Scope and arrangement
The Fern Helscher Papers are comprised of materials that document her life from 1933 to 1971. Her professional career as a publicist and business manager in the 1930s and 1940s was important because of her vital contribution to the phenomena that was Ted Shawn, whose related documents and photographs comprise a substantial portion of the collection.
The Personal materials are comprised primarily of correspondence, 1935-1969, and diaries, 1933-1968. There are articles, brochures and magazines that were of interest to Helscher, and a small set of poignant handwritten notes, the beginnings of an autobiography. She was well traveled, and materials regarding her tours visiting three continents are present. The Edward T. Clark folders in the Client Series, and the World Government folder in the Travel series, both contain materials related to Helscher's role as Representative to Clark on their World Tour for World Government in 1948.
The Clients series includes not only well known artists, such as José Limon, but others that were members of the Jacob's Pillow faculty including Mme. Argentinita, La Meri, and Joseph H. Pilates. From 1938-1947 Helscher represented Barton Mumaw, lead dancer of Ted Shawn's company and Shawn's devoted lover. His folders include a handwritten biographical outline and an autographed program from his Carnegie Chamber Music Hall debut in 1941. Other popular dance artists that were represented by Helscher are Grace and Kurt Graff, Gladys and Reginald Laubin, and Arthur Mahoney and Thalia Mara. Helscher was also the publicist for her former classmate, noted war correspondent and anti-communist, H.R. Knickerbocker, whose photographs include him with such notables as General and Madame Chiang Kai Shek, Ekaterina Djugashvili - the mother of Joseph Stalin taken in 1930, and Emperor Haille Selassie.
The Fern Helscher papers are arranged in six series:
- ca. 1933-1969
Correspondence and diaries account for the majority of these materials. Separate folders for brochures, clippings of interest to Helscher, and magazines have been established. Rare handwritten autobiographical notes are available, as well as ephemera and mementos.
- ca. 1930-1968
Almost two dozen persons are represented here, artists, celebrities and performers with whom Fern Helscher had a professional relationship. These include: businessman Edward T. Clark; correspondent H.R. Knickerbocker; and dance artists José Limon, and Barton Mumaw.
Tours to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East are evinced, including itineraries, and receipts. Her trips with Travel Guild Abroad in 1969 and 1971 are documented, as well as her World Government tour in 1948 with Edward T. Clark.
Correspondence is a substantial part of this series. Also present are Shawn's lectures. The contact lists from which Fern Helscher worked in the 1930s and 1940s, and the press releases that she wrote for Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers, are examples of her professional work product.
An intact correspondence file from 1942 begins this series. Items related to the business management of the organization include press releases and various financial items from the 1940s. The contact lists used in 1956 for fund raising are extensive.
- ca. 1910-1969
Personal photographs of Helscher, friends and travel are available. There are pictures of various artists, and on-location shots at Jacob's Pillow. Photographs featuring Ted Shawn are abundant, with one subseries dedicated to Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers, and another to Shawn himself. This latter includes a set of portraits from the 1910s to the 1960s, and a large number of dance photographs of Shawn performing solo.