Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org
Harry Twyford Peters was born in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1881, and entered the coal business after graduating from Columbia College in 1903. He worked at Williams and Peters, his father’s firm, later becoming a partner and its president. Peters inherited $500,000 dollars upon the death of his father in 1921–the equivalent of over $6 million dollars by today’s standard–making him a very wealthy man. This fortune allowed Peters the leisure time to pursue personal and scholarly interests, in addition to his professional activities.
Peters was an avid collector of American prints and a leading authority on Currier & Ives, a prolific American printmaking firm that was founded by Nathaniel Currier in 1934 in New York City, with James Merrit Ives joining as a partner in 1857. Peters is credited with recognizing the historic and artistic value of American lithographs during an era when they had fallen out of favor, and generating a new wave of interest by collectors and the public.
Peters is the author of Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People (Doubleday, 1929), a “Chronicle of the Firm, and of the Artists and their Work, with Notes on Collecting,” with reproductions of select works. The two volume set is the accepted catalog raisonné of the firm’s work.
Peters’s estate donated nearly 2,300 Currier & Ives prints to the Museum in the early 1950s. The Museum also holds a manuscript collection related to Peters’s life, work, and interests, which is believed to have been donated by his heirs around the same time. The Museum recently completed archival processing of the Peters papers thanks to the generous support of the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.
As Processing Archivist Annie Tummino worked her way through the Peters papers, we discovered that in addition to his interest in American lithography, Peters was an avid sportsman, with a passion for hunting, horses, and dogs.
In processing the Peters papers, we found it was often difficult to draw a line between Peters’s work as a scholar and collector of lithography, and his personal interests and hobbies. Two such examples include a lecture titled “Sport in Art through the Ages,” and his text Just Hunting.
Peters did finish a book titled Just Hunting, which was published in 1935 by Scribner’s (New York), and provides personal and historical perspectives on the subject. The book was illustrated by amateur artist and Long Island resident Betty Babcock. Ernest R. Gee later published Babcock’s Illustrated Hunting Diary, Recording the Sport of the Season for the Followers of the Meadow Brook Hounds (circa 1945).
Peters described Just Hunting as “the random findings of an American business man who would that he could have been born a sportsman.” Luckily for Peters, he seems to have had adequate time away from his business to pursue the sporting life he so desired.