University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Thornton Oakley

1908, 1919 - 1953


Manuscript Collection Number: 278
Accessioned: Purchase, 1991
Extent: 36 items.
Content: Diaries, notebook.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: July 1993, by Rhonda R. Newton.

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

The illustrator Thornton Oakley (1881- 1953) was a student of Howard Pyle, founder of the Brandywine School. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oakley graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in architecture. He then studied at Pyle's school in Wilmington, Delaware. During part of his time with Pyle, Oakley was in charge of the school's supply store. He was responsible for sales, inventory, and collecting students' monthly accounts.

He married Amy Ewing in 1910 and they had one child. Together they published numerous travel books, which she wrote and he illustrated. In 1914, Oakley was hired to head the Department of Illustration at the Philadelphia Museum's School of Industrial Art, now the Philadelphia College of Art. He taught at the school until 1936.

Oakley illustrated numerous books and magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, Collier's Weekly, and Everybody's Magazine. Known for paintings of industrial America, his work is found in the collections of numerous institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, New York Public Library, and the British Museum.

Among Oakley's well-known works are six 12-foot murals which he painted for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. During World War II, the National Geographic Society commissioned 48 paintings of war plants and related topics.


Falk, Peter Hastings (ed.). Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985.

Pitz, Henry C. Howard Pyle: Writer, Illustrator, Founder of the Brandywine School. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1975.

Woodmere Gallery. Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Thornton Oakley.

Scope and Content Note

The Thonton Oakley diary collection consists of thirty-five miniature diaries and one small notebook. The diaries span 1908, and 1930 through 1953. The single notebook is from a 1919 trip to France and appears to contain ideas for paintings or illustrations, perhaps for a travel book.

As much datebooks as diaries, the little books contain brief notes of dinner engagements, many with notable Philadelphians, theatee performances, meetings, exhibits, and some world events such as the passage of American women’s suffrage in 1919 and the declaration of war in Europe in 1939. In addition to recording events, the diaries contain brief personal reactions to events such as the election of American presidents Harding and Roosevelt.

Personal occasions are marked, including Amy Ewing’s acceptance of Oakley’s marriage proposal, family illnesses, accidents, and trips. Entries of trips to New York City include lists of magazine publishers visited by Oakley. He also noted successful sales, for instance, in the summer of 1920, Oakley sold prints to the California State Library, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Library of Congress, among many others.

The diaries are arranged chronologically.

Related Collections:

MS 192 Frank E. Schoonover - Thornton Oakley Correspondence Related to Howard Pyle

MS 233 Howard Pyle Correspondence

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1 F1 1908 F2 1920 F3 1921 F4 1922 F5 1923 F6 1924 F7 1925 F8 1926 F9 1927 F10 1928 F11 1929 F12 1930 F13 1931 F14 1932 F15 1933 F16 1934 F17 1935 F18 1936 F19 1937 F20 1938 F22 1940 F23 1941 F24 1942 F25 1943 F26 1944 F27 1945
2 F28 1946 F29 1947 F30 1948 F31 1949 F32 1950 F33 1951 F34 1952 F35 1953 F36 Notebook, 1919

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