A Finding Aid to the John Frazee Papers, 1819-1966, bulk 1819-1893, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.frazejoh
Creators:
Frazee, John, 1790-1852
Dates:
1819-1966
bulk 1819-1893
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
0.6 Linear Feet
Repository:
The papers of sculptor and architect John Frazee measure 0.6 linear feet, and date from 1819-1966, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1819-1893. These scattered papers contain documentation of Frazee's early career as a gravestone carver, his commission to design the New York Customs House, and his busts of John Jay, the Marquis De Lafayette, and other famous figures. There is also correspondence with family members, genealogical materials, sketches of Frazee monuments and stone engravings, poems and notes by Frazee, printed materials, a few financial documents, photographs of works of art, and a plaster cast of a medal.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of sculptor and architect John Frazee measure 0.6 linear feet, and date from 1819-1966, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1819-1893. These scattered papers contain documentation of Frazee's early career as a gravestone carver, his commission to design the New York Customs House, and his busts of John Jay, the Marquis De Lafayette, and other famous figures. There is also correspondence with family members, genealogical materials, sketches of Frazee monuments and stone engravings, poems and notes by Frazee, printed materials, a few financial documents, photographs of works of art, and a plaster cast of a medal.
Biographical information consists primarily of family history and genealogical materials.
Correspondence is mostly with family members, although there are a few letters from others regarding his work. The majority of letters written by John Frazee are to his first and second wives, Jane and Lydia respectively. Other letters are addressed to his brother Noah and reflect his sorrow at the premature deaths of his first wife and some of his young children. In these letters, he talks about the grave markers he designed for his family members, and includes sketches of the markers and lettering. In another illustrated letter written to Lydia Frazee, John describes and sketches his experience on a railroad train in 1834. General correspondence includes letters of praise by the sons of John Jay and the Marquis de Lafayette for Frazee's busts of their fathers. There is also one letter from John J. Audubon. The majority of letters concerning busts for the Boston Athenaeum are photocopies.
There is one file documenting documenting John Frazee's congressional commission as the designer of the New York Customs House. The file contains a draft of the petition by Frazee for the position, the subsequent grant of the petition by President Tyler, and a detailed report written by Frazee to Congress of the work completed on the building.
Artwork consists of scattered unsigned sketches of grave markers designed by Frazee. It is not clear whether Frazee completed the sketches, or if they were done at a later date by someone else.
Writings and notes include poems written by Frazee and scattered notes referencing Frazee's works. There is also one small ledger of Frazee's purchases and scattered receipts. Printed materials consist of a clipping and two catalogs. One catalog is about Frazee's design of the Washington Monument in the New York Customs House, and the other is of the New York Historical Society's art collection, which includes pieces by Frazee.
Photographs are of Frazee's busts including Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster and Nathaniel Bowditch as well as an image of a bust of John Frazee by another sculptor. There is one plaster cast of a medal commemorating Napoleon Bonaparte.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 9 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Information, circa 1825-1966 (Box 1-2; 4 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1819 - circa 1880s, circa 1960s (Box 1; 6 folders)
  • Series 3: New York Customs House Commission File, circa 1837-1841 (Box 1; 1 folder)
  • Series 4: Artwork, 1830 - circa 1840s (Box 1; 1 folder)
  • Series 5: Writings and Notes, 1824 - circa 1890s (Box 1; 4 folders)
  • Series 6: Financial Materials, 1838-1853 (Box 1; 2 folders)
  • Series 7: Printed Material, 1848-1889, 1942 (Box 1; 4 folders)
  • Series 8: Photographs, circa 1910s, circa 1930s (Box 1; 1 folder)
  • Series 9: Plaster Cast, circa 1800s (Box 1; 1 folder)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
John Stark Frazee (1790-1854) worked as an sculptor and architect primarily in New York City. He is best known for his design of the New York Customs House and his busts of notable American public figures, including John Wells, John Jay, John Marshall, and Daniel Webster.
Born in Rahway, New Jersey in 1790, Frazee began his career as a bricklayer. He lost a young son in 1815 and carved a memorial sculpture to commemorate his son's life. In 1818 he started a marble workshop in New York City specializing in memorials and grave markers. Sadly, many of Frazee's monuments were completed for deceased family members including his first wife Jane and several children. His reputation grew and he was well known for tasteful, simple, and well-executed memorials. Frazee began to receive private commissions for monuments and cenotaphs throughout New York. Frazee did not have formal training and developed a realistic style of carving that was heavily influenced by the neoclassical style.
By the mid 1820s, Frazee began to receive public commissions to carve busts of famous Americans. His bust of John Wells is considered to be the first carved marble bust made by an American born sculptor. In 1831, he received a Congressional commission to sculpt a bust of John Jay. Later, Frazee sculpted busts of Chief Justice John Marshall, Daniel Webster and others for the Boston Athenaeum.
After achieving considerable recognition for his sculpting abilities, President John Tyler appointed Frazee as the designer of the New York Customs House. He oversaw construction from 1834-1840. It is likely that Frazee created many of the decorative sculptural elements within the building as well. John Frazee died in 1854 in Rhode Island.

Administration
Separated Material
A few exhibition catalogs and printed materials microfilmed on reel 1103 were later transfered to The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Library.
Location of Originals
Some correspondence included in this collection are photocopies of originals that remained with the donors.
Alternative Forms Available
The papers of John Frazee in the Archives of American Art were digitized in
2010
, and total
264
images.
Processing Information
Upon receipt, the papers were microfilmed on reels 1103 and 2804. All accessions were merged and processed by Jayna Hanson in 2008 and scanned in 2010 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Author
Jayna Hanson
Sponsor
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Provenance
The John Frazee papers were donated by the sculptor's great granddaughter Marguerite Heath and grand niece Theresa Eliot in several increments between 1973-1978.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
John Frazee papers, 1819-1966, bulk 1819-1966. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The John Frazee 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.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Notes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Illustrated letters Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Architects -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Poems Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculpture, American Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Frazee, Noah Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audubon, John James, 1785-1851 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/