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David Bunnell Olmstead Literary Portraits

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 9 Jan 2017

Biographical History

According to Olmstead's obituary, which is pasted inside the front cover of Volume 1, Index to Portraits, David Bunnell Olmstead was "a man of fine literary and artistics tastes...counting among his friends many of the well known artists of the last century." He worked for a time as a silverware designer for the Gorham company.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The David Bunnell Olmstead Literary Portraits consists of eight very large scrapbooks containing information on various notable writers -- novelists, poets, artists, physicians, politicians, jurists, theologians, professors, etc. -- and a separate index volume.

Beginning with Volume 2, the pages are numbered consecutively across all volumes, as shown in the inventory below. Volume 1, Index to Portraits, lists names of individuals and the page(s) on which they appear. The names are grouped by letter, but within each letter they are not in alphabetical order, so locating a given name requires some effort. In addition, Olmstead's handwriting is occasionally difficult to read.

The remaining volumes contain printed items such as portraits, brief biographies, book frontispieces, catalog listings, obituaries, articles, clippings, reproduced photographs, pictures of graves, monuments, homes, and birthplaces. To the printed items, which were clipped and pasted in, Olmstead then added handwritten notes, banners, decorative borders, and flourishes. These notes include birth and death dates and locations, brief descriptions (e.g., "Author" or "Physician"), captions, partial bibliographies, and so on. While many of the subjects of these literary portraits are well known, others are no longer as recognizable as they were during Olmstead's lifetime. Taken as a whole, the collection is a selection of portraits and biographies of individuals considered important by Olmstead and others in his social circle. The majority are men but there are also quite a number of women, particularly in Volume 11.

Volumes 7 and 8 are not present in the collection. In the list pasted inside the front cover of Volume 1, Vol. 7 is listed as "wanting" -- evidently it was not part of the original donation. Volume 8 cannot be located as of January 2017. It is also not included in the sequential listing of items prepared by Library staff (date unknown) so presumably has been missing for quite some time.

According to a typed note pasted inside the front cover of the Index, "Twenty-five years' leisure were devoted to this work...[and] over Twenty-three thousand nine hundred (23,900) hours were spent in making it correct and attractive." Although Olmstead created an index for this collection (see box 1) it is sometimes difficult to read and may not cover all the volumes. Scrapbook pages are numbered by Olmsted, and appear in the inventory below in that order.

Arrangement of the Collection

Scrapbooks are in original order.

Other Related Finding Aids

A sequential listing of all items in the scrapbooks, except for the missing volumes 7 and 8, was prepared at some point by Special Collections Research Center staff and is available in PDF format.


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


Olmstead, David Bunnell.


Authors -- Bio-bibliography.
Lawyers -- Bio-bibliography.
Legislators -- Bio-bibliography.
Physicians -- Bio-bibliography.
Poets -- Bio-bibliography.
Scientists -- Bio-bibliography.
Theologians -- Bio-bibliography.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Frontispieces (illustrations)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

David Bunnell Olmstead Literary Sketches,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Margaret Fletcher, 1932.

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