Bertha Corson Day Bates papers

A Finding Aid to the Bertha Corson Day Bates papers,

Helen Farr Sloan Library, Delaware Art Museum

Wilmington, Delaware

Accessioned: Gift of Mrs. J. Marshall Cole (Bertha Bates Cole), April 1983
Extent: 10 Linear Feet
Access: Unrestricted
Contact Information:

Helen Farr Sloan Library
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE 19806


Biography of Bertha Corson Day Bates 
Scope and Contents Note 
Description of the papers



Bertha Corson Day was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Germantown. Her cousin was married to the popular artist Thomas Hovenden, and Bertha Day posed for his painting Bringing Home the Bride. She enrolled in the Drexel Institute art department in 1892; her teachers included sculptor Charles Grafly and watercolorist Lydia Austin. She became a friend of Lydia Austin and her husband Maxfield Parrish.

Bertha Day studied in Howard Pyle’s illustration class that began at Drexel in the fall of 1894. After completing the four-year course at Drexel in 1896, she decided to continue as an advanced student in Pyle’s illustration class from 1897 through 1899. Having made plans to go to Europe for the summer of 1898, she was unable to attend Pyle’s first summer school at Chadds Ford. However, she did attend the next year along with her friends Anna Whelan Betts, Ellen Bernard Thompson, and seven other Drexel students.

Three of her decorative designs were published in the “little magazine” Chap-Book in 1896 and 1897, and her poster design advertising Cashmere Bouquet products won second prize in a contest sponsored by Colgate and Company in 1897. In 1899 she was commissioned to design a billboard announcing the National Export Exposition in Philadelphia. Her historical illustrations appeared in several novels, including Bulwer Lytton’s Last Days of Pompeii in 1898 and Paul Leicester Ford’s Janice Meredith in 1899. Her most important work was a series of twenty-two illustrations for the book Where the Wind Blows, a collection of fairy tales from different countries, written by Howard Pyle’s younger sister, Katharine, and published in 1902.

After her marriage in 1902 to Daniel Moore Bates of the Bancroft textile firm, she did very little commercial illustration. When they moved to Wilmington, she turned instead to designing bookplates and program covers for the Greenroom Club, a local theatrical group.

In 1912 the Bates family moved to Lewiston, Maine, and maintained a summer home on MacMahon Island. From 1920 to 1929 they lived in the Philadelphia area. During those years Bertha Day Bates occasionally painted landscapes, but most of her time was devoted to raising her three children. In 1919, when they moved back to Wilmington, she became active in social and cultural activities and was a member of many organizations, including the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts (now called the Delaware Art Museum), the Historical Society of Delaware, the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Cosmopolitan Club in Philadelphia. She died at her home “Selborne” in 1968 and age of ninety-three.

By Elizabeth H. Hawkes

Taken from Elzea, Rowland and Elizabeth H. Hawkes, eds. A Small School of Art: The Students of Howard Pyle. Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1980.

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The Bertha Corson Day Bates Collection consists of correspondence, notebooks, books, photographs, photocopy of journal, catalogs, cards, programs, etc. designed by her.

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Box 1 – Diaries
Folder 1: Photocopy of journal, 1893. Original owned by Mrs. Marshall Cole
Folder 2: Photocopy of journal, trip to Europe, June-September 1898
Folder 3: Photocopy of journal, trip to Europe, October 4, 1896 – May 2, 1899
Folder 4: Photocopy of journal, trip to Europe, August 20, 1899 – March 5, 1900. Originals owned by Mrs. Marshall Cole.
Folder 5-10: Munchener Kalender, 1886; 1899-1903; 1905-1916; 1923
Box 1a – Diaries
Folder 1: Journal 1899; 1898, trip to Europe
Folder 2: Journal 1877
Box 2 – Correspondence and Printed Matter
Folder 1: Notebook: Notes from Howard Pyle’s illustrations class at Drexel, Fall 1894; Notes from James Wood’s anatomy class; Photocopies of notebook
Folder 2: Correspondence, Jessie Gordon and family, etc., 1938-1943

Jessie Gordon to BCDB (Gordon was Drexel classmate)

December 15, 1938
November 6, 1941

Margaret Gordon (sister of Jessie) to BCDB

March 3, 1943, regarding death of Jessie
March 29, 1943
June 8, 1943

Sara Caldwell (friend of Jessie) to BCDB

March 16, 1943
May 25, 1943
June 5, 1943

Folder 3: Correspondence, Caroline Gussman Keller (Drexel classmate) and family, 1897-1957

Caroline Gussman Keller to BCDB

August 30, 1897 regarding Drexel.
September 3, 1897
June 17, 1989
July 10, 1898
July 22, 1898
August 15, 1898
May 3, 1942 regarding Deane Keller’s (her son, professor of art at Yale) talk about Pyle in Wilmington. Mentions Frances Day in India broadcasting over radio.
January 29, 1943 regarding the death of Jessie Gordon, Drexel classmate

Deane Keller to Mr. and Mrs. Bates

April 22, 1942 regarding his visit to Wilmington
December 28, 1957 regarding his father’s death. Mentions D.K.’s his two murals at Johns Hopkins University

A.G. Keller to BCDB

September 20, 1953
November 5, 1953
February 9, 1953
January 21, 1955
September 4, 1955
September 22, 1955
November 12, 1955
March 5, 1956 (postcard)
March 10, 1956
July 29, 1956 (includes pages written August 20 and 23, 1956

BCDB to A.G. Keller (copy of letter), [1953], mentions her daughter Frances Bates (wife of Peter Muir) died August 31, 1931

Folder 4: Miscellaneous correspondence:

Howard Pyle (9)
Thornton Oakley (2)
Elizabeth Shippen Green (1)
Jessie Wilcox Smith (2; one to BCDB, January 14, 1923, regarding exhibition of Howard Pyle’s work)
Katharine Pyle (1)
Ellen B. T. Pyle (1 – Daniel Bates, March 27, year unknown, regarding portrait commission of BCDB. BBC note indicates that portrait was painted by Lydia Field Emmett in 1930)
Gertrude Brinckle (1- to Mrs. J. Marshall Cole, December 1968, regarding death of BCDB)
Mrs. Richard H. Day (1- BCDB’s mother, regarding Chadds Ford summer school)
Charles Dana Gibson (1)

Folder 5: Correspondence and clippings referring to Thomas Hovenden
Folder 6: Decorated list of books read and plays attended, 1891-1906
Folder 7: Collection of playbills
Folder 8: Penmanship exercise book
Folder 9: Glass plate negatives
Folder 10: Bookplate designs by Christopher L. Ward. Christopher Ward His Book (10 bookplates); C.E. & R. Ward Their Book (1 proof); C.L. Ward, Jr. His Book (1 proof)
Folder 11: Record of work and biographical notes
Folder 12: Notebook of commissions and payments, 1896-1902
Folder 13: Photocopies of correspondence
Folder 14: Biographies of Pyle pupils by Jean Fernald, Brandywine River Museum, 1978
Folder 15: Photographs – Photocopies
Box 2a – Correspondence and Printed Matter
Folder 1: Photographs – BCD in her studio; BCD and other students washing brushes, Chadds Ford, 1899; Howard Pyle at easel; BCD and three other Drexel stydents
Folder 2: Christmas cards, 1914 and no date
Folder 3: Christmas cards, 1914, 1916, 1921, 1934, 1947 and no date
Folder 4: Miscellaneous designs by BCDB
Folder 5: Miscellaneous proofs designed by BCDB
Folder 6: Proofs designed by BCDB
Folder 7: Catalog, The Plastic Club Exhibition, 1898. Cover design by BCD
Folder 8: Catalog, The Plastic Club Exhibition, 1899. Cover design by BCD
Folder 9: Programs – The Greenroom Club and drawing for Prince Karl by BCDB
Folder 10: Chap-Book, June 15, 1896; August 1, 1896; January 1, 1897
Folder 11: Elizabeth Ballester Bates, “The Dominic of Urk,” The Interior, August 11, 1904, illustrated by BCDB, pp. 1037, 1038
Folder 12: Miscellaneous illustrations
Folder 13: Calendar, 1903, designed by BCDB. Includes a letter from John M. Rogers, to Mrs. Daniel M. Bates, December 19, 1902.
Box 3 – Printed Matter
Folder 1: Delaware Art Museum Annual Report 1962-1963 regarding BCDB in collection
Folder 2: BCDB exhibition catalog and invitation, Delaware Art Museum, 1978
Folder 3: Clippings regarding National Export Exposition Billboard
Folder 4: National Export Exposition Medal
Folder 5: Miscellaneous printed material – includes information regarding Bates Chapel, St. Andrews Church
Folder 6: Drexel, special exhibitions: catalog of Paintings in Water-Color and Oil, Annual Exhibition of Art Department, 1895; catalog of the Special Exhibition of the Work in Water-Color and Oil Painting, 1896
Folder 7: Two catalogs: A catalog of Drawings Illustrating the Life of Gen. Washington, and of Colonial Life. Together with a few other Examples of work done for the Public Prints, by Howard Pyle. Drexel Institute, Philadelphia, February 6, 1897; Illustrating the Life of Gen. Washington, and of Colonial Life. Together with a few other Examples of work done for the Public Prints, by Howard Pyle, Exhibited by the St. Botolph Club…Boston, [February 27, 1897]. Inscribed by Pyle to BCD.
Folder 8: Miscellaneous photocopied material about BCDB
Folder 9: R.H. Russell Publisher, brochure; R. Browning, old pictures in Florence
Folder 10: Miscellaneous newspaper clippings
Folder 11: Frank Leslie’s Lady’s Magazine, November, 1864
Folder 12: The Graphic Christmas Number, 1883, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott
Folder 13: The English Illustrated Magazine, July 1885, August 1891
Folder 14: Miscellaneous books
Folder 15: Catalog of Plaster Reproductions
Box 4 – Correspondence, Business
Folder 1: A-D Beck Engraving company; Butterick Publishing Company; The Chap-Book, H. S. Stone & Company; Helen Clark; Colgate & Company; Drexel Institute
Folder 2: H-L Harper & Brothers; William H. Horstmann Company; Houghton & Mifflin; Howson & Howson; Kalamazoo Corset Company; Ketterlinus Lithographic Manufacturing Company; Ladies’ Home Journal; J. B. Lippincott Company
Folder 3: M-Z McClure’s Magazine; McCormick Harvesting Machine Company; Millville Manufacturing Company; Natural Export Exposition (see curatorial files); Edward Newtown & Company
Folder 4: E.P. Dutton & Company
Folder 5: Little, Brown & Company
Folder 6: R. H. Russell Publishers (regarding Where the Wind Blows)
Folder 7: Regarding bookplate designs
Folder 8: Regarding calendar
Folder 9: Regarding exhibition of BCDB’s work
Box 5
Three (3) cyanotypes of Howard Pyle’s summer school: Pyle and students at picnic table, Valley Forge, 6 7/8 x 5 7/8 inches (with border); Five young women, Chadds Ford, 4 5/8 x 6 ½ inches (no borders); Howard Pyle and students, picnicking par terre, 6 9/10 x 4 15/16 inches (with borders)
Examination report of three photographs by Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, September 8, 1978.
Box 6
Hat inscribed by Pyle and summer school students
Box 7
Artistic Japan, June 1889-May 1890
Drawing School books owned by BCDB

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