Scope and arrangement
The Eleanor Spencer Papers consist of one and a half linear feet of material dating from 1900 to 1973, with the bulk dating from 1900 - 1954. Most of the career documentation, in the form of promotional material and clippings, dates from childhood up to just before Spencer began going deaf (the late 1930s). The diaries and letters mostly date from ca. 1940 forward. Spencer’s diaries, in the form of datebooks, are a unique day-by-day record covering 16 years during which the pianist was losing her hearing, relearning the piano, and resuming performances. Music manuscripts contain some of Spencer’s piano exercises. The Papers contain essentially no documentation of Spencer’s life or career after 1954.
The Eleanor Spencer papers are arranged in three series:
- undated11 folders
This series contains correspondence, essays, ephemera, music manuscripts and diaries. Four of the letters date from 1914 or before, and three from 1944 - 1948. One typed excerpt of a letter from Spencer to A.S. Moore in 1944 describes Spencer’s method of practicing her mental hearing as her deafness increases. Essays include a 1938 discussion by Spencer of her favorite orchestral conductors, and the text of a speech, author unknown, introducing Spencer at one of her concerts after she had gone deaf, from ca. 1947. Ephemera include a menu with writing, sketches and music drawn on it. The hand-written music manuscript pages are technical piano exercises. One larger page is a set of exercises sent to Spencer by a friend. The diaries consist of one datebook for each year. Spencer wrote brief descriptions of her activities for every day in all 16 books. Some of the books have prayers written in the front sections.
- 1900 - 1973Three folders
This series contains promotional flyers and cards, clippings and concert programs. The flyers span Spencer’s career to ca. 1947 and date from her earliest public performances in Chicago. Most consist of a photo, current press quotes, and listings of previous appearances. The earliest are notable for their presentation of Spencer as a 10-year-old prodigy. One clipping is a review of Spencer at Town Hall in 1948, post-deafness. Another 1973 clipping, in German, may not have any content related to Spencer. Most of the programs are from European appearances. One, for a 1973 Berlin Festival, may not have any content related to Spencer.
- 1900 - ca.1948Three folders
The photographs document Spencer’s career as well as her mentors, friends and, possibly, family. Photos of Spencer are mainly publicity photographs, but also include a pencil sketch. Other subjects include her teacher, Theodor Leschetizky, and “D. Bredius.” Unidentified subjects may include Spencer’s childhood home in Chicago.