Skip to main content

Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series II: Correspondence

Identifier: HCFF.02.02

Scope and Content Note

The Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series II: Correspondence, 1894-1996 and undated, consists primarily of letters to Helen Clay Frick from family member and friends. The series also includes greeting cards, letters of condolence, and appeals from charitable organizations. A number of the correspondents represented in this series can also be found in the Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series IV: Alphabetical File. Materials are arranged alphabetically by correspondent or by subject within each subseries.

Subseries I: General Correspondence - Alphabetical, 1894-1996 and undated, includes letters from Helen Clay Frick's parents, Adelaide H.C. Frick and Henry Clay Frick, her brother, Childs Frick, her aunt, Martha H. Childs, and various members of her extended family. It also contains letters from Miss Frick's Swiss governess, Marika Ogiz, close friends such as Pauline Wells, Elizabeth Holmes McLeod, Katharine "Kitty" McCook Knox, Polly Dixon Turner, Helen and Samuel Shoemaker, Austin and Dorothy Pardue, and members of the Shoumatoff family. Staff of the Frick Art Reference Library in New York, the Frick Art Museum in Pittsburgh, and Helen Clay Frick's Pittsburgh office staff are also represented in this subseries. Those correspondents include Mildred Steinbach, Daphne Mebane Hoffman, Ethelwyn Manning, Virginia Lewis, Charles F. Chubb, E.J. McNamara, and Walter F. Cooley Jr., as well as Clotilde Brière and Lea Danesi Tolnay, who assisted Miss Frick in acquiring library materials from abroad. This subseries also contains letters from University of Pittsburgh chancellors John G. Bowman and Edward H. Litchfield, painters Jean Julien Lemordant and William Orpen, art historians Richard Offner, Theodore Sizer, John Walker III, and Millard Meiss, and politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Alexander Haig, and Donald M. Fraser.

Subseries II: General Correspondence - Topical, circa 1890s-1986 and undated, contains appeals from charitable organizations, including political and social causes, arts organizations, and churches, along with greeting cards from family and friends in observance of birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day. This suberies also contains letters of condolence on the deaths of Helen Clay Frick's father (died 1919), her mother (died 1931), her nieces Adelaide Frick Blanchard (died 1956) and Jane A. Frick (died 1978), and her cousin Karl F. Overholt (died 1938), as well as her dogs Bob (died 1941) and Warey (died 1967).

Subseries III: British Girls Correspondence, 1927, 1940-1981, consists largely of personal letters from seven British girls who lived under Miss Frick’s care during their evacuation from Great Britain during WWII. The British Girls include: Margot Nicol (née Isobel Margaret Horn), Sheila Milliken (née Sheila Inglis), Mavis Archer (née Mavis Sayers), Valerie Goodwin (née Valerie Sayers), Pixie Love (née Mary Pix Sayers), Molly Willcox (née Molly Stuchberry), and Mary Joy Shuttleworth. The collection also contains correspondence from parents, family, and friends in relation to one or more of the British Girls. Letters are either hand or typewritten, and may include enclosures such as photographs and newspaper clippings. Telegrams, postcards, and greeting cards may also be found in this subseries. The bulk of these materials date from the 1940s and 1950s. The only item dated prior to 1940 is a school record from 1927, which is currently restricted. Additional items under restriction include medical and school records for each of the seven girls.

The letters written by the British Girls between 1940 and 1944 convey their personal sentiments about the war and their experiences in the United States, including their thoughts on American culture and education. Letters from the girls’ families in England during this time reflect parental concern and gratitude to Miss Frick, as well as hardships suffered by those living in England at the time, especially food shortages, rationing, blackouts, and aerial bombardment. Letters dated from 1945 on detail the individual life experiences of the British Girls, their families, and friends in post-war England, and summarize their personal friendships, educational and career pursuits, travels, marriages, and family lives well into the 1970s.


  • 1894-1996, undated


Access Restrictions

These records are generally open for research under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives Access Policy, though selected folders are restricted from use at this time. Restricted folders are noted within the container list below. 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 his wife, Adelaide Howard Childs Frick. Born at Clayton, the Frick family residence in Pittsburgh, her early education took place at home under the tutelage of Swiss governess Marika Ogiz. In 1905, Henry Clay Frick relocated his family to the Vanderbilt mansion at 640 Fifth Avenue in New York, and Helen Clay Frick enrolled at Miss Spence's School for Girls, graduating in 1908. She made her debut into society in Pittsburgh later that same year.

