)
  • Series 8: Printed Material, 1910-1985 (Boxes 16-17; 1.8 linear ft.)
  • Series 9: Photographs, circa 1917-1960 (Box 17; 6 folders)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Holger Cahill was born Sveinn Kristjan Bjarnarson in Iceland in a small valley near the Arctic Circle, on January 13, 1887. His parents, Bjorn Jonson and Vigdis Bjarnadottir, immigrated to the United States from Iceland sometime later in the 1880s. In 1904, his father deserted the family, forcing Sveinn to be separated from his mother and sister to work on a farm in North Dakota. He ran away and wandered from job to job until settling in an orphanage in western Canada, where he attended school and became a voracious reader.
As a young man, he worked at many different jobs and attended night school. While working on a freighter, he visited Hong Kong, beginning his life-long interest in the Orient. Returning to New York City, he eventually became a newspaper reporter, continued his studies at New York University, and changed his name to Edgar Holger Cahill. In 1919 he married Katherine Gridley of Detroit. Their daughter, Jane Ann, was born in 1922, but the couple divorced in 1927.
Cahill met John Sloan circa 1920, and they shared a residence. Cahill also wrote publicity (until 1928) for the Society of Independent Artists, through which he made many friends in the arts. From 1922 to 1931, he worked under John Cotton Dana at the Newark Museum, where he received his basic experience in museum work, organizing the first large exhibitions of folk art.
From 1932 to 1935, he was the director of exhibitions for the Museum of Modern Art. In 1935, Cahill was appointed director of the Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project (FAP), until its end in June 1943. In 1938, Cahill organized a countrywide exhibition "American Art Today" for the New York World's Fair. He also married MoMa curator Dorothy Canning Miller in that year.
Profane Earth, Cahill's first novel, was published in 1927, followed by monographs on Pop Hart and Max Weber, miscellaneous short stories, and a biography of Frederick Townsend Ward, entitled A Yankee Adventurer: The Story of Ward and the Taiping Rebellion. Following the end of the Federal Art Project, Cahill wrote two novels, Look South to the Polar Star (1947) and The Shadow of My Hand (1956).
Holger Cahill died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in July 1960.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
The papers of Holger Cahill in the Archives of American Art were digitized in
2004
from 20 reels of microfilm, and total
30102
images.
Processing Information
The collection was donated in several installments and typically microfilmed in the order in which it was received at some point after receipt. The entire collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 1998. The microfilm was digitized in 2005 with funding provided by Jane Blumenfeld.
Author
Jean Fitzgerald
Sponsor
Funding for the digitization of the microfilm of this collection was provided by Jane Blumenfeld.
Provenance
The Holger Cahill papers were donated to the Archives of American Art through a series of gifts by Cahill's widow, Dorothy C. Miller, between 1964 and 1995.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
The microfilm of this collection has been digitized and is available online via the Archives of American Art website.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Holger Cahill 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.
Preferred Citation
Holger Cahill papers, 1910-1993, bulk 1910-1960. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Prints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Government records Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Slides (photographs) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal aid to the public welfare Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art and state Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal aid to the arts Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New Deal, 1933-1939 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States -- Economic conditions -- 1918-1945 Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States -- Social conditions -- 1933-1945 Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arts administrators Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Public officers Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photograph albums Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Federation of Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists' Union (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brown, Samuel Joseph, 1907- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cartoonists Guild Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
De Rivera, José Ruiz, 1904-1985 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal Art Project (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal Theatre Project (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal Music Project (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hopkins, Harry Lloyd, 1890-1946 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Halpert, Edith Gregor, 1900-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Abbott, Berenice, 1898-1991 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Index of American Design Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Council of Learned Societies Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New York World's Fair (1939-1940) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rowan, Edward Beatty, 1898-1946 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scaravaglione, Concetta, 1900-1975 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Speck, Walter, 1895- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Shakers Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ward, Lynd, 1905-1985 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Weisenborn, Rudolph, b. 1881 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Artists' Congress Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Work Projects Administration Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
The Design Laboratory (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Treasury Relief Art Project Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Morris, Carl, 1911-1993 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Works Progress Administration Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Segal, George, 1924-2000 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Olds, Elizabeth, 1896-1991 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Knaths, Karl, 1891-1971 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Miller, Dorothy Canning, 1904-2003 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/