A Finding Aid to the Oliver Ingraham Lay, Charles Downing Lay, and Lay Family papers, 1789-2000, bulk 1870-1996, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.layoliv
Creators:
Lay, Oliver Ingraham, 1845-1890
Lay, Charles Downing, 1877-1956
Dates:
1789-2000
bulk 1870-1996
Languages:
English
The collection is in English.
Physical Description:
10.54 Linear feet
Repository:
The Oliver Ingraham Lay, Charles Downing Lay, and Lay Family Papers measure 10.54 linear feet and date from 1789 through 2000, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1870-1996. The collection presents an overview of the personal lives and careers of painter, Oliver Ingraham Lay and his son, landscape architect, Charles Downing Lay. In addition, there are the papers of Lay family members and friends, including those of the Marian Wait Lay family (wife of Oliver Ingraham Lay) and of the Laura Gill Lay family (wife of Charles Downing Lay). Also found are the papers of the landscape and nature painter Fidelia Bridges. The collection consists of biographical material, correspondence, diaries, writings and notes, scrapbooks, family business records, exhibition files, printed material, as well as original artwork, sketches, a sketchbook, landscape designs, and photographs.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Oliver Ingraham Lay, Charles Downing Lay, and Lay Family Papers measure 10.54 linear feet and date from 1789 through 2000, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1870-1996. The collection presents an overview of the personal lives and careers of painter, Oliver Ingraham Lay and his son, landscape architect, Charles Downing Lay. In addition, there are the papers of Lay family members and friends, including those of the Marian Wait Lay family (wife of Oliver Ingraham Lay) and of the Laura Gill Lay family (wife of Charles Downing Lay). Also found are the papers of the landscape and nature painter Fidelia Bridges. The collection consists of biographical material, correspondence, diaries, writings and notes, scrapbooks, family business records, exhibition files, printed material, as well as original artwork, sketches, a sketchbook, landscape designs, and photographs.
The extensive correspondence files illustrate the interaction between the Lays' and their extended circle of family members and friends, offering a view of the social and cultural milieu of a cross section of New England and New York gentry, from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries. The papers also provide a resource to study the work of Oliver Ingraham Lay and of Charles Downing Lay through original drawings, sketches, and landscape designs.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 3 series.
  • Series 1: Oliver Ingraham Lay and Marian Wait Lay Papers, 1789-1955 (4.2 linear ft.; Boxes 1-5, OV 11)
  • Series 2: Charles Downing Lay and Laura Gill Lay Papers, 1864-1993 (4.2 linear ft.; Boxes 5-9, OV 12-13)
  • Series 3: Fidelia Bridges Papers, 1857-2000 (1.4 linear ft.; Boxes 9-10)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Oliver Ingraham Lay (1845-1890) was a painter of portraits and genre scenes. Charles Downing Lay (1898-1956) was a landscape planner, architect, and painter.
Born in 1845 in New York City, Oliver Ingraham Lay studied under the painter Thomas Hicks (1823-1890) and attended the Cooper Institute and the National Academy of Design. Best-known for his portraiture, Lay's subjects included socially and politically prominent individuals, as well as artists, actors, and friends, such as Fidelia Bridges and Edwin Booth, among others. In 1876, Lay was elected to membership to the National Academy of Design and the Artists' Fund Society; in 1887 he became a member of the Century Association. Lay was married to Marian Wait, the niece of the pre-eminent pomologist, Charles Downing (1802-1885) and landscape gardener and rural architect, Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852).
Oliver's son, Charles Downing Lay was born in Newburgh, New York in 1898. He attended the School of Architecture at Columbia University from 1896-1900 and earned a Bachelor of Science from Harvard University's School of Landscape Architecture in 1902. That same year, Lay established a landscape practice in New York City; he also served as Landscape Architect for the City of New York from 1911-1912. In 1904, he married Laura Brown Gill.
In addition to his public work projects, he received numerous commissions for private homes and estates in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Lay, along with Henry V. Hubbard and Robert Wheelwright founded the professional magazine, Landscape Architecture where he served as publisher, editor, and contributor. He was a consulting architect to the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1948, he established the Housatonic Valley Planning Association.
Oliver and Charles's lifelong friend, Fidelia Bridges (1834-1923) was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1834. Orphaned in her youth, she supported herself as a mother's helper in the Quaker household of the Salem merchant, William A. Brown. In the mid-1850s, after Brown had moved to Brooklyn, New York, Fidelia Bridges joined the family, where she took on the role of governess to Brown's daughters. Around this time, she met Oliver Ingraham Lay.
In the 1860s, Bridges studied art at the studio of William Trost Richards (1833-1905) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1867, Bridges, along with a group of young women artists that included Anne Whitney (1821-1915) left for Rome to pursue her artistic training. Upon her return, Bridges set up a studio in New York City. In the early 1890s, Fidelia settled permanently in Canaan, Connecticut.
Bridges, influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite school, depicted landscapes and nature scenes with detailed renderings of birds, meadows, and wildflowers. In addition, Bridges sold her artwork commercially; in the mid-1870s, Louis Prang and Company produced her chromolithographic designs on greeting cards and calendars. Bridges also illustrated magazines and books.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Joy Weiner in 2006.
Author
Joy Weiner
Sponsor
Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
George C. Lay, grandson of portrait painter Oliver Lay and the son of Charles Downing Lay donated the Oliver Ingraham Lay, Charles Downing Lay, and Lay Family Papers to the Archives of American Art in 2002.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Conditions Governing Use
The Oliver Ingraham Lay, Charles Downing Lay, and Lay Family 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
Oliver Ingraham Lay, Charles Downing Lay, and Lay Family Papers, 1789-2000, bulk 1870-1996. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
A small collection of Oliver Ingraham Lay papers were loaned for microfilming and are available on reel 801. The originals are at the New-York Historical Society. The bulk of Charles Downing Lay's papers, 1898-1956 reside in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Landscape architects Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Landscape painters Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Landscape drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Connecticut Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bridges, Fidelia, 1834-1923 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lay, Laura Gill Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lay, Marian Wait 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/