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Guide to the Emma Thursby Papers
1706-1942 (Bulk 1860-1940)
  MS 2530

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 05, 2022
Description is in English.

Container List

Series I: Correspondence, 1839-1940

Scope and Contents note

The correspondence series contains correspondence between Thursby family members, as well as from Emma Thursby's managers, fans, friends, and pupils. The series contains information about important events (mainly deaths) in the lives of the Thursby family members, offers and requests for Emma Thursby to perform, Emma Thursby's participation in the philosophical community Green Acre in Eliot, Maine, and European travelogues and concert reports. This series consists of letters, telegrams, postcards, calling cards, envelopes, and stationery.

In all her travels Emma Thursby was accompanied by a close family member, perhaps both in the role of chaperone and companion. Her older sister Alice accompanied her on the first tours, and both her mother and Alice went along to Europe in 1878. Emma's younger sister Ina came on this particular trip for only a few months, but would soon accompany Emma on all tours and become her closest companion and confidante. During these later tours it is Ina's letters to the family and friends back in Brooklyn which provide much of the information about the concerts performed, receptions received, friends met, spas visited, and sights seen throughout the years.

Each correspondence subseries is divided into incoming and outgoing material. Letters are arranged alphabetically by the recipient or sender's name and then chronologically for each person. Correspondents with ten or more letters have separate folders. In addition, correspondents who comprised an entire envelope in the original housing system have been given an individual folder. A few separate folders were also created for important correspondents (such as the Paris Opera) regardless of number of letters.

Many Thursby family letters are addressed to more than one person (i.e. "Mother, Allie and Lou.") In these cases, the letters have been assigned to the folder of the oldest family member. A letter to "Allie, Lou and John" would be filed under Alice Thursby (the order of children was Alice, Emma, John, Louis, and Ina). Family letters addressed to "Dear sisters" are filed under Emma Thursby.

For the most part, envelopes are housed with their letters, either inside a card, in an acid-free paper sling, or, if easily identifiable as belonging to the letter, behind the letter. Envelopes that could not be matched to a specific letter are housed in Subseries 8, Other Correspondence.

Subseries 1: Emma Thursby, 1859-1931

Scope and Contents note

The correspondence in this subseries dates from Emma Thursby's days at music school in Pennsylvania as a young girl, and continues until a few days before her death. Her letters to her family from her travels abroad detail her musical education, career, and burgeoning social life on the European continent. Letters to friends such as Sara Bull and her cousin Mary Elizabeth (Mollie) Bennett Comfort also contain thoughts on her life outside her career, and philosophical interests such as Eastern religion.

Letters from pupils attest to Emma Thursby's popularity as a voice teacher. These letters, most of which are mainly devoted to requesting or confirming dates of lessons, were foldered separately at the time of the accession of the collection, and so have been kept segregated from the other correspondence. Many of Emma Thursby's voice students went on to become operatic or concert stars in their own right; correspondence from these women is contained in Series 6, Subject and Biographical Information; Subseries 1, Emma Thursby. Emma and/or Ina Thursby seems to have kept a file on each of these women, evidenced by the number of clippings and programs kept with these women's correspondence.

General alphabetical files of correspondence include letters from the following people: Edward Bok, Ole Bull, President Grover Cleveland and family, Count Chinda, Isadora Duncan, P.S. Gilmore, Percy Grainger, Phoebe Hearst, Mrs. Warren Harding, Herman Marcuse, Julia Marlowe, Kate Willard Parker, John D. Rockefeller, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Nicola Tesla, Mark Twain, David Todd, and [Swami] Vivekananda. Letters date from Emma Thursby's entire career, and are both letters of adulation as well as personal correspondence. Performers and pupils represented are Regina Arta (aka Emma Loeffler,) Dula Drake, Emma Eames, Blanche Marchesi, Emma Nevada Palmer, Duchess de Richelieu, Erminia Rudersdorff, and Maurice Strakosch and family. Corresponding institutions (often letters of thanks for concerts given) include Bushwick Reformed Church, Etude magazine, Methodist Episcopal Church South,  Musician magazine, Old Bushwick Church, Peabody House for Aged and Indigent Women, and Plymouth Church.

Many letters are addressed to both Emma and Ina Thursby. These letters, as well as those addressed to "Miss Thursby" have been filed in this subseries, unless clearly identified (based on information in the letter or on original envelope housing) to belong to Ina Thursby.

