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Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1952-2011, undated

Identifier: MSS 871

Scope and Contents

The Chester and Davida Herwitz collection consists of artist files, correspondence, subject files, photographs, slides, recordings, films, and records of the Herwitzes’ collecting activities. Some of the material was rearranged after the collection was donated, but before processing, so the original order of the Herwitz's may not be reflected in the current arrangement. Additionally, some notes and labels on photographs appear to have been added after the collection was donated. This collection has been divided into six series.

SERIES I. Artists Files consists of information about dozens of Indian artists that the Herwitzes collected or were interested in. The series includes art work, biographies, correspondence, exhibition catalogs and other materials, notes, press about the artist or an exhibit, photographs, posters, sketches, slides, and other photographic material. It has been organized into two subseries. Subseries A. Maqbool Fida Husain (1915-2011) contains material about and from the Indian artist, M. F. Husain. Subseries B. Other Artists contains material about other Indian artists that the Herwitzes were interested in arranged alphabetically.

SERIES II. Exhibitions Featuring Works from the Herwitz Collection contains correspondence, exhibition catalogs, press, and other material from exhibitions featuring works from the Herwitz collection in the 1980s and 1990s.

SERIES III. Subject Files consists of articles from newspapers and magazines about contemporary Indian art and other topics of interest to the Herwitzes. It includes a folder of articles about the Herwitzes as collectors.

SERIES IV. Chester Herwitz Lecture Notes consists of handwritten notes for lectures or talks Chester gave. It includes notes for a toast Chester gave at his son, Daniel’s, wedding and a list of purchases made in India.

SERIES V. Photographs contains photographs of the Herwitzes’ travel in India, Europe, and other places, artwork and jewelry owned by them and by others, Indian artists, the Herwitzes’ home and barn, Davey’s showroom, their children, and more. There are hundreds of photographic slides of the Herwitzes’ travel and art; these have been left in the order they were in at the time of processing. Most of the Herwitz travel slides in binders one to eight were digitized in 2020; a detailed contents list for six of these binders can be found in Appendix I. Please contact for access to these slides.

SERIES VI. Other contains audio recordings and film reels, only some of which are identified. This series also contains transcripts of interviews, presumably an interview from one of the recordings, and some notebooks about the interviews.


  • Creation: 1952-2011, undated


Language of Materials

These materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. The recordings and reels in series VI. are restricted due to format.

Biographical / Historical

Chester E. Herwitz, son of Harry Myer Herwitz and Sarah Shapiro, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1927. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in New York. In 1946, he enlisted and served in the United States Army. In 1952, he married Davida Lee Sheffer. Chester founded Davey’s Handbags, Saddlemaker Manufacturing Corporation, and Cottage Tailor, women’s sportswear and accessory manufacturers. He served on the boards of several Massachusetts charitable and social service agencies. He first visited India with his wife in 1961, and they returned often. In the mid-1960s, they began buying paintings by M. F. Husain (1915-2011), who introduced them to other artists. Their varied collection grew to include 3,000 works.

Davida Lee Sheffer, daughter of Dr. Maurice Sheffer and Beatrice Cohen, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1930. She graduated from Simmons College in Boston. Chester and Davida had three sons, Daniel Alan (born 1955), Thomas R. (born 1957), and Peter (born 1959).

In 1994, the Herwitzes established the Chester and Davida Herwitz Charitable Trust to support Indian art in the United States. In 1997, a former President of India, Ramaswamy Venkataraman, presented Chester with an Indo-American Society award. Chester died in 1999, and Davida died in 2002.


23.17 Linear Feet (71 boxes, 16 flat files)


The Chester and Davida Herwitz collection consists of artist files, correspondence, subject files, photographs, slides, recordings, films, and records of the Herwitzes’ collecting activities.

Series List

I. Artists' Files

A. Maqbool Fida Husain (1915-2011)

  1. Correspondence
  2. Exhibition Material
  3. Press
  4. Artwork
  5. Photographs

B. Other Artists

II. Exhibitions Featuring Works from the Herwitz Collection

III. Subject Files

IV. Chester Herwitz Lecture Notes

V. Photographs

VI. Other

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks

Custodial History

Acquired by the Peabody Essex Museum.


This material was donated by the estate of Chester and Davida Herwitz in 2002.

Bibliography and Related Collections U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2005.

The South Asian Art department of the Peabody Essex Museum owns many paintings and other works by contemporary Indian artists donated by the Herwitzes.

Processing Information

All material was re-housed in acid free folders and boxes; staples were replaced with plastic clips; newspaper articles were copied onto acid-free papers; and photographs and negatives were re-housed in plastic sleeves.


Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection
Tamara Gaydos, January 2020; Hilary Streifer, April 2022
January 2020
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA