Scope and arrangement
The Louise Homer Collection extensively documents the lives and careers of Louise and Sidney Homer, as well as the history of their extended family. It was assembled by Katharine Homer Fryer, one of the Homers' twin daughters. The collection contains correspondence, family papers, music scores, publicity materials, clippings, concert programs, scrapbooks, photographs and posters.
The correspondence is exhaustive, revealing a long-term dialog between the Homers and between the Homers and their children, mainly Katharine Homer Fryer. The correspondence also contains several years of letters between the Homers and their nephew, the composer Samuel Barber. Later correspondence in the collection is between Katharine Homer Fryer and her friends, including singers, researchers and collectors, with whom she discussed her mother, her mother's peers and the era she worked in. She also worked with engineers and record labels to re-release her mother's recordings and wrote liner notes to accompany them, which the correspondence also documents.
Family papers include diaries, datebooks, passports, publicity material and writings, including the manuscripts for Sidney Homer's My Wife And I and Louise Homer's Notes On Singing (an unpublished set of notes on vocal technique). The papers also contain Beatty and Homer family trees and papers concerning Louise Homer's father and uncle, both clergymen.
The clippings, programs and scrapbooks primarily document Louise Homer's performance career from early church choir performances, through her first operatic performances in Europe, and through her long tenure at the Metropolitan Opera and the touring she did as a soloist. They also document her late teaching years at Rollins College in Florida. Sidney Homer's career as a composer is documented in a smaller number of scrapbooks and clippings, as is the performances and writing of Katharine Homer Fryer.
Most music scores in the collection are by Sidney Homer, primarily his many songs but also including his instrumental chamber music. Several song manuscripts by Samuel Barber, collected by Katharine Homer Fryer, are also present, as is a set of vocal scores with annotations by Louise Homer.
The photographs contain many impressive images of Louise Homer in opera costumes and in publicity headshots, and of Sidney Homer as well, but the bulk of the photographs are informal images of the Homer family and their domestic life.
The Louise Homer collection is arranged in five series:
- 1880-1999 and undated24.5 boxes
This series contains correspondence mainly between members of Louise Homer's family, with the greatest percentage between Louise and Sidney Homer and between the Homers and their daughter, Katharine Homer Fryer. Other family members represented include Samuel Barber (letters mostly between Barber and Sidney Homer), Louise Homer's mother Sarah Fulton Beatty, and small amounts of correspondence from the other Homer children and extended family. (For reference, see the Beatty and Homer family trees in box 34, folder 5).
The Homers, as a family, were avid letter-writers. Louise and Sidney Homer wrote to each other often when they were courting and whenever they were apart during their marriage, such as when Louise was on tour. The letters to and from Katharine Homer Fryer span her whole life, beginning with her boarding school days and ending with letters in the 1980s-1990s. Her correspondents at that time included Jeffrey Miller and Edwin Pearson, friends and opera scholars with whom she discussed her mother and her times, as well as discographical issues and the remastering of her mother's recordings. Fryer also discussed the recordings with Tom Owen, a former engineer at the Rogers and Hammerstein division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Other letters are between Louise Homer and her mother and sisters, and between Sidney Homer's older sister and the Homers.
After her children grew up Louise Homer took to using a typewriter and carbon paper to create group letters to all her children (see box 20, folder 15), although she continued to write separate letters to Katharine, at least. Regarding business, there is correspondence from the Metropolitan Opera and from the Victor Company (later RCA).
Though the series is mainly arranged alphabetically by writer, several special categories of letters to and from Louise Homer appear in box 21. European correspondence, some in French, documents her early career in France, Belgium and London. Several folders of fan letters mainly resulted from two radio appearances, which brought Homer more exposure than she had ever had before, and one folder contains letters in which Homer discussed her recordings and the process of making them.
- 1845-1990 and undated9.5 boxes
Most of this series consists of papers of Louise and Sidney Homer. They include address books, appointment books, datebooks and calendars, tour itineraries, honorary degrees, passports, writings, and publicity materials. The writings include the manuscripts and typescripts for Sidney Homer's My Wife And I as well as brief memoirs that Louise Homer wrote for her husband's use in that book; Notes On Singing, a set of notebooks with Louise Homer's notes on vocal technique; Sidney Homer's essays and creative writing on nonmusical topics; and Louise and Sidney Homer's bible-study notes and essays. Other papers include composition lists and publishing information for Sidney Homer's work, and correspondence received and speeches given on the occasion of the Homer's 50th wedding anniversary party in 1945. Publicity material for Louise Homer includes pamphlets, boilerplate biographies, and posters from the Metropolitan Opera and Victor Records.
This series also contains the papers of several other members of the Homer and Beatty families, including Louise Homer's father, Reverend William T. Beatty (his sermons and essays), and her uncle, Reverend Samuel Fulton (press clippings of his sermons); Anne Homer Doerflinger (notes and research for her book Louise Homer and the Golden Age of Opera); and papers for Samuel Barber, which include a letter from the U.S. Army to Louise Homer regarding a composition the Army commissioned from Barber, and Barber's personal copy of a silk program from the premiere of his opera Antony And Cleopatra. The Sidney Homer, Jr. papers consist of family trees for the Beattys and Homers, with details on notable family figures.
- 1892-1995 and undated10 boxes
This series mainly documents the career or Louise Homer, with smaller documentation for the careers of Sidney Homer and their daughter Katharine Homer Fryer (a pianist who accompanied her mother on recital tours).
Louise Homer's clippings are extensive and sometimes duplicative of what is in the scrapbooks. These are mainly from the years 1900-1907, which includes the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (the Metropolitan Opera was in the city at the time on tour). Concert programs come both in bound books and as loose programs. Loose programs particularly document Homer's early and late career. The scrapbooks are combinations of newspaper clippings, concert programs, itineraries, repertoire listings and occasional photographs. With one exception (a scrapbook devoted to the Homers' 50th wedding anniversary), the scrapbooks are all devoted to professional work.
Sidney Homer's programs and scrapbooks document the performances of his music, particularly those that did not involve Louise Homer. Some clippings also document the performance and writing career of Katharine Homer Fryer.
- 1879-1968, 1994 and undated14 boxes
This series contains Louise Homer's annotated scores in sub-series 1. Sub-series 2 consists mainly of music by Sidney Homer, though it also contains scores by Samuel Barber and Gian Carlo Menotti.
- ca. 1850-1983 and undated25 boxes
This series consists of professional publicity photographs of Louise and Sidney Homer and a large quantity of photographs and negatives of the Homer family, including some of Sidney and Louise Homer's families and ancestors. It is divided into three sub-series: Louise Homer, Sidney Homer and Family/friends. The family photographs make up the bulk of the series. Some of the photo datings are approximate. See also the scrapbooks in series III, which occasionally contain photographs.