The four volumes are red cases labeled "A -- G," "H -- M," "N -- R," and "S -- Z" and contain letters written to Emma Thursby between 1871 and 1910. These letters were item-level cataloged at the time of their accession; a complete listing is available at the reference desk. Some of the correspondents included here (Edward Bok, Sara Bull, Olea Bull, Sarah Farmer, Patrick Gilmore, May Jackson, Jeannie Ovington, Maurice Strakosch, Maggie Van Cott, and [Swami] Vivekananda) also are represented in Boxes 1 -- 5. However, most of these letters were from one-time correspondents. The topics range from thanks given for complimentary concert tickets, to sympathy at the death of Thursby family members.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Emma Thursby, letters received from A-B
1881-1931
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Emma Thursby, letters received from Ralph Bartlett
1911-1930
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Emma Thursby, letters received from David Bispham
1907-1912
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Emma Thursby, letters received from Sara Bull
1881-1911
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Emma Thursby, letters received from Olea Bull
1883-1911
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Emma Thursby, letters received from C
1877-1929
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Emma Thursby, letters received from D
1901-1914
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Emma Thursby, letters received from E
1905-1927
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Emma Thursby, letters received from F
1873-1912
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Emma Thursby, letters received from Sarah Farmer
1900-1914
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Emma Thursby, letters received from G
1879-1927
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Emma Thursby, letters received from H
1880-1931
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Emma Thursby, letters received from Abraham Hill
1910-1912
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Emma Thursby, letters received from I-J
1892-1913
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Emma Thursby, letters received from May Jackson
1887-1905
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Emma Thursby, letters received from K
1904-1921
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Emma Thursby, letters received from L
1878-1916
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Emma Thursby, letters received from M
1891-1916
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Emma Thursby, letters received from N-O
1885-1930
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Emma Thursby, letters received from P-Q
1897-1922
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Emma Thursby, letters received from Paris Opera
1881
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Emma Thursby, letters received from James B. Pond
1885-1892
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Emma Thursby, letters received from R
1876-1919
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Emma Thursby, letters received from S
1877-1924
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Emma Thursby, letters received from Henry W. Shoemaker
1912-1930
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Emma Thursby, letters received from T
1878-1930
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Emma Thursby, letters received from J.G. Thorp
1911-1912
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Emma Thursby, letters received from Alice Thursby
1881-1885
Box: 3 Folder : 11 Emma Thursby, letters received from Ina Thursby
1903-1912
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Emma Thursby, letters received from Thursby Family
1884-1908
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Emma Thursby, letters received from U-V
1886-1918
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Emma Thursby, letters received from W-Z
1879-1927
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Emma Thursby, letters received from World's Congress of Representative Women, Exposition of 1893
1893
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Emma Thursby, letters received from Pupils A-M
1897-1912
Box: 4 Folder : 4 Emma Thursby, letters received from Pupils N-Z
1898-1927
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Emma Thursby, letters received from Unidentified
1901-1931
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Emma Thursby, letters sent to A-Z
1879-1931
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Jackson, May
1880-1913
Box: 4 Folder : 8 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Moore, Mary C.
1887-1903
Box: 4 Folder : 9 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Thursby, Alice
1880-1882
Box: 4 Folder : 10 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Thursby, Ina
1872-1929
Box: 4 Folder : 11 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Thursby, Jane B.
1859-1882
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Thursby, John J.
1887-1912
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Emma Thursby letters sent to Thursby, Louis
1886-1913
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Emma Thursby, letters sent to Thursby Family
1858-1931
Volume: 1 Letters received from A-G
1876-1900
Volume: 2 Letters received from H-M
1875-1910
Volume: 3 Letters received from N-R
1871-1895
Volume: 4 Letters received from S-Z
1876-1900

Subseries 2: Ina Thursby, 1872-1939

Scope and Contents note

General alphabetical correspondence files contain letters from Ralph Bartlett, May Jackson, Charles Schwab, and David Todd. Former pupils and associates of Emma's included are Peggy Green (Princess Viggo,) Meta Reddish, Duchess de Richelieu, Amalia Strakosch, Geraldine Ferrar, and Emma Nevada Palmer. Much of the general correspondence letters are condolences to Ina upon the death of Emma Thursby. Ina also planned many memorial events for Emma, including the installation of a mosaic at the Brooklyn Museum of Art; many letters address these projects.

