University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Frank E. Schoonover -
Thornton Oakley
related to Howard Pyle

1912 - 1953


Manuscript Collection Number: 192
Accessioned: Purchase, 1987
Extent: 29 items
Content: Correspondence, catalogs, broadsides, bookplates, photographs, and newspaper clippings.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Sally W. Donatello, June 2001

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

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

American artist Howard Pyle (1853-1911), who founded the Brandywine School of Art, was one of the pre-eminent illustrators of his time. He also maintained a successful painting and teaching career. Pyle taught at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, at the Art Institute in Chicago, and at the Art Student League in New York. In 1898 with financial backing from Drexel Institute, Pyle founded a summer art school at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania; the summer school proved successful and continued until 1903. In 1900 Pyle resigned his position at Drexel and founded the Howard Pyle School of Art in Wilmington. After his death many of his students worked tirelessly to collect much of his work into a repository, which ultimately became the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware.

Pyle's students were some of the most renowned American artists of the golden age of American illustration. Stanley Arthurs, Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliott, Gayle Hoskins, William H.D. Koerner, Thornton Oakley, Violet Oakley, Katharine Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Henry J. Peck, Frank Schoonover, and Jessie Wilcox Smith were among the cadre of his famous students who created images that became part of the popular culture of the early twentieth century.

Four of these students are represented in this collection. The material documents their allegiance to Pyle and their continuous respect for him as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Thornton Oakley (1881-1953) was an illustrator who studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and illustration with Howard Pyle. 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, where he taught until 1936. He illustrated numerous books and magazines, including Harper's, Century Magazine, Collier's Weekly, and Scribner's Monthly. National Geographic published forty-eight of his paintings for the series "American Industries Geared for War," 1942, 1943, and 1945.

Violet Oakley (1874-1961) was one of the most-recognized women muralist of the twentieth century. Oakley studied in England and France. She also studied with Cecilia Beaux at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and with Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute. In 1905 after the completion of murals for the Pennsylvania state capitol, her artistic abilities were quickly noticed. Subsequently she became nationally famous as a muralist.

Henry J. Peck (1880-1964) studied at the Rhode Island School of Design prior to becoming one of Howard Pyle's students. Peck combined his art and writing in articles published in many of the well-read magazines of the early twentieth century such as The Saturday Evening Post, Harper's Weekly, Outing, Redbook, and Collier's.

Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972) studied with Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute and his art school in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Schoonover, who was self-taught, was Pyle's friend as well as his student. In his early career as an illustrator he produced work for the classics, children's books, and popular magazines. In 1899 Schoonover moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where he lived and worked the rest of his life. He had a ferocious appetite for documentation of the great outdoors and the North American frontier: cowboys, Native Americans, and Canadian trappers. Schoonover worked in different media and was an avid photographer. By the 1930s, like many of the illustrators, he had moved to easel painting and producing murals.


Reed, Walt and Roger. The Illustrator in America, 1880 - 1980. New York: Madison Square Press, 1984

Scope and Content Note

The Frank E. Schoonover-Thornton Oakley Correspondence Related to Howard Pyle consists of correspondence, catalogs, broadsides, bookplates, photographs, and newspaper clippings. The bulk of this small collection, which spans the dates 1912 - 1953, contains correspondence between Oakley and Schoonover. There are numerous catalogs that document historical events that honored Pyle and his art. The significance of the collection is its record of Pyle's students and their efforts to commemorate him, which was referred to as "Howard Pyleana" (F4).

The collection consists of nine folders. The first seven folders are arranged chronologically, and contain the materials that relate to Oakley and Schoonover. The two remaining folders are valuable sources about Howard Pyle and his studio in Wilmington, Delaware.

Six letters between Thornton Oakley and Frank E. Schoonover, dated 1916 - 1931, are included in the collection. The subjects of this correspondence range from costumes for paintings, exhibitions, a celebration of the Sesquicentennial, and the Franklin Inn Club, to teaching (F1).

There is one letter, dated October 22, 1920, written by Thornton Oakley to Violet Oakley. The letter is a proclamation of his friendship with her. He is also delighted to receive her gift of "the Parrot" (a painting) (F2).

An undated letter written to Schoonover by Thornton Oakley comments about the March 5, 1935 event, which was a commemorative celebration of Pyle's 82nd birthday. A program of the evening's events is included. This eight-page booklet has a list of Pyle's students (F3).

On November 8, 1951, the Free Library of Philadelphia and Thornton Oakley honored Howard Pyle with an exhibition of his works. Oakley donated his collection-drawings, paintings, and books-of Pyle's works to the institution. Folder 4 includes a broadside, two invitations, and an envelope (addressed to Amy Oakley); a sixteen-page booklet with an address by Oakley; and an acceptance speech by Joseph Carson, president of the Board of Trustees of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

On March 5, 1953 the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts and the Delaware Art Center (Delaware Art Museum) held a one-hundredth-anniversary celebration of the birth of Howard Pyle. Thornton Oakley, who had initiated other Pyleana tributes, played a key role in organizing this event. The eight-page booklet outlined the purpose of the celebration with an essay about Pyle, the evening's program, special guests, and the Committee for the Celebration. There is also a letter and envelope from Gertrude Brinkle, who was the executive secretary for the Historical Society of Delaware and who had been Pyle's secretary, to Thornton Oakley with comments about the celebration and a newspaper clipping that explained a gift of letters from Mrs. John W. Arthurs to the Historical Society of Delaware. This correspondence was between Stanley M. Arthurs (another one of Pyle's students who gained national and regional notoriety as an illustrator and painter) and Pyle (F5).

