- Collection ID:
Couper, William, 1853-1942
- Physical Description:
The papers of William Couper date from 1872 through 1971 with the bulk of the material dated 1872 through 1908. The collection consists of 0.9 linear feet of letters, photographs, and printed material that document William Couper's career as a sculptor and his family life. Letters are from Couper and his wife to his parents, and to his brother John, discussing family matters, his art training, his travels, and his work in New York. There are also several letters from his father-in-law, sculptor Thomas Ball.
Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The William Couper papers span the years 1872 to 1971 with the bulk of the material dated 1872 to 1942, and measure 0.9 linear feet. They consist of letters, photographs, and printed material that document William Couper's career as a sculptor. Letters are from Couper and his wife to his parents, and to his brother John, discussing family matters, his art training, his travels, and his work in New York. There are also several letters from his father-in-law, sculptor Thomas Ball. An index of the letters and transcripts of approximately 70 of the letters were prepared by Couper's nephew Monroe Couper and are filed within the collection.
Also found within the papers are 0.4 linear feet of photographs of Couper and family members, his home in Florence, Italy, and a photograph album and unbound photographs of his art work. There are also clippings and 3 theater programs for productions in which William Couper performed.
The collection is arranged into 3 series:
- Series 1: Letters, 1874-1908 (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet; reel 5883)
- Series 2: Photographs, 1886-1887 (Box 2-3; 0.4 linear feet; reel 5883)
- Series 3: Printed Material, 1872-1971 (Box 2; 4 folders; reel 5883)
William Couper was born September 20, 1853 in Norfolk, Virginia, son of John Diedrich Couper and Euphania Monroe Couling Couper. He acquired an interest in sculpture from time spent at his father's company, Couper Marble Works.
After studying at the Cooper Institute in New York, Couper won a scholarship to the Royal Academy at Munich in 1875. Disliking the atmosphere in Munich, he took a place in the studio of Thomas Ball in Florence, Italy in the same year. Couper married Mr. Ball's daughter, Eliza Chickering Ball in 1878, and remained in Florence for over two decades, returning to New York to open a studio in 1897.
In 1901, Couper received a bronze medal at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. His notable works include a series of thirteen heroic busts of scientists for the American Museum of Natural History, a relief sculpture for the Sailors' Memorial in Annapolis, a statue of Capt. John Smith at Jamestown, and a portrait bust of John D. Rockefeller.
Couper retired in 1913 and died later in 1942 in Easton, Maryland.
The William Couper papers were donated by the artist's nephew Monroe Couper to the Archives of American Art in 1992.
Alternative Forms Available
Portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reel 5883 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
Processing of the William Couper papers was completed by Jean Fitzgerald in 2004.
Using the Collection
William Couper Papers, 1872-1971, bulk 1872-1908. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy.
for additional information.
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001