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John Ferguson Weir papers

Call Number: MS 550

Scope and Contents

The John Ferguson Weir Papers contain many letters from persons prominent in the art world from the 1870s to the 1920s and a wealth of information about Weir's own life and beliefs. There is also material on the origin and development of art education in the United States and at Yale. Researchers interested in this aspect of the Weir Papers should also consult the Archives of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, located in Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.


The CORRESPONDENCE series contains both Weir's personal and professional correspondence. He was familiar with most of the prominent artists and architects of his time, and as Director of the School of the Fine Arts, he frequently invited famous artists to lecture at Yale. This correspondence tends to be brief and businesslike. Some of the personal correspondence, however, is more expansive. Among the correspondents are: John W. Alexander (15 items), Charles Henry Caffin (11 items), John Merven Carrere (9 items), Kenyon Cox (10 items), Frank Miles Day (6 items), Sanford Robinson Gifford (26 items), William Henry Goodyear (14 items), James Mason Hoppin (14 items), Jervis McEntee (3 items), Donald Grant Mitchell (9 items), Frederic Remington (4 items), Paul Sabatier (1 item), Truman Seymour (8 items), Launt Thompson (3 items), and Peter Bonnett Wight (3 items). Filed at the end of this section are two folders of Mrs. Mary French Weir's correspondence and a folder of letters of Weir's daughter, Edith Weir Perry.

The second series, ADDRESSES AND WRITINGS, contains articles, lectures, and speeches by Weir. Included is a copy of Weir's partially completed memoirs. Some of the addresses and writings are in manuscript form; others have been printed.

The third series, PAPERS, PLANS, AND NOTES RE: YALE SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS, contains material relating to Weir's activities as Director of the School. This includes notes on the founding and organization of the School and on the development of the curriculum. There is also material on School finances, scholarships, and the like. Most of this material consists of notes or drafts of proposals in Weir's own hand. Also filed in this section are exhibition programs and lecture syllabi from the Yale School of the Fine Arts.

The fourth series, PERSONAL PAPERS AND MEMORABILIA, contains a wide variety of material relating to Weir's personal life, including several diaries and sketchbooks. In addition there are newspaper clippings collected by Weir, including reviews of his own books. There are also numerous photographs of Weir and his family and a folder of notes and writings by Mary French Weir.

Note: Additional Weir papers are in the possession of Rev. DeWolf Perry of Princeton, Massachusetts.


  • 1838-1957
  • Majority of material found within 1861 - 1928


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. James DeWolf Perry, 1939; gift of DeWolf Perry, 1977; transferred from departmental publications, 2002.


Arranged in five series and two additions: I. Correspondence. II. Addresses and Writings. III. Papers, Plans, and Notes: Yale School of the Fine Arts. IV. Personal Papers and Memorabilia. V. Bicentennial Art Exhibition.


12 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, addresses and writings, papers relating to the Yale School of the Fine Arts, and other papers of John F. Weir, artist, painter and first director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts, serving from 1869-1913. Correspondents include many persons prominent in the art world between 1870 and 1920. There is also much material on the origins and development of art education in this country and at Yale.

Biographical / Historical

John Ferguson Weir was born at West Point, New York in 1841. The son of the well-known artist Robert Walter Weir, he achieved fame as a painter early, and in 1869 was appointed the first Director of the new Yale School of the Fine Arts. Starting with little more than a new building and a slim endowment, Weir developed the School into a highly respected and well-known institution.

In many ways, the Yale School of the Fine Arts was a pioneer. It was the first American art school connected with an institution of higher learning. It was the first School at Yale to admit women. And Weir and Yale were prominent in efforts to establish courses in the art and science of architecture.

Although his duties as Director of the Yale School of the Fine Arts occupied much of his time, Weir continued to paint throughout his life. He also lectured on art and related subjects and published many articles in both scholarly and popular journals. A deeply religious man, Weir wrote three books on religion and mysticism. After guiding the Art School for forty-four years, Weir retired in 1913. He died thirteen years later in his 85th year.

Guide to the John Ferguson Weir Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Andrew Patterson
July 1973
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
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