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Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series I: Youth and Education

Identifier: HCFF.02.01

Scope and Contents note

This series, the bulk of which dates from 1897 to 1908, consists of compositions, grade books, notebooks, scrapbooks, printed material, and ephemera, including paper dolls and a Parisian board game. These materials document the type and quality of Helen Clay Frick's academic training, her youthful interests and recreational pursuits, and to a lesser extent, give some insight into her religious and physical education. They detail Helen Clay Frick's studies in foreign languages, music, mathematics, history, literature, ethics, and other subjects, and give a sense of her relationship with her parents and her Swiss governess, Marika Ogiz.

The bulk of the series consists of notebooks on school-related topics, and date from Helen Clay Frick's studies in both Pittsburgh and New York. Early notebooks often contain corrections and comments by Mlle. Ogiz. In addition to these evaluations, Ogiz also compiled grade books, which provide a weekly overview of Helen Clay Frick's performance, conduct, and attendance. The grade books contain lists of topics studied, indicate the employment of additional tutors (e.g. Harriet T. Duff and piano teacher Mr. McGinnis), and note non-instructional days due to holidays, travel, or illness. These books were regularly shared with Helen Clay Frick's parents, as indicated by frequent comments from her father, and occasional contributions by her mother. Later grade reports issued by the Spence School are collected into a bound volume bearing an inscription from Henry Clay Frick to his daughter. In addition to the notebooks and grade books, this series also contains a scrapbook dating from Helen Clay Frick's time at the Spence School. This scrapbook commemorates her graduation, with details about her class, a class portrait, signatures of her teachers, programs, a class "prophecy," and calling cards and invitations from friends. One loose program and one within the scrapbook document school productions for the benefit of charity.

Helen Clay Frick's 1908 graduation from Spence marked the end of her formal education, and she made her debut in society later that same year in Pittsburgh. Documents and memorabilia from that event include a dance card, guest lists, and a scrapbook with images, clippings, and notes. The scrapbook also contains a few scattered items from the year following Miss Frick's debut, notably clippings about the Iron Rail Vacation Home, her first philanthropic endeavor, located in Wenham, Mass., and notices regarding the engagement and wedding of her childhood friend, Virginia Frew, to Thruston Wright.


  • Majority of material found within Bulk, 1897-1908
  • 1865-1924


Access Restrictions

These records are open for research by appointment under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives Access Policy. For all inquiries or to schedule an appointment, please contact the Archives Department at

Biographical Note

Helen Clay Frick (1888-1984) was the daughter of industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick and Adelaide H.C. Frick. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., her early education took place at Clayton, the Frick family home in that city. Under the tutelage of Swiss governess Marika Ogiz, Helen Clay Frick studied foreign languages, music, history, mythology, science, mathematics, and other subjects. Mlle. Ogiz became a close friend of the family, and often traveled with them both domestically and abroad. After her return to Switzerland, the Fricks continued to provide financial support to her and her family, and often visited her while they were abroad. In 1905, Henry Clay Frick relocated his family to the Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue in New York. Helen Clay Frick enrolled at Miss Spence's School for Girls, graduating in 1908. She made her debut into Pittsburgh society that same year.

As an adult, Helen Clay Frick focused her efforts on philanthropy and the study of art history. In 1909, she founded the Iron Rail Vacation Home in Wenham, Mass., as a retreat for young girls who worked in the textile mills around Boston. She founded the Frick Art Reference Library in New York in 1920, and served as a trustee of The Frick Collection until her resignation in 1961. Helen Clay Frick was instrumental in the establishment of the art history department at the University of Pittsburgh, and in the 1960s, she provided funds to construct the Frick Fine Arts Building in honor of her father. Subsequent disagreements with the University, however, compelled her to withdraw her support, and in 1970, she built the Frick Art Museum on the grounds at Clayton to house her personal art collection. For many years, she divided her time between her family home in Pittsburgh, her farm in Bedford, N.Y., and the family's summer home in Prides Crossing, Mass. Helen Clay Frick died at Clayton in 1984.


3.5 Linear feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



Helen Clay Frick (1888-1984) was the daughter of industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick. She was also a philanthropist and founder of the Frick Art Reference Library in New York. These papers consist of notebooks, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia dating from her youth and education in Pittsburgh and New York.


Arranged alphabetically by genre and/or subject.


Gift of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, 2015.

Separated Materials

The leather cover of Helen Clay Frick's Spence School scrapbook (Box 4, Folder 13) has been removed and housed separately. It is restricted due to its fragile condition.

Processing Information

Arranged and described by Julie Ludwig, 2012, with funding from the Helen Clay Frick Foundation.

Finding Aid for the Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series I: Youth and Education, 1865-1924 [bulk 1897-1908]
Part of the Frick Family Papers
Finding aid prepared by Julie A. Ludwig
© 2012 The Frick Collection. All rights reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Arranged and described with funding from the Helen Clay Frick Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives Repository

10 East 71st Street
New York NY 10021 United States