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Helen Clay Frick Papers, Series IV: Calendars and Diaries

Identifier: HCFF.02.04

Scope and Content Note

Items in this series consist of various types of diaries and calendars, including travel diaries, office and desk diaries, engagement calendars, and wall calendars kept by Helen Clay Frick and by her staff, especially by her personal secretary, Julia B. Egan. Travel diaries record transatlantic crossings, cities, museums, and houses visited, modes of travel, and local customs. Engagement calendars and office diaries document daily activities and routines, appointments, visitors, and travel. They frequently include commentary from Helen Clay Frick about her general state of health, births and deaths among her family and friends, the weather, and observations about her estate in Bedford, N.Y. Volumes of particular interest include travel diaries from the Frick family's 1905, 1909, and 1912 trips abroad, and a volume documenting Helen Clay Frick's Red Cross service in France during the First World War.

Materials in this series are arranged chronologically.


  • 1904-1982, undated


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 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 Belgian refugees. From 1940 to 1944, she hosted seven young women from Britain as part of a program to evacuate citizens while England was under aerial bombardment.

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 University 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.


8.1 Linear feet (17 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. This series contains calendars, diaries, and notes documenting Miss Frick's travels and daily activities over a period spanning nearly 80 years.


Materials in this series are arranged chronologically.


Gift of the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, 2015.

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 IV: Calendars and Diaries, 1904-1982, undated HCFF.02.04
Part of the Frick Family Papers
Finding aid prepared by Arranged and described by Julie Ludwig.
© 2014 The Frick Collection. All rights reserved.
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

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

10 East 71st Street
New York NY 10021 United States