Thornton Oakley died in the beginning of April 1953. There is a fragment of a letter from Oakley where he discussed his ill health; a handwritten notation on the bottom of the letter is dated March 24, 1953. Thornton's obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer is included. There is also a letter, dated April 12, 1953, from Henry J. Peck, another of Pyle's students, to Schoonover, in which he discussed his reaction to Oakley's death (F6).

The final items are related directly to Pyle's estate and his studio. There is a 1912 twenty-eight-page catalog of the executrix sale from the estate of Howard Pyle. The catalog lists the five hundred and fifty-two items that were sold at the Philadelphia Art Galleries. There are some notations in pencil near some of the items (F7). Also included in the collection is a black-and-white photograph of Pyle's studio in Wilmington, dated 1925. The photograph was taken by O (?) Franklin at the time that Stanley Arthurs lived there (F8). .

Related Collections:

Ms 120 Katharine Pyle papers

Ms 233 Howard Pyle correspondence

Ms 278 Thornton Oakley diaries

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F1   Correspondence between Oakley and Schoonover, 1916-1931 (6

     Schoonover to Oakley, 1916 March 31
     TL (carbon)

     Oakley to Schoonover, n.d.
     Oakley’s address printed at the top: 905 Clinton Street

     Oakley to Schoonover, 1925 November 12
     Oakley’s address is 905 Clinton Street, Philadelphia.

     Schoonover to Oakley, 1926 March 13
     TL (carbon)

     Oakley to Schoonover, 1931 March 19
     Oakley’s address: Villa Nova, Pennsylvania

     Oakley to Schoonover, 1931 April 28
     Letterhead from Grand Hotel du Nord Pinus, Arles, Provence,

F2   Oakley to Violet Oakley, 1920 October 22 (1 item)

F3   Commemoration of Howard Pyle’s 82nd Birthday, 1953 March 5
     (3 items)

     Oakley to Schoonover, n.d. [prior to March 5, 1953]
     Oakley’s address: Villa Nova, Pennsylvania

     “Howard Pyle, 1853-1953,” 1935 March 5
     Program, 8 pp
     For the commemorative dinner to celebrate Howard Pyle’s 82nd
     birthday Hotel DuPont, Wilmington, Delaware

     Schoonover to Oakley, 1935 March 1
     ALS (photocopy from The Free Library of Philadelphia)

F4   The Free Library of Philadelphia, 1951-1953 (8 items)
     The Thornton Oakley Collection of works by Howard Pyle with
     five originals; also included are 4 photocopies of
     correspondence between Schoonover and Oakley, which relates
     to the 1951 event, and are housed at The Free Library of

     Howard Pyle, His Art and Personality: An Address given on
     November 8, 1951 At The Free Library of Philadelphia, by
     Thornton Oakley; with an introduction by Joseph Carson,
     President, Board of Trustees.  [Philadelphia: The Free
     Library of Philadelphia, 1951].
     Pamphlet, 16 pp; signed by Thorton Oakley.

     Bookplates (2 items)
     “The Thornton Oakley Collection of works by Howard Pyle, The
     Free Library of Philadelphia”

     Broadside, [1951] November 8 to December 10
     “Exhibition of Drawings, Paintings and Books by Howard Pyle
     / together with works by his students / Captain Kidd’s
     Treasure Chest found by HP in Jamaica / Collection presented
     to the Free Library by Thorton Oakley”

     Envelope, n.d.
     “For Amy Oakley”

     Schoonover to Oakley, 1951 October 29
     ALS (photocopy)

     Schoonover to Oakley, 1953 January 27
     ALS (photocopy), 2 pp

     Oakley to Schoonover, 1953 March 14
     ALS (photocopy) and envelope

F5   One Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Howard Pyle, 1953
     March 5 (6 items)

     “Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Howard
     Program, 8 pp
     Held at the Delaware Art Center (Delaware Art Museum)

     Gertrude Brinkle to Thornton Oakley, 1953 April 1
     TLS with envelope, 2 pp
F5   One Hundredth Anniversary (cont’d)
     Newspaper clipping, 1953 March 20
     “Howard Pyle Letters Given Delaware Historical Society”
     Wilmington Morning News

     Oakley to Schoonover, [1953] March 24
     ALS (photocopy)

     Schoonover to Oakley, 1953 March 26
     ALS (photocopy from The Free Library of Philadelphia)

F6   Thornton Oakley’s death, 1953 (4 items)

     Written by Oakley, [1953] 24 March
     AL (Fragment of letter) 1 p

     Oakley’s obituary, 1953 April 5
     Philadelphia Inquirer

     Henry J. Peck to Schoonover, 1953 April12
     ALS with envelope, 2 pp
     Peck’s reaction to Oakley’s death

F7   Catalog, 1912
     Executrix Sale, the estate of Howard Pyle, The Philadelphia
     Art Galleries

F8   Photograph, 1925
     “Howard Pyle’s studio—Wilmington, Del. 1925/ photo by O.
     Franklin/ Stanley Arthurs lived there then”

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