Virginia Historical Society
Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Houston Family Papers, 1850-1943
Mss1 H8185 a FA2
Description & Guide
Main Entry: Houston family. Title: Papers, 1850-1943. Size: ca. 1,700 items (13 manuscript boxes). Biographical Note: The Houston family papers (Mss1H8185aFA2), the Goodman family papers (Mss1G6245aFA2) and the paper of Adèle Clark (Mss1C5472aFA2) came to the Virginia Historical Society in 1979 from the same source, the home of Adèle Clark. Researchers should understand the interrelationship of these collections and are advised to consult all three descriptions before requesting materials. The Houston family papers begin with letters written by Matthew Hale Houston (1807?-1877), a Wheeling, Va. doctor who later served in Lynchburg as a surgeon for the Confederate States army. Most of these were written between 1850-1853 to his second wife, Eleanora (Gibson) Houston, and his sister, Mary Houston. A few Civil War letters to his wife are also included. The papers of Eleanora (Gibson) Houston (1833?-1901) consist of only two letters received by her. Summary: Chiefly papers of Nora Houston (1883-1942), daughter of Henry Gibson Houston (1855-1885) and Josephine Estelle (Dooley) Houston (1858-1946). A Richmond native, Houston studied art in New York City and abroad. She returned to Richmond in 1911 and became involved in the Art Club, the Virginia League of Fine Arts and Handicrafts, the Richmond Academy of Arts, the Southern States Art League, the Academy of Sciences and Fine Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the WPA Virginia Arts Program. In many of these organizations she worked with friend Adèle Clark, and with Clark was involved in the women's suffrage movement and state Democratic politics. She was also president of the Catholic Woman's Club. Also represented in the collection are Nora's mother, Josephine E. (Dooley) Houston, including materials concerning the estate "Swannanoa," which she and her sisters inherited from their brother, James Henry Dooley, with lesser amounts of material relating to other members of the Dooley and Houston families, including Wheeling, W. Va., physician Matthew Hale Houston (1807?-1877), chiefly correspondence with his wife; Richmond, Va., physician Henry Gibson Houston (1855-1885), particularly a diary, 1876-1877, kept in California and Arizona; Mary Helen (Dooley) Jones (1839-1921); and Alice Erina Dooley (1845-1937). Provenance: Gift of Adèle Clark in 1979. Accessioned 7 July 1986. Restrictions: None.
Series I. Matthew Hale Houston (1807?-1877), Wheeling, Va. (W. Va.)
Box 1: correspondence, 1850-1876
Series II. Eleanora (Gibson) Houston (1833?-1901), Wheeling, Va. (W. Va.)
Box 1: correspondence, 1885
Series III. Henry Gibson Houston (1855-1885), Richmond, Va.
Dr. Henry Gibson Houston (1855-1885), oldest son of Matthew Hale Houston and Eleanora (Gibson) Houston, established his practice in Richmond, Va. His only contribution to the collection is a diary kept in California and Arizona from 1876 to 1877. In June, 1883, he married Josephine Estelle Dooley, daughter of John and Sarah Dooley and sister of Richmond entrepreneur James Henry Dooley.
Box 1: diary, 1876-1877
Series IV. Josephine Estelle (Dooley) Houston (1857-1946), Richmond, Va.
Josephine Estelle (Dooley) Houston (1857-1946) was active in Richmond’s art community, the women’s suffrage movement, and the affairs of St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Her papers begin with an undated memoranda book. General correspondence includes letters with her daughter, Nora Houston, and artists Helen Louise Lorraine and Edith Anne Pemberton Ragland, as well as various family members. One letter from Nora Houston describes the 1924 Democratic National Convention in New York City. A letter from Sister Mary Bernardine Verleysen of the Monte Maria Monastery of the Visitation in Richmond expresses sympathy at the death of Sister Mary Magdalen Dooley, JEDH’s sister, and recounts her life and accomplishments as superioress at the convent. Institutional correspondence, which consists largely of letters from Catholic charities and benevolent societies, and accounts, which are arranged chronologically, follow.
Box 2: memoranda book; general correspondence, 1904-1943 Box 3: correspondence with institutions, 1926-1942 Box 4: loose accounts, 1907-1943 Box 5: bank accounts, 1926-1943; financial records, 1923-1943 Box 6: land records, 1926-1942; trip to Ireland, 1927, miscellany
Series V. Mary Helen (Dooley) Jones (1839-1921), Richmond, VA.
Box 7: correspondence, 1910-1917; miscellany
Series VI. Alice Erina Dooley (1845-1937), Richmond, Va.
Financial records consist of trust and note materials, tax forms, and correspondence concerning the estate of Alice E. Dooley. With the death of James H. Dooley’s widow, Sallie (May) Dooley, in 1925, “Swannanoa,” the couple’s summer home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, passed into the hands of Major Dooley’s sisters. Materials relating to “Swannanoa” concern attempts to dispose of the estate and include correspondence, agreements, deeds of trust and insurance policies. A second folder of land records pertains to the sale and rental of property in Richmond and mostly consists of correspondence with real estate agent R. B. Chaffin & Co. JEDH’s papers conclude with itineraries and travel information documenting a family trip to Ireland in 1927, and miscellany.
Box 7: correspondence, 1910-1936; accounts, 1911-1937; financial records, 1924-1937; miscellany
Series VII. Nora Houston (1883-1942), Richmond, Va.