From an early age, Helen Clay Frick expressed an interest in art, and around 1910 she created an early two-volume catalogue of her father's collection. She traveled abroad frequently with her family and maintained detailed diaries from several of these trips, noting visits to galleries, museums, and historical sites. She was also interested in photography and kept a visual record of her travels through scrapbooks and photograph albums.

After the death of her father in 1919, Helen Clay Frick focused her attention on The Frick Collection, the museum comprised of Henry Clay Frick's New York residence and art collection which had been established by his will. Along with her mother and her brother, Childs Frick, Helen Clay Frick served as a founding trustee of the Collection and was instrumental in guiding the museum's early acquisitions. In 1920, she established the Frick Art Reference Library in New York as a memorial to her father and as a public resource for those with an interest in art history. She served as Director of the Library from its inception until shortly before her death.

In addition to her work in art and art history, Helen Clay Frick took an interest in politics, land conservation, the humane treatment of animals, and the welfare of underprivileged children. In 1909, she founded the Iron Rail Vacation Home in Wenham, Mass., which served as a retreat for girls who worked in the textile mills outside of Boston. She was also very active in war relief efforts throughout both the first and second World Wars. In 1917, near the end of World War I, she sailed to France to assist the Red Cross in the repatriation of refugees. In 1940, she arranged for seven girls to leave England and live under her care in the U.S. Referred to collectively by Miss Frick as the British Girls, the evacuees included Isobel Margaret ("Margot") Horn (later Margot Nicol), Sheila Inglis (later Sheila Milliken), Mavis Sayers (later Mavis Archer), Valerie Sayers (later Valerie Goodwin), Mary Pix ("Pixie") Sayers (later Pixie Love), Molly Stuchberry (later Molly Willcox), and Mary Joy Shuttleworth.

The British Girls divided their time between Prides Crossing, Mass., where Miss Frick maintained the country estate built by her father at the turn of the century, and Bedford, N.Y., where Miss Frick established her own home after her father’s death. The seven girls remained with Miss Frick from 1940 through 1944, during which time they attended American schools and were immersed in American culture. In 1945 the girls returned to their homes in post-war England, but maintained their relationships with Miss Frick over the years. Individually, the British Girls pursued different livelihoods, and settled in places as varied as Ireland, Portugal and Africa, but they all remained in close contact with one another and Miss Frick through regular correspondence.

Helen Clay Frick was a legal resident of Pittsburgh for her entire adult life, and took an active interest in that city. In 1926, she helped to found an academic department in art history at the University of Pittsburgh. In the 1960s, she provided funds for the Univerity to construct the Henry Clay Frick Fine Arts Building to house the department and its library. 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. Helen Clay Frick never married and had no children. She died at Clayton in 1984.


14.0 Linear feet (34 boxes, including 3 boxes of restricted files)

Language of Materials



Helen Clay Frick (1888–1984) was the daughter of industrialist and art collector Henry Clay Frick. She established the Frick Art Reference Library in New York in 1920, and was active as a philanthropist throughout her life. This collection consists mostly of letters to her from family members and friends.


Arranged in three subseries:

Subseries I: General Correspondence - Alphabetical, 1894-1996, undated

Subseries II: General Correspondence - Topical, circa 1890s-1986, undated

Subseries III: British Girls Correspondence, 1927, 1940-1981

Materials are arranged alphabetically by correspondent or by subject matter within each subseries.


Gift of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, 2015.

Related Materials

Additional Helen Clay Frick correspondence can be found in the Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series IV: Alphabetical Files, and in the Frick Art Reference Library institutional archives.

Processing Information

Arranged and described by Julie Ludwig, 2014, with funding from the Helen Clay Frick Foundation.

Finding Aid for the Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series II: Correspondence, 1894-1996, undated HCFF.02.02
Part of the Frick Family Papers
Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Arranged and described by Julie Ludwig
© 2014 The Frick Collection. All rights reserved.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

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

10 East 71st Street
New York NY 10021 United States