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Samuel Chamberlain Papers, 1895-1989, undated

Identifier: MSS 369
Samuel V. Chamberlain Collection of Photographic Negatives
Samuel V. Chamberlain Collection of Photographic Negatives

Scope and Content Note

The Samuel Chamberlain papers contain the personal and business papers of Samuel and Narcissa Chamberlain as well as a large amount of research material on France and England and ephemera. It has been organized into four series.

Series I. Personal Papers is divided into five subseries, which are arranged chronologically. Subseries A. Early Years contains papers belonging to Chamberlain's mother, Cora Lee Chamberlain, including photographs of Chamberlain and his parents (1895-1897) and his mother's diary beginning with her pregnancy (1895-1899). Subseries B. Correspondence with Parents contains weekly letters from Chamberlain to his parents while he was at the University of Washington (1913-1914), at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1915-1917), during World War I (1917-1919), and immediately after the war. Subseries C. Correspondence with Wife, Narcissa (1922-1962) contains many letters written to his wife, Narcissa, when they were separated by travel or war. It also contains photographs and clippings. Subseries D. Correspondence with Daughters (1942-1957) contains letters to Narcisse and Stephanie. Subseries E. Other contains a scrapbook made by friends after a visit to California in 1971, his postcard collection (most are blank; many were received from others).

Series II. Business Papers is divided into five subseries. Subseries A. Publisher Correspondence (1936-1971) contains correspondence, contracts, press clippings, and photographs from Chamberlain's publisher, Walter Frese, at Hastings House. It is arranged chronologically. Subseries B. Book Contracts, Copyrights (1937-1979) contains correspondence, contracts, and copyright registrations for many books of Samuel Chamberlain, Narcissa G. Chamberlain, and Narcisse Chamberlain. It is arranged alphabetically. Subseries C. Personal Business Files (1896-1984) contains Chamberlain's home office files. They consist of personal correspondence, correspondence about his work, photographs, newspaper and magazine article clippings, and awards. It is arranged alphabetically, as Chamberlain had arranged it in his office. Subseries D. Index to Print Subjects contains a typed index to the subjects which Chamberlain etched. Subseries E. Photograph Albums consists of pages from large format photo albums which contain photographs Chamberlain took in Europe while in the military.

Series III. Publications (1939-1983) contains files on many of Sam and Narcissa Chamberlain's published books and articles. For Bouquet de France and British Bouquet, there is a folder on each region of the country containing research notes, menus, drafts, photographs, correspondence, and often the Gourmet Magazine issue in which the article appeared. There are numerous photographs for the calendars that he published in the 1960s and 1970s. There are copies of Gourmet Magazine from the 1960s, but not every month is represented. It is divided into four series.

Series IV. Narcissa G. Chamberlain Papers (1919-1989) is divided into five series. Subseries A. Papers and Ephemera contains correspondence, photographs, and clippings from Narcissa's personal life as well as papers from a lawsuit she filed in 1979 regarding misuse of etched images of Yale University. It also contains many condolence letters to Narcissa, after Chamberlain's death. They are arranged alphabetically. Subseries B. Fundraising for Preservation of King Hooper Mansion contains letters, news clippings, and records of fundraising to save the King Hooper Mansion where the Marblehead Arts Association was eventually located. Subseries C. Recipes contains notebooks of recipes that Narcissa gathered and tried before publishing them in cookbooks. Subseries D. Photographs contains photographs and negatives of the Chamberlains from childhood through adulthood. They are arranged chronologically. Subseries E. The American Scene Records contains records of transactions created when Chamberlain marketed his postcards to various individuals and businesses in the late 1930s. The folders contain correspondence, order forms, and payment vouchers. They are arranged alphabetically as Narcissa originally kept them.


  • Creation: 1895-1989, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

Samuel Chamberlain was born in Iowa in 1895 and raised in Washington state. Chamberlain began his academic career at the University of Washington in 1913. In 1915 he enrolled in the architectural program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, but his education was interrupted by World War I. He joined the American Field Service and drove ambulances in France. In 1919, Chamberlain returned to the United States where he worked for various architectural firms and as a commercial artist. In 1922 he moved back to Paris for a few months and on the return voyage he met his future wife, Narcissa Gellatly (1899-1988). They wed in 1923 and had two daughters, Narcisse (1924-2008) and Stephanie (1931-1993). In the mid-1930s they settled in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He had a sister, Helen, who was called Betty.

