Scope and Content Note
The papers of painter and illustrator W. Langdon Kihn measure approximately 8.5 linear feet and date from 1904-1990, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1904-1957. Papers document Kihn's career and travels associated with his interests in documenting the native American tribal nations of the United States and Canada in portraiture and writings. Found here are biographical material, voluminous correspondence, memoirs and writings, one travel diary, printed material, financial records, three sketchbooks, sketches, and photographs.
Biographical materials include address books, membership cards, exhibition and price lists, legal and travel documents, as well as biographical notes. Additional biographical sketches are found in the Writings and Notes series.
Correspondence is the largest series in the collection, almost half of the papers. In addition to letters to W. Langdon Kihn, this series include both originals and drafts of his outgoing letters; letters to his wife Helen from friends; third party business correspondence between his father, Alfred Kihn, and various parties undertaken on his son's behalf; and third party correspondence addressed to his friend and colleague, the Canadian ethnographer, Marius Barbeau. In addition to Barbeau, significant correspondents include Constance Lindsay Skinner, Chester and Maud Dale, Sir Henry Wellcome, Pierre and Marie "May" Lecompte du Noüy, and Reginald and Gladys Laubin. Although there is little correspondence with other artists, those represented with cards and letters in this collection include Boris Artzybasheff, Maynard Dixon, Olin Dows, Thornton Oakley, and Kihn's summer art school partner, Gus Wiggins. Correspondence with Franklin L. Fisher, Chief of National Geographic Magazine's Illustrated Division and Matthew W. Striling, Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution dominate the period spanning from 1935 - 1952, the years of Kihn's close association with the National Geographic Society.
Writings and notes includes manuscripts and typescripts of articles, poems, lectures, memoirs, and other writings by Kihn and others. There is one travel diary dated circa 1924-1925, and numerous writings about Kihn's travels and documentation of native American Indians.
Printed materials include exhibition catalogs, travel brochures, and magazine and newspaper clippings. Also found here are copies of Kihn's illustrations for books by other authors, including Beaver, Kings and Cabins, by Constance Lindsay Skinner, as well as proofs from the National Geographic series on American Indians arranged by geographic location. Financial records consist of invoices and receipts related to Kihn's artwork, traveling, and exhibitions.
Three sketchbooks and loose sketches include illustrated field notes and other drawings that document Kihn's travels and of native Americans. Photographs are of Kihn, and of Kihn at work. There are also photographs of Kihn's artwork.