National Anthropological Archives

Guide to the Lillian Samuelson papers relating to Ernest Smith, 1963-1991, bulk (1964-1976)

Collection ID:
Samuelson, Lillian, 1926-2011
bulk 1964-1976
Physical Description:
0.5 Linear feet
1 box
The Lillian Samuelson papers relating to Seneca artist, Ernest Smith, mainly comprise information pertaining to Smith and business dealings between Samuelson and Smith. Samuelson owned a shop which sold contemporary Native American art; after acquiring a small collection of Smith's paintings, Samuelson formed a close relationship with Smith and eventually acted as his manager. The collection comprises correspondence between Samuelson and Smith and documentation of Smith's paintings, Iroquois stories, and personal history. It also contains photographs pertaining to Smith. Samuelson's papers also include publications and other materials concerning Samuelson's involvement with various organizations. This collection consists of correspondence, writings, publications, press clippings, and photographs.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of Lillian Samuelson's documentation of and information pertaining to Ernest Smith. It includes correspondence between Samuelson and Smith, originals and copies of stories written by Smith, documentation of Samuelson's Smith collection, communication about book proposals, publications which feature Smith's work, and copies of Iroquois stories pertaining to the subjects of Smith's paintings. There are photographs of Smith and his paintings. Lillian Samuelson's papers also include newspaper clippings with information about her business and projects she was involved in. There are also two folders of material not relating to Smith. One folder is dedicated to the Rocky Boy Reservation which Samuelson held some involvement in, and the other contains miscellaneous material pertaining to the Iroquois.
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or National Anthropological Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

The materials in this collection are arranged according to Samuelson's original organization.

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Lillian Samuelson (1926-2011) held a lifelong interest in Native American cultures. She received her B.S. from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1947 before permanently residing in the Capital District area of New York. From 1967 to 1990, Samuelson owned and operated American Indian Treasures, Inc in Guilderland, NY, where she sold contemporary Native American art. During this time, she became close with Seneca artist, Ernest Smith, after acquiring a collection of his paintings. Samuelson eventually acted as Smith's manager and influenced the production of his later paintings. Lillian Samuelson worked closely with the Indian Arts and Crafts Association and in 1981, she became their first female president. She was also involved with the Rocky Boy's Reservation in Montana, donating a portion of the proceeds from her store to the reservation. She was married to Dale Samuelson, who held some involvement in her business. Samuelson died of multiple myeloma cancer in 2011.
Ernest Smith (1907-1975) was a Seneca artist who depicted Iroquois life and legends through his watercolor paintings. Employed by the Works Progress Administration's Artist and Writers Project, Smith produced a series of paintings from 1935-1941 for the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Smith returned in 1973 to join a research project between the Anthropology department of the State University of New York at Albany and the Rochester Museum, primarily working with anthropologists Jeannette Collamer and William Fenton. After taking a break from painting, Smith was encouraged to return to producing art later in life by his manager and friend, Lillian Samuelson. His works include over 240 paintings which reside in several collections including the Rochester Museum and Science Center and the National Museum of the American Indian. Smith was named Iroquois of the Year in 1972. Ernest Smith died in 1975 at the age of 68.

Lea Sellon
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was part of a larger donation of objects to Anthropology Collections by Lillian T. and Dale S. Samuelson in 2007 (Accession Number 2037467). The collection was transferred to the National Anthropological Archives in 2017.
Processing Information
Samuelson's original organization has been retained. Her folder titles were mostly retained. Some folder titles have been shortened or created by the archivist and are placed within square brackets.
Processed by Lea Sellon, September 2022

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
Access to the Lillian Samuelson papers relating to Ernest Smith requires an appointment.
Preferred Citation
Lillian Samuelson papers relating to Ernest Smith, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Related Materials
The National Anthropological Archives holds paintings by Smith in MS 4398, Materials relating to The Iroquois Eagle Dance, an Offshoot of the Calumet Dance, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 156.
The American Philosophical Society holds interviews concerning the paintings by Ernest Smith (Mss.Rec.126).

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Iroquois Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seneca Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smith, Ernest, 1907-1975 (Seneca) Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Anthropological Archives
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, Maryland 20746