In 1903, both Emma and Ina Thursby made many friends in Japan with whom they corresponded for years. Letters from Japanese friends in this series discuss visits and friend Kakuzo Okakura's work establishing an Eastern Art wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Letters to family members, especially Alice and her brothers, give great detailed accounts of Ina's first trip with Emma to Europe in 1880 -- 1882.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Ina Thursby, letters received from A
1901-1937
Box: 5 Folder : 5 Ina Thursby, letters received from B
1904-1939
Box: 5 Folder : 6 Ina Thursby, letters received from C
1878-1935
Box: 5 Folder : 7 Ina Thursby, letters received from Mary Elizabeth Bennett Comfortt
1931-1938 undated
Box: 5 Folder : 8 Ina Thursby, letters received from D-E
1889-1936
Box: 5 Folder : 9 Ina Thursby, letters received from F-H
1908-1931
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Ina Thursby, letters received from I-L
1880-1937
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Ina Thursby, letters received from M-O
1899-1937
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Ina Thursby, letters received from Kakuzo Okakura
1904-1912
Box: 6 Folder : 4 Ina Thursby, letters received from P-R
1899-1937
Box: 6 Folder : 5 Ina Thursby, letters received from Shisui Rokkaku
1905-1908
Box: 6 Folder : 6 Ina Thursby, letters received from S
1886-1939
Box: 6 Folder : 7 Ina Thursby, letters received from Henry Shoemaker
1931-1937
Box: 6 Folder : 8 Ina Thursby, letters received from T-Z
1882-1938
Box: 7 Folder : 1 Ina Thursby, letters received from Alice Thursby
1882
Box: 7 Folder : 2 Ina Thursby, letters received from, Unidentified
1892-1934
Box: 7 Folder : 3 Ina Thursby, letters sent to A-Z
1886-1934
Box: 7 Folder : 4 Ina Thursby, letters sent to May Jackson
1898-1912
Box: 7 Folder : 5 Ina Thursby, letters sent to Mary C. Moore
1886-1891
Box: 7 Folder : 6 Ina Thursby, letters sent to Alice Thursby
1872-1882
Box: 7 Folder : 7 Ina Thursby letters sent to Jane B. Thursby
1880-1882
Box: 7 Folder : 8 Ina Thursby, letters sent to Louis Thursby
1878-1907
Box: 7 Folder : 9 Ina Thursby, letters sent to the Thursby Family
1859-1880

Subseries 3: Alice Thursby, 1854-1889

Scope and Contents note

Consists of letters from Alice Thursby to her aunt Mary C. Moore and to her brothers Louis and John Thursby during her time abroad with Emma. Also contains letters written by Alice to her parents from her time at the Moravian Seminary. Letters to Alice are mainly condolences on the death of her mother.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 10 Alice Thursby, letters received
1884
Box: 7 Folder : 11 Alice Thursby, letters sent
1859-1878

Subseries 4: Jane B. Thursby, 1870-1882

Scope and Contents note

Contains correspondence to Jane B. Thursby from her son Louis while he was vacationing in Florida, and a business letter about a monetary settlement granted her.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 12 Jane B. Thursby, letters received
1870-1882

Subseries 5: John B. Thursby, 1839-1859

Scope and Contents note

Contains letters written between John B. Thursby and his mother Hannah, and brother Samuel, mainly during his trip to France and England just before his death in 1859. Also includes letters written about Emma's musical education, and about John B. Thursby's career.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 13 John B. Thursby, letters received
1839-1859
Box: 7 Folder : 14 John B. Thursby, letters sent
1850-1859

Subseries 6: Thursby family letters, 1859-1913

Scope and Contents note

Contains letters from Louis Thursby to John J. Thursby and a letter to Samuel Thursby from the United States Consulate in London informing him of the death of his brother John B. Thursby.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 15 Thursby family letters
1859-1913

Subseries 7: Mynah Bird, 1892-1894

Scope and Contents note

Contains letters written to the Mynah bird owned by Emma and Ina Thursby, generally thank you notes to him for entertaining visiting children.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 16 Mynah Bird, letters received
1892-1894

Subseries 8: Other Correspondence, 1861-1940

Scope and Contents note

This subseries is made up of letters that are not to or from any of the principal members of the Thursby family, as above. People for whom more than ten pieces of correspondence exists were given their own folder. The letters include people who played a large part in Emma Thursby's life, such as her friend Jeannie Ovington, and her friend and manager Maurice Strakosch. Much of the Strakosch correspondence is letters in foreign languages attempting to schedule Emma Thursby concerts. Letters written to Richard Gipson, Emma Thursby's biographer, are included here, as are letters detailing an incident in which a Mrs. Edyth Ellerbeck Read wrote a profile of Emma Thursby and was denied publication by the Ladies' Home Journal.

General correspondence includes letters to Emma Thursby's Parisian friend May Jackson from Jeannie Ovington, a facsimile of Longfellow's last letter, and letters to unnamed managers of Emma Thursby requesting concert dates.

One folder of calling cards is in this subseries. Blank stationery with notable letterhead, as well as photography envelopes and letter envelopes which could not be matched with an actual letter, also make up this subseries.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 17 A-Z
1878-1931
Box: 7 Folder : 18 Gipson, Richard
1937-1940
Box: 7 Folder : 19 Ovington, Jeannie
1885-1886
Box: 7 Folder : 20 Read, Edyth Ellerbeck
1905-1912
Box: 7 Folder : 21 Strakosch, Maurice
1861-1887
Box: 8 Folder : 1 Calling Cards
undated
Box: 8 Folder : 2 Alienated envelopes, Blank stationery
undated

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