During his career, Chamberlain worked for a number of publications such as Pencil Points, and published widely on subjects he encountered during his travels. He also wrote and/or illustrated nearly 100 books of architecture and interiors. Chamberlain taught graphic arts at MIT from 1934 until World War II. He worked as a reconnaissance photographer during that war. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Chamberlain broadened his focus to include cookbooks and fashion illustrations. The Chamberlains' love for Europe would lead to the publication of superb travel books on France, Italy, and England. He invented the week-by-week photographic engagement calendar in 1940.

During his lifetime Chamberlain was widely respected for his work as a printmaker, artist, photographer, and writer. He was a member of the esteemed National Academy of Design, the American Institute of Architects, and other prestigious societies in America and Europe. He received many awards and was a founding member of the Marblehead Arts Association. He died in Marblehead in 1975.

Narcissa Gellatly Chamberlain was born on December 21, 1899 in New York City, the daughter of William B. Gellatly and Narcissa Barton Gellatly and educated at Dana Hall School in Wellesley. She later studied at the École Cordon Bleu in Paris. After World War I, she served as a volunteer with the American Committee for Devastated France. After marrying Samuel Chamberlain in 1923, she studied painting in Paris and Boston. Narcissa painted throughout her life and exhibited at the Childs Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts. When Sam began making photographic books, she often traveled with him, doing research, caption writing, and the lighting for photographs of room interiors. For the Bouquet books she translated, tested, and adapted the recipes. She co-authored many of her husband's books. She is the author of Old Rooms for New Living (1954), Southern Interiors of Charleston, S.C. (1956), The Omelette Book (1956) and The Prints of Samuel Chamberlain (1984) and the editor of A Vintage Food Sampler. She was active in the Marblehead Historical Society and was one of a group who helped save the King Hooper Mansion as an historical site in the late 1930s. She died on July 2, 1988 in Beverly, Massachusetts.


52.75 Linear feet (89 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Samuel Chamberlain papers contain the personal and business papers of Samuel and Narcissa Chamberlain as well as a large amount of research material on France and England and ephemera.

Series List

SERIES I. Personal Papers

  • A. Early Years
  • B. Correspondence with Parents
  • C. Correspondence with Wife, Narcissa
  • D. Correspondence with Daughters
  • E. Other
SERIES II. Business Papers
  • A. Publisher Correspondence
  • B. Book Contracts, Copyrights
  • C. Personal Business Files
  • D. Index to Print Subjects
  • E. Photograph Albums
SERIES III. Publications
  • A. Bouquet De France
  • B. British Bouquet
  • C. Calendars
  • D. Other
SERIES IV. Narcissa G. Chamberlain Papers
  • A. Papers and Ephemera
  • B. Fundraising for Preservation of King Hooper Mansion
  • C. Recipes
  • D. Photographs
  • E. The American Scene Records

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


This material was donated by Narcisse Chamberlain in 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1991 (acc #87008, 88001, 88004, 88021, 89016, 89049, and 91026).



Chamberlain, Narcissa Gellatly and Kingsland, Jane Field, The Prints of Samuel Chamberlain N.A.; Drypoints, Etchings, Lithographs, Boston, Boston Public Library, 1984.

Chamberlain, Samuel, Etched in Sunlight; Fifty Years in the Graphic Arts, Boston, Boston Public Library, 1968.

"Samuel Chamberlain (1895-1975)". Escapes North. North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. November 21, 2007.

Thurston-Lighty, Kathleen. "Centennial Works by Samuel V. Chamberlain 1918 at MIT Museum." Arts at MIT. MIT Office of the Arts. November 21, 2007.

Related Collections

Papers of Narcisse Chamberlain (1924-2008) are at the Schlesinger Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts (collection number MC 545)

For additional Samuel Chamberlain material, including books and 57 engagements calendars, please visit Philcat, our online catalog.

The American Decorative Arts department of the Peabody Essex Museum also owns the following Chamberlain items (accession #89-049):

Copper printing plates Pirated prints of Yale University series Sketches for Yale University series 1 bundle of tracings 86 prints (object IDs 137350.1-86) 1 etching of New York skyline at night (object ID 137992)

Six original works of art (Copies of these can be found in Box 74 Folder 6): -Etchings: "In the Marketplace, Poiters"(object ID 138715) -"Another Corner Café, Vendome" (object ID 138716) -Watercolors: tudor style building (object ID 138717) -unnamed tree (object ID138718) -"A Lane at Wez" (object ID138719 0 -"The Dungeon Loghes" (object ID 138720 0 -small unnamed watercolor (object ID 138722) -Drawing: "An Academy of Medicine" (object ID 138721)

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos, January 2009. Updated by October 2014.

Processed by: Tamara Gaydos; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA