Scope and Contents
Includes minutes (1929-1942) and correspondence relating to membership, exhibits, lectures, the Benjamin West House, and artwork the Society collected. Also includes financial records (1931-1954) and correspondence relating to the February 10, 1975, Benjamin West Memorial Stamp Ceremony held at Swarthmore College.
Organized into six series:
- History and Organization
- Lectures, Exhibits, Prints
- Art Collections
All folders are organized chronologically, except for the two general correspondence files which are organized alphabetically.
Copyright and Rights Information
Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.
Biographical / Historical
Officially inaugurated on Founder's Day, October 24, 1931, the Benjamin West Society was an organization dedicated to promoting the arts at Swarthmore College. The society supported an annual lecture given at Swarthmore College on the arts and worked to acquire artwork for the College. The organization sponsored a variety of exhibits by contemporary artists as well as regular exhibitions on Commencement Day. In 1944 and 1945, the group organized art competitions for Swarthmore College students.
Originally, the Society also was focused on preserving the memory of the famous American artist, Benjamin West (1738-1820) whose traditional birthplace is on the campus of Swarthmore College. The group was successful in helping to renovate the Benjamin West House.
The group's activities were spearheaded by Frederic Newlin Price (1884-1963), a Quaker who graduated from Swarthmore in 1905 and was a successful New York City art dealer. His gallery, Feragil Galleries, featured American artists including Thomas Eakins, Edward Hicks, and the Ashcan School. Price served as the Society's director from its founding to its disbandment. For an annual membership dues of $5.00, members received an art print and were invited to the lectures and exhibits organized by the Society. The Society was a member of the American Federation of the Arts.
The Society's officers worked to acquire artwork, mostly paintings and drawings by Benjamin West. Originally, their intent was to exhibit this art at a museum on campus, possibly located in a renovated Benjamin West house, but eventually determined that the ideal place for exhibiting West's artwork was in various buildings on campus. By 1975, mostly due to the efforts of the Benjamin West Society, Swarthmore had ten paintings by West and two hundred of his drawings.
In a letter dated December 27, 1954, it was announced that Benjamin West Society as a dues-based society was discontinued, but that the Benjamin West Lectures would continue, supported by the income from a donation made by Frederic Newlin Price. Price was reluctant to see the end of the Society. but College administration wanted donations to be given directly to the College rather than diverted to departments or organizations within the structure of the College.