Nora Houston (1883-1942), daughter of Henry Gibson Houston and Josephine Estelle (Dooley) Houston, is the major figure in this collection. Although she occasionally used two other names, Eleanora Claire Houston and Eleanora Gibson Houston, she was widely recognized by her professional name. Born in Richmond, Nora Houston studied art with Lily Logan before traveling to New York City in 1905 to attend the Chase School of Art. In 911, after studying painting abroad for several years, she returned to Richmond to teach at the Art Club. At this time she and fellow artist and instructor Adèle Clark became involved in the women’s suffrage movement. With the collapse of the Art Club in 1917, the two established an independent studio which they shared until Houston’s death in 1942.
Nora Houston’s papers begin with a memoranda book and a section of general correspondence. This correspondence consists mostly of letters from friends and family members, but also includes a few letters concerning her art and political activities as well. Among the more noteworthy correspondents are: Edmund Minor Archer, James Henry Dooley, Helen Louise Lorraine, George Walter Mapp, Kenneth Hays Miller, Elizabeth Nourse, Theresa Pollak, James Hubert Price, Mary Wingfield Scott, Duncan Smith, and Elbert Lee Trinkle. Institutional correspondence, accounts, and financial records follow. The latter contains correspondence concerning the state’s attempt to establish a right of way through “Swannanoa.”
In 1919, Nora Houston and Adèle Clark founded the Virginia League of Fine Arts Handicrafts in an attempt to revive the Chevalier Quesnay de Beaurepaire’s Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts. Included in this material is correspondence with John Barton Payne relating to an exhibition of paintings from his collection at the Confederate Memorial Institute in 1921. Folders concerning the Richmond Academy of Arts, the Southern States Art League, the Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts follow. Virginia Museum materials mainly concern the purchase and presentation of a painting by Richmond artist George Watson James.
In 1937, Nora Houston was employed by the Works Progress Administration’s Virginia Arts Program as supervisor of the production of works of art. In this capacity, she directed all easel painting for the WPA in the state. WPA materials pertain to assignments in Lynchburg, Norfolk, and Big Stone Gap. The final two folders in box 11 concern the Studio Guild, a New York firm that served as both a gallery and agent for its artist members. As a member, Nora Houston rented the galleries for exhibitions of her works.
The first folder in box 12 contains correspondence, announcements, lists of paintings, notes on arrangement and clippings for exhibitions in which Nora Houston entered her work. These are arranged chronologically by exhibition with a complete listing of these in the guide that follows this description. A second folder contains miscellaneous exhibition lists, packing and shipping invoices, and exhibition labels. A series of loose sketches precedes a section of art miscellany, which includes biographical resumes, notes on paintings, miscellaneous exhibition invitations and announcements, and clippings.
Although Nora Houston was prominent in the women’s suffrage movement, state Democratic politics, child labor reform, and efforts to improve race relations, this collection contains little about her political activities. Materials concerning Houston’s role as finance chairman of the Virginia League of Women Voters include correspondence with league officers and a copy of a 1926 loan agreement between the league and Nora Houston’s mother and aunt. This is followed by a folder containing papers, including the articles of association, of the Young Democrats of Virginia, an organization founded in 1921 to promote progressive reforms within the party. A folder-by-folder listing of other materials in this section is located in the guide that follows this description.
Correspondence with various Catholic Church-related organizations and materials of the Catholic Woman’s Club, of which Nora Houston was president, precede a section of general miscellany and conclude Nora Houston’s papers.
Box 8: memoranda book, 1909; general correspondence, 1907-1941 Box 9: correspondence with institutions, 1917-1941 Box 10: loose accounts, 1907-1942; bank accounts, 1916-1942; financial records, 1922-1942 Box 11: art organizations and associations:
Virginia League of Fine Arts and Handicrafts, 1920-1922, 1934
Richmond Academy of Arts, 1931-1935
Southern States Art League (New Orleans), 1933-1940
Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts, 1934-1941
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1936-1941
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, presentation of painting by G. Watson James, 1937
Work projects administration, 1937-1941
Studio Guild (New York), 1936-1939
Box 12: individual art exhibitions, 1935-1941
U. S. Department of Treasury (Art in Federal Buildings), 1935-1940
Anderson Galleries, 1936
National Exhibition of American Art, 1936
Catholic Art Exhibit, 1936-1937
Whitney Museum, 1937
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Dedication of Mary Frances), 1937
Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1940
National Art Week, 1941
Corcoran Gallery, 1941
individual art exhibitions: miscellaneous
invitation lists, packing and shipping invoices, exhibition tags, 1926-1941; sketches; art miscellany
Box 13: political organizations and associations:
Suffrage and Virginia League of Women Voters, 1916-1938
Young Democrats of Virginia, 1921
National Democratic Convention, 1924
Governor’s Conference on Childhood and Youth in Virginia, 1931
Virginia Institute of Public Affairs, 1931-1935
Negro Welfare Council, 1932
Southern Conference on Labor Legislation and Economic Security, 1935
Catholic Church, 1926-1941; miscellany
Series VIII. Family Miscellany
A section of miscellaneous family correspondence contains a letter from James H. Dooley to his great-nephew, Philip Keiley. Among the genealogical notes is a small chart of the Dooley lineage. The final items in the collection are two sketches, one unidentified, the other drawn by Richmond artist Alicia Henning Laird.
Box 13: miscellaneous correspondence; genealogical notes; sketches