Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

Helen R. Durney Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: PRB
Date: Oct 1999

Biographical History

Artist and illustrator Helen Durney (?-1970) is best known for her illustrations of Harold and Helen (Aberson) Pearl's story "Dumbo the Flying Elephant." Sold to the Walt Disney Corporation in 1939, the story was first published by the Roll-A-Book Company of Syracuse, New York. Ms. Durney had worked for the Knopf Publishing Company in New York City for several years; at the time of the "Dumbo" illustrations she was employed by the Museum of Fine Art on James Street in Syracuse.

Like many artists of the 1930s, Durney also participated in government-funded art projects instituted during the Depression; under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) she painted two murals for the cafeteria of Percy Hughes School on Jamesville Avenue in Syracuse, showing figures with costumes of Holland and Italy. Her work is in several museums, among them the Delaware Art Museum.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1934 to 1942, the Helen R. Durney Papers comprises correspondence, artwork, writings, and memorabilia of the American illustrator. Correspondence consists of miscellaneous correspondence from 1939. Artwork contains Dumbo material as well as sketches for other projects including the Percy Hughes School murals. Writings contains articles, a list of illustrations and promotional ideas for "Dumbo," copies of Durney's column for Design Magazine, and a transcript of her radio program over station WFBL of Syracuse. Memorabilia contains galley proofs for two "Dumbo" books, including the original Roll-a-Book version, and one published copy of "Walt Disney's Dumbo of the Circus," along with articles, clippings, an exhibit catalog, and some artwork by others.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Artwork, Writings and Memorabilia are each arranged alphabetically by type.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Durney, Helen R.

Associated Titles

Dumbo, the flying elephant.


Illustration of books -- 20th century -- United States.
Illustrators -- United States.
Women artists -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Galley proofs.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Helen R. Durney Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Arlene Baird, 1999

Table of Contents