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Benjamin West Society Records

Identifier: SFHL-RG6-S002

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:

  1. History and Organization
  2. Lectures, Exhibits, Prints
  3. Financial
  4. Correspondence
  5. Art Collections
  6. Miscellaneous.

All folders are organized chronologically, except for the two general correspondence files which are organized alphabetically.


  • Creation: 1922-1975


Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Collection is open for research.

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.


2 Linear Feet (4 boxes)




Inaugurated October 24, 1931, the Benjamin West Society was dedicated to promoting the arts at Swarthmore College and to promoting the memory of painter Benjamin West (1738-1820) whose traditional birthplace is on the campus of Swarthmore College. The Society organized annual lectures on art and exhibits, and each year sent its members an art print. Its activities were lead by a small group of officers, particularly New York Quaker art dealer, Frederic Newlin Price, a Swarthmore College graduate. The organization was disbanded in 1954. The Benjamin West Memorial Lecture series was continued, supported by the income from a donation made by Price.

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Benjamin West Society

Related Materials

Drawings and paintings by Benjamin West, deposited in Friends Historical Library and Swarthmore College

Separated Materials

Japanese color prints "Illustrations to the epitome of the ancient history of Japan. . 1877."

Processing Information

The records were processed as organized by the Benjamin West Society. In 2003, they were rehoused and a new finding aid produced. In 2004, the collection was transferred from RG6/Q- Student Activities to RG 6/S-Affiliated organizations.

Benjamin West Society Records, 1922-1975
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Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting reproductions from Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